As Western UP Gets Ready To Vote, Here Is What’s At Stake In The Region 

As Western UP Gets Ready To Vote, Here Is What’s At Stake In The Region 

by Atul Chandra - Thursday, February 9, 2017 04:48 PM IST
As Western UP Gets Ready To Vote, Here Is What’s At Stake In The Region Uttar Pradesh politics
  • Uttar Pradesh is set to begin the process of electing a new assembly in two days. First up for polling is the western part of the state. Answered below are all the questions to bring you on par with the political equations at play in the region. 

The election arclight has moved from Punjab and Goa to western Uttar Pradesh where voters will use their franchise, first on February 11 and then on February 15, to elect 140 legislators.

How many constituencies are going to poll in the first two stages?

The first two phases of UP polls will include 73 constituencies spread over 15 districts and 67 constituencies spread over 10 districts respectively.

Which are the important districts/cities/towns going to polls?

The districts going to poll include Shamli and Muzaffarnagar, which were rocked by communal riots in 2013. The lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri over alleged beef consumption and the exodus of Hindus from Kairana has kept the communal pot boiling there and may also affect voting pattern.

Other districts in phase 1 include Baghpat, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Mathura, Hathras, Agra, Firozabad, Etah and Kasganj.

Over 2.28 crore voters in Saharanpur, Bijnor, Moradabad, Sambhal, Rampur, Bareilly, Amroha, Pilibhit, Kheri, Shahjehanpur and Budaun districts will exercise their franchise on February 15.

Just how important are the Muslim votes in western Uttar Pradesh ?

The region is marked by high percentage of Muslim population, the highest being in Rampur---49.14 per cent. Moradabad/ Sambhal with 45.54 per cent and Bijnore 41.71 per cent come next. Amroha, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Bareilly and Meerut have a Muslim population above 30 per cent. Muslim voters will play a crucial role here in at least 70 seats.

As these numbers cannot be ignored, all political parties, barring the BJP, have gone all out to win them over. The BJP has not fielded any Muslim candidate.

As the number of Muslim legislators in the state has consistently increased from 31 in 1993 to 68 in 2012, most of them from west UP, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and Congress rolled out the red carpet for them.

Samajwadi Party’s tally of Muslim MLAs in 2012 was 43, while the BSP has 15 and the Congress, four Muslim MLAs.

The Bahujan Samaj Party will test the tenability of its outreach for Muslims and Dalits in these two stages while the Samajwadi Party and Congress, on their part, would gauge the strength of their alliance in trying to stop the saffron party.

This article is part of our special coverage of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh 
This article is part of our special coverage of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh 

The SP faces a tough challenge this time around. Because of Akhilesh government’s mishandling of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots it managed to antagonize both the Muslims and the Jats. Muslims were angry because the government did not acknowledge hundreds of refugees as riot victims and called them squatters doing the bidding of a political party; the Jats, on the other hand, were upset with the Akhilesh government over withdrawal of cases against Muslim leaders who incited the mobs.

The Yadav family infighting and Mulayam’s flip flop over support to his son has further queered the pitch for Akhilesh who, for the first time is heading the charge as the incumbent. Congress may be a marginal beneficiary of the alliance with the SP as some Muslims would vote for any candidate other than that of the BJP who stands a chance to win. This may lead to a possible three-way split of Muslim votes.

Mayawati, who is striving to make a comeback, has fielded 97 Muslims, 12 more than she nominated in 2012, 113 upper castes, 87 Dalits and 106 OBCs in keeping with her party’s credo of giving weightage to all sections of the society. These elections will be a test of Mayawati’s Muslim-Dalit combination and makes her a potentially strong contender for power.

What is the BJP looking for in the first two rounds of polls?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is counting on polarization among the voters to repeat its 2014 magic.

Suresh Rana, the BJP MLA from Thana Bhawan, recently warned that if he wins again curfew will be imposed in Kairana, Deoband and Moradabad. This remark by Rana, who is also the state vice-president of the party, was seen as aimed at winning over the Jat voters.

However, rebels could play spoil sport for the party as many of them have been fielded by the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) which seems to be winning back the trust of Jats. The BJP is also facing protests from many Jats who said at a meeting recently that they will vote to defeat the party. The issue of quota for Jats is also being revived.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP president have spearheaded their party’s poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh, but 2017 seems a harder battle than the one in 2014?

Which are the important candidates to watch out for ?

Rajnath Singh’s son Pankaj, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Sangeet Som, Kairana MP Hukum Singh’s daughter Mriganka Singh, UP minister Azam Khan and his son Abdullah Azam Khan, Congress legislature party leader Pradeep Mathur are some of the key contestants in these two rounds.

Atul Chandra is former Resident Editor, The Times of India, Lucknow. He has written extensively on politics in Uttar Pradesh.

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