Communal riots may polarise Muzaffarnagar voters

The Muzaffarnagar riots that broke out in August last year are likely to polarise voters on communal lines in this western Uttar Pradesh district, as the shock waves have not dissipated entirely.

If a survey conducted by a non-government organisation is to be believed, key issues such as plight of sugarcane farmers, poor road conditions and erratic power supply have taken the back seat after the August-September communal clashes, which killed at least 61 people and displaced more than 50,000.

Muslims, Jats and Dalits play a vital role in deciding the fate of a candidate in Muzaffarnagar parliamentary constituency that has over 1.8 million voters. There is a big talk that Jats (160,000 voters) and Dalits (275,000) might vote for the BJP.

On the other hand, Sazid Ali, a resident of Jaula village, said the only agenda of the Muslim community, which accounts for 460,000 voters, was to ensure the defeat of BJP candidate Sudhir Kumar Baliyan.

But the Muslim votes might get divided among Bahujan Samaj Party candidate and sitting MP Kadir Rana, ruling Samajwadi Party's (SP's) Virendra Singh, Congress' Pankaj Aggarwal and Aam Aadmi Party's Mohammad Yamin.

The division might prove to be advantageous for the BJP. Alongside Jats and Dalits, the Brahmin and Tyagi voters (175,000) are likely to support the saffron party.

The evolving political equations could be attributed to the fear that still reigns in the region. Many from riot-affected villages such as Phugana, Lank and Loi have stopped sending their children to schools in nearby towns.

"Scared parents are not ready to allow their children to cover long distances," said Garima Verma, principal of a leading school in Budhana, adding, "The distrust will certainly have its effect on the elections."

The same distrust prompted social worker Gulam Mohammad to sever his 27-year-old ties with the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). Gulam had worked closely with the BKU to promote amity between Hindu and Muslim communities.

Accusing the BKU of failing to ensure safety of people during the riots under its new chief, Naresh Tikait, septuagenarian Gulam parted ways to form his own group to take up labourers' issues.


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