On a lazy Sunday afternoon, Karan Pal is busy preparing ladoos in a small sweetmeat shop in a nondescript Sunderpur village in Haridwar district. Pal, a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supporter for many years is bit confused whether to vote for Behanji (read BSP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or Congress. Reason: BSP is a divided house in Uttarakhand which goes to polls on May 7.
“Congress has successfully engineered defection in BSP. I think 40% of dalits from my area will vote for Congress. Rest will be divided between BSP and BJP,” observes Pal. Only recently, two BSP MLAs were suspended for anti-party activities. In the changed political scenario, sacked BSP MLAs Surender Rakesh and Haridas are supporting the Congress candidate – Renuka Rawat, wife of chief minister Harish Rawat — from behind.
The Congress is desperate to repeat its 2009 performance on this seat and with the sitting MP Rawat as chief minister, the party is also using all sorts of tactics to win Haridwar, which is seen as a socially and geographically typical seat.
Not very far from here at Peeran Kaliyar, a group of Muslim farmers assert that majority of them will prefer to vote for the Congress while some may vote for the BSP. Md Islam, a former Congress member but now a BSP leader, resides near Kaliyar. Farmers feel the Rawat has advantage as he is the CM.
“Though Rawat is not a preferred candidate but since he is the CM therefore voting for him means guarantee for development. Why waste vote on BSP despite the fact that Md Islam is from our community,” laments Intezar, a farmer in his late 20s who clearly understands the dynamics of local politics.
With just a few days before the state goes to polls, the voters in the backward Haridwar parliamentary constituency which spreads from the western Uttar Pradesh border area till Dehradun — are clearly divided on caste, community and regional lines. The ground issues here have taken the backseat. The increasing crime graph, lack of irrigation facilities, lack of power etc are no more issues in this election.
Out of 24 candidates fighting for the seat, the contest seems to have zeroed in between BJP and Congress, BSP, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) all trying to tilt poll results. Riding on the Narendra Modi wave, BJP candidate and former chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank hopes of a ‘landslide victory’.
Three women candidates — Cong’s Renuka Rawat, AAP’s Kanchan Chaudhary Bhattacharya (first women director general of police) and SP’s Anita Saini are also trying very hard to bag the seat.
After spending years as a police officer, the former DGP agrees that politics is not a cakewalk. Working with her team mates at her office-cum-residence in Haridwar, the former DGP blames the Congress of using the official machinery. She says the government has put ‘resources in place’ since it’s not Renuka but the CM who is contesting the elections.
Outside her house, a number of BJP flags can be seen fluttering atop shops and houses. Few youngsters donning Gandhian cap can also be seen at her office.
Out of 16 lakh voters in this constituency – the Congress pins hope on 3 lakh plus Muslim voters besides 2 lakh dalits. BJP strategists on the other hand have been working hard to get Hindu votes in bulk. The recent polling in western UP which saw dalits voting for the BJP is apparently a reason for which the party leaders are visiting dalit pockets.
After losing initially, the BJP tempo has gained ground in Haridwar and its adjoining areas. On Sunday, the former CM also held a roadshow from Har-Ki-Pauri.
“The election is for making Modiji as the next Prime Minister. It does not matter what others think,” he told HT during his roadshow. Modi has become the buzzword for BJP here. The Uttarakhand government last week recommended CBI probe in NHRM scam during Nishank’s tenure. But the BJP believes such methods will not work.
On the other hand, while interacting with public, CM wife’s Renuka repeats “Pechli baar apne Harish Rawatji ko jitaya, is bar mujhe jetaye (Last time you voted for Harish Rawat – this time vote for me)”. She hints that their vote will not go ‘waste’.
The polling trend suggests that SP which had won the Haridwar seat in the 2004 elections could barely manage 4% votes in the 2009 polls. The party candidate Anita Saini is not seen as a serious candidate. However she represents the Saini community, which are nearly 75,000 in this constituency. Sainis are otherwise seen as BJP supporters.