After campaign heat, first phase polling for 8 west U.P. seats today - Hindustan Times
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After campaign heat, first phase polling for 8 west U.P. seats today

By, Lucknow
Apr 19, 2024 05:32 AM IST

Subtle polarisation, caste card, change in alliances set stage for a keen contest among the main poll players

Eight Lok Sabha seats in West Uttar Pradesh -- Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Nagina (SC), Moradabad, Rampur and Pilibhit -- go to polls on Friday as political rivals eye one another’s bastions in a three-cornered contest among the Bharatiya Janata Party led-NDA, the Samajwadi Party-led INDIA bloc and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Eight constituencies in West UP will go to polls on Friday (HT )
Eight constituencies in West UP will go to polls on Friday (HT )

Subtle polarisation and caste cards were played during this phase of the campaign.

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While Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) hyped the construction of the Ram temple, organisation of Kanwar Yatras and exodus of Hindus from Muslim dominated areas, the Samajwadi Party raised the issue of caste census and welfare of Muslims under the SP rule. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) raised the issue of alleged atrocities on the Muslim community and the supposed neglect of Rajputs.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP had bagged three of these seats (Kairana. Muzaffarnagar, Pilibhit), the BSP won three (Saharanpur, Nagina, Bijnor) and the SP two ( Moradabad and Rampur). The BJP later wrested the Rampur seat from the SP in a June 2022 by-poll.

The Samajwadi Party had contested the 2019 election in alliance with the BSP.

In the 2024 Lok Sabha election, the BJP and the SP have worked on fresh strategies and sewed up new alliances. The BJP has joined hands with the RLD and the SP allied with the Congress. The BSP has decided to go solo. The BJP has given the Bijnor seat to its new ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal. In the INDIA bloc, the SP has fielded candidates on seven of these seats and left Saharanpur for the Congress.

The prominent candidates in the first phase include Union minister of state Sanjeev Balyan (BJP) who is seeking a third term from Muzaffarnagar, UP PWD minister Jitin Prasad (BJP) who is in the fray from Pilibhit, Azad Samaj Party chief Chandra Shekhar Azad from Nagina as well as the defectors including Imran Masood (Congress) from Saharanpur, Ruchi Veera (SP) from Moradabad and Vijendra Singh (BSP) from Bijnor.

PILIBHIT

A BJP stronghold, the Pilibhit seat is set to witness a three-cornered contest among Jitin Prasada (BJP), Bhagwat Sharan Gangwar (SP) and Anis Ahmed Khan aka Phool Babu (BSP). The BJP has replaced three-term MP Varun Gandhi with Prasada. To retain the BJP’s hold over the seat known as Bansuri Nagari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath addressed rallies there. The SP campaign was led by party chief Akhilesh Yadav who addressed a public meeting in Puranpur while BSP chief Mayawati addressed a rally in Bisalpur. Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi had won the seat for eight terms. Sitting MP Varun Gandhi was conspicuous by his absence in the election campaign.

RAMPUR

A strong Samajwadi Party bastion, the constituency witnessed a tussle between the supporters of nine-term SP MLA Azam Khan and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav during the election campaign after the party fielded Maulana Mohibulla Nadvi, an imam from a Delhi mosque. The rejection of the nomination of Asim Raza, an aide of Azam Khan sparked infighting in the SP unit.

BJP candidate Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, who won the Rampur by-election in 2022, hopes division in SP ranks will ensure his victory.

BSP candidate Zeeshan Khan has made the contest triangular. He got a boost on the last day of the election campaign on Wednesday when Azam Khan’s supporters announced their support to the BSP. This is the first Lok Sabha election that will be held without Azam Khan or the Nawab family playing a direct role.

MORADABAD

A stronghold of SP, the constituency witnessed infighting among party leaders loyal to Azam Khan and Akhilesh Yadav over the distribution of the ticket. Initially, the SP named sitting party MP ST Hasan for the seat but later gave the symbol to former MLA Ruchi Veera considered loyal to Khan, leading to differences in the local unit. Hasan withdrew from the election campaign while his supporters backed the BSP candidate Irfan Saifi. The BJP has fielded Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh, who won the seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. To widen fissure in the SP, BSP chief Mayawatia attacked Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, alleging that he has fielded a Hindu candidate on a Muslim majority seat.

NAGINA

The seat is witnessing a four-cornered fight after Azad Samaj Party (ASP) chief Chandrashekhar Azad entered the fray. The BJP has fielded its sitting Nehtaur MLA Om Kumar, the SP put up former judicial officer Manoj Kumar and the BSP nominated Surendra Pal, who belongs to the Jatav community. Sitting BSP MP Girish Chandra, who won in 2019, has been shifted to Bulandshahr. To challenge Chandrashekhar, BSP national coordinator Akash Anand launched his party’s campaign from Nagina. The BJP hopes that division of Muslim and dalit votes will pave the way for its victory. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav campaigned for the respective party candidates.

BIJNOR

The prestige of RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary is at stake in Bijnor where he has fielded the party’s Meerapur MLA Chandan Chauhan, a Gujjar leader. The BSP denied the ticket to its sitting MP Maluk Nagar and fielded Chaudhary Vijendra Singh, a Jat leader, in a bid to retain the seat with the Dalit- OBC formula. Later, Maluk Nagar joined the RLD, giving a boost to the party strategy to win the seat. The SP replaced its candidate Yashvir Singh with Deepak Saini as it eyed non- Jat and Gujjar OBC votes. Riding the Modi wave, BJP candidate Bhartendra Singh had won the seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In 1989, BSP chief Mayawati won the seat, considered a laboratory of the Dalit movement in Uttar Pradesh.

MUZZAFARNAGAR

Union minister Sanjeev Balyan is seeking for a third term from the seat in three-way contest with SP candidate Harendra Malik and the BSP’s Dara Singh Prajapati. Balyan had won the seat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, defeating the RLD chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh. The issue of Kshatriya discontent and the supposed opposition by former BJP MLA from Sardhana Sangeet Som has led to anxiety among Balayan supporters. In a stiff fight with the SP candidate, Balyan hopes to sail through in the electoral battle with the support of RLD. The campaign by Union home minister Amit Shah has motivated the BJP workers before poll.

KAIRANA

BJP candidate Pradeep Choudhary is vying for a second term in a triangular contest with the SP’s Iqra Hasan and the BSP’s Shripal Singh Rana. The BJP candidate, a Gujjar, is working on the OBC- Upper Caste support to retain the seat while the BSP has tried to make inroads into the upper caste support base of the BJP by fielding Shripal Singh Rana, a Rajput leader.

BJP leader Hukum Singh had won the seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In the by-election held after his demise, RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan won the seat. Samajwadi Party candidate Iqra Hasan is working on the Muslim-OBC formula.

SAHARANPUR

The BJP reposed faith in former MP Raghav Lakhanpal, who won in the 2014 Lok Sabha election but was defeated by the BSP candidate Haji Fazlur Rehman in the 2019 general election. The Congress has fielded former MLA Imran Masood who defected from the BSP. The BSP gave the party ticket to Majid Ali, dropping sitting party MP Haji Fazlur Rehman.

To strengthen its hold among OBCs, the BJP has opened its doors for former minister Dharam Singh Saini. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra organised a road show in support of the party candidate. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath addressed series of public meetings in the constituency to counter the anger among Rajputs. The BSP is working on Dalit- Muslim alliance to retain the seat.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Rajesh Kumar Singh is Assistant Editor, Hindustan Times at the political bureau in Lucknow. Along with covering politics, he covers government departments. He also travels to write human interest and investigative stories.

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