Can Modi-Yogi factor trump caste dynamics in Aligarh for BJP? - Hindustan Times
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Can Modi-Yogi factor trump caste dynamics in Aligarh for BJP?

Apr 21, 2024 08:43 PM IST

After the dismal performance in 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the BJP candidate stood fourth, the saffron party bounced back in Aligarh and won the 2014 and 2019 elections under Modi wave.

ALIGARH: The Bahujan Samaj Party’s last-minute change from a Muslim candidate to a Brahmin contender has thrown the Aligarh election wide open. Given the current political scenario and caste equation, it seems to be anybody’s game as incumbent BJP MP Satish Gautam, whose candidacy was declared just three days prior to the nomination process, is banking heavily on the Modi-Yogi factor to neutralise the prevailing anti-incumbency sentiment against him. Meanwhile, the Samajwadi Party is making every effort to secure a foothold here, fielding a former Congress MP and a prominent Jat leader.

PM Narendra Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath (HT file)
PM Narendra Modi and UP CM Yogi Adityanath (HT file)

At the very onset of the campaign for Lok Sabha elections here, chief minister Yogi Adityanath used strong words to deter criminals and said that his party had not only brought Ram but would also ensure ‘Ram Naam Satya’(chanted at funerals) for criminals. Yogi has frequently visited Aligarh and has never shied away from playing the Hindutva card.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi was here in 2021 to attend an event to lay the foundation stone of Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh State University and is scheduled to address a rally on April 22 to unlock the tricky complexity of a triangular contest emerging in the city of locks, to make the party candidate successful for the third time in a row.

Caste combinations

For those interested in caste and community configurations, Aligarh offers all variety with both Muslims and Schedule Castes being 3.50 lakh each. Among the 3.50 lakh SC votes, 2.5 are Jatav considered to be loyal to the BSP and 80,000 Valmiki, close to the BJP. The remaining are divided between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. A prominent Valmiki leader is also considered close to the alliance candidate.

Aiming to score a hat trick of victory, sitting BJP MP Satish Gautam is relying on 7.0 lakh Brahmin, Vaishya and Thakur votes. Samajwadi Party candidate Chaudhary Bijendra Singh, who had won four times as MLA from Iglas assembly constituency of Aligarh and was Congress MP in 2004 from Aligarh, is a Jat and those of his caste are about 2 lakhs in number in Aligarh parliamentary constituency.

Political scenario

The Bahujan Samaj Party, which won the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in Aligarh, had initially declared district president of AIMIM Gufran Noor as its candidate who later withdrew on health grounds and was replaced by Hitendra Kumar alias Bunty Upadhyay, leaving many speculating about its impact on the outcome. Now two Brahmins, Satish Gautam (BJP) and Bunty Upadhyay (BSP) are in contest against a Jat candidate of the alliance.

Home to Atrauli assembly seat from where former CM Kalyan Singh won 10 times, politics in Aligarh has always had the dominance of Babuji’s (Kalyan Singh) legacy. His son, Rajveer Singh aka Raju Bhaiya is contesting from nearby Etah Lok Sabha seat as BJP candidate and grandson Sandeep Singh an MLA from Atrauli is a minister in Yogi Adityanath cabinet.

Among the backward votes, Lodh, nearly one lakh, are believed to be close to the BJP but Yadav (1.25 lakh) and Jat (2 lakh) are believed to be making Jat candidate of SP-Congress strong. Interestingly, the district president of Samajwadi Party, Laxmi Dhangar is boasting of one lakh Baghel voters’ support to the alliance candidate.

Modi wave

After the dismal performance in 2009 Lok Sabha elections when the BJP candidate stood fourth, the saffron party bounced back in Aligarh and won the 2014 and 2019 elections under Modi wave. Notably the BJP had made a clean sweep in 2022 state assembly elections and won all five assembly seats.

Due to delay in declaration of Satish Gautam’s name as BJP candidate, there were speculations of him being replaced. As such, many were in the race for BJP ticket and had backing of BJP MLAs. However, the BJP is citing the double engine government’s welfare schemes for all sections and achievements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to counter any anti-incumbency against Satish Gautam who faces the task to take along party leaders, including MLAs, in Aligarh.

Issues

Home to Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh is among the listed smart cities but is known for five Ms: Makhhi (fly), Machhar (mosquito), Mathri (big size savoury biscuit), Makkhan (butter) and Muslim University (AMU). Improper drainage system has made waterlogging routine, adding to filthy conditions. Health facilities are often found deficient making denizens rely on Delhi, 135 kilometres from Aligarh.

Elaborating on this, former director of Urdu Academy at Aligarh Muslim University, Dr Rahat Abrar pointed out that things had changed but not at fast as expected despite Aligarh being one among smart cities.

“Drainage system is quite deficient and water logging is not confined to rainy weather. Smart City project appears confined to Maris Road and University Road. Habitat Centre has come up at Lal Diggi area where water drained from Civil Lines area used to find outlet,” he said.

“Another issue is of proper health infrastructure and most of the denizens opt for health facilities in Delhi. The JN Medical College of AMU and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital fall short of requirements on the health front,” he said.

Aligarh has some achievements too to its name and the upcoming Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh University and Atal Awasiya School are fast taking shape. Defence Corridor is expected to give a lifeline to hardware industry of Aligarh which is known for locks manufactured here.

Name controversy

The board meeting of Aligarh Nagar Nigam’s General House a passed proposal for renaming Aligarh as Harigarh in November 2023 and forwarded it to the state government for consideration. A similar proposal was forwarded by the Zila Panchayat of Aligarh district in past. The demand also finds support of senior BJP leaders, including deputy chief minister of UP, Keshav Prasad Maurya and BJP MP Satish Gautam.

“How can it be termed ‘renaming’ when Aligarh was never known as Harigarh. Aligarh was known as Kol, which is currently a tehsil (revenue sub-region) of Aligarh district... The demand to name Aligarh as Harigarh has neither any sociocultural basis nor any historical ground and is more of a politically driven demand made time and again,” said Dr Rahat Abrar.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Hemendra Chaturvedi is based in Agra serving as a Principal Correspondent, covering districts of Agra and Aligarh division of western Uttar Pradesh. He has been with HT since 1992 and has completed 25 year of association with HT.

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