In riot-scarred Saharanpur, peace is crawling its way back amid Muslim workers returning to rebuild shops owned by Sikhs.
The July riots that were an aftermath of a dispute over a gurdwara, has created a communal divide between the Muslims and the Sikhs that seems insurmountable. As of now, the Sikhs and the Muslims are desperately waiting for the bypolls to get over as they believe politicians will again try to create cracks in the brittle harmony that they are carefully rebuilding.
The presence of Rapid Action Force gives them some respite.
A large number of Sikhs run spare parts shops, which employ several Muslim workers, in an intertwining of business interests that has lasted generations.
A Sikh owner of a hardware shop said, “There is a kaum (community) other than the Muslims and the Hindus that is vitiating the atmosphere of this otherwise peaceful city. They are criminal-minded politicians and they will not allow peace to return till the bypolls.”
In the current scenario, the BJP definitely stands a better chance. However, with infighting in the party making a comeback — it came to the fore during the inauguration of the city office recently when two warring groups clashed in the presence of state BJP chief Laxmi Kant Bajpai — the results may spring a surprise.
In the urban constituency dominated by Muslims and Punjabis, Congress’ Imran Masood got 1.17 lakh Muslim votes in 2014 while the SP managed just 7,000. Now the SP may improve its vote percentage by cutting into the minority vote bank. This would indirectly help the BJP that had polled 1.30 lakh votes in 2014.
With the Modi hype petering down to some extent, the BJP is banking on the communal divide in the area to get votes. All the more because none of the three candidates — BJP’s Rajeev Bumber , SP’s Sanjay Garg and Congress’ Mukesh Choudhary — have it in them to win the seat on their own.