Call it sheer coincidence or a poll tactic, but candidates of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were found campaigning in the same areas at least three times during the last few days in Ghaziabad.
The first major face-off between the two parties happened on March 20 when AAP candidate Shazia Ilmi and party leader Manish Sisodia held a public gathering at Ramlila Ground at Loni -- a Muslim-dominated area with a substantial of Hindu population in villages located on the outskirts.
While Ilmi carried on her road-show at Loni, BJP candidate former army chief general VK Singh visited Hindu-dominated villages in the area. Both AAP and BJP workers confronted each other at Alipur village where they shouted slogans.
The next major place where the two parties came face to face was Pilkhuwa, under the Dhaulana assembly segment, on Monday. While Singh inaugurated his local election campaign office, Shazia campaigned in nearby areas.
Yet again, Singh went to Hindu-dominated villages while Shazia carried on her campaign in the interior areas of the handloom town that has a sizeable Muslim population.
On Tuesday, both candidates campaigned simultaneously at Murad Nagar, which has a huge presence of both communities.
Loni, Dhaulana and Murad Nagar assembly segments have a mixed population. Loni has 401,142 voters, Dhaulana has 386,566 electors while Murad Nagar has 94,933 voters.
“AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal is trying to face the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in Varanasi. Similarly in Ghaziabad, both AAP and BJP are trying to outperform each other. It could coincidence or some election tactic to polarise voters in their favour,” a political expert said.
Ghaziabad BJP Lok Sabha convener Atul Garg downplayed the matter. “I cannot say who is following whom. But at least we are not following the AAP candidate. AAP has a single agenda and that is to lead a fight against BJP,” the convener said.
AAP’s Ghaziabad district convener Thakur Devendra Singh dismissed the clash of campaigns as coincidence. “We have taken prior permission from the local administration and carrying out the campaign as per our schedule. It is not our strategy to follow the BJP candidate,” Singh said.
District administration officials they were trying to ensure that any campaign, public meetings, etc., of both parties do not take place in the same location.
“As per the new directions received from the Election Commission, we are introducing single-window concept for all electioneering like meetings, processions, road shows, vehicle permission and helicopter landings etc. So far, we had different officials assigned to give permissions for different election activities,” assistant returning officer Keshav Kumar said.