Lok Sabha Elections 2019: In Haridwar constituency, Modi magic waning among farmers, Muslims and SCs
Shyam Lal Prajapati, 62, one of many landless people residing in Misarpur Gram, a roadside village in Haridwar Lok Sabha constituency, is a bitter man. “We used to eke out a living by extracting sand from the Ganga. A recent ban on the activity has deprived us of our livelihood. They promised us land but that too continues to elude us,” Prajapati said, blaming it on the Trivendra Singh Rawat-led BJP government of Uttarakhand. Prajapati though is a diehard fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Prajapati, a Dalit, said Modi impressed him with anti-graft measures he initiated along with a slew of welfare schemes, like free cooking gas connections, for the poor. “I am unhappy with the state government but I will vote for the BJP in the ensuing general election owing to Modi’s performance,” Prajapati said, sitting at his tea shop; his landless Dalit friend, Rishipal, nodded.
Miles away at Khanpur, Pherupur and many other SC-dominated villages, people were critical of Modi and the TS Rawat government. Muslims appeared to be against the BJP barring youths who seemed to be impressed with Modi for his policies for them. Farmers also sounded unhappy with the farm policies pursued by the Centre and the state government.
Barring urban centres like Roorkee and Haridwar, the Modi magic seems to be waning in this constituency where the odds appeared to be in favour of the Congress. The Haridwar parliamentary constituency is represented by BJP veteran Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank who defeated Congress veteran Harish Rawat’s wife, Renuka, by about two lakh votes in the 2014 general elections.
Last time Muslims, who constitute about 20% of total 14 lakh voters in the constituency, along with OBCs and Dalits voted for the BJP, were impressed by Modi’s ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ slogan. The equations this time could change with Muslims and SCs apparently unhappy with the BJP as they are cut up owing to the impact of demonetisation and the GST regime on their traditional vocations.
“They also harass our men and beat them up, falsely blaming them for cow slaughter as they aim to create rift between Hindus and Muslims to polarise the society with an eye on the Lok Sabha polls,” said Hazi Tahir Hasan of Dhanpura, a Muslim-dominated village. He was referring to the Hindu right-wing groups like Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Akhtar Hussain, 80, a shopkeeper, blamed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the Hindutava groups unnecessarily harassing Muslims and accusing the latter for cow slaughter. He also accused Modi and the state government of neglecting development across the segment. “Consequently, Muslims and Hindus (read Dalits) have made up their mind to replace him (Modi) this time.”
Sanjay, the Sangh’s state media in-charge, rubbished the allegations, saying Sangh Parivar volunteers only react and never provoke. “Who kills cows? Obviously, Hindus won’t. They only react when cows are killed by Muslims; they react when their boys elope with Hindu girls in the name of love jihad.”
Young Muslim voters though dubbed cow slaughter as unjustified. “Cow slaughter is unjustified as it is banned in the state, which is also known as ‘Dev Bhumi’,” said Zaid Ansari, 23, a company worker at Bhagwanpur (Bada). Marghoob Ghour credited Modi for creating jobs, but said Muslims need to be skilled to avail of those avenues.
The SC community appeared unhappy with the Rawat government. “It has abandoned all welfare schemes meant for our daughters, like Sukanya Dhan Yojna, the previous Congress government had initiated,” said Ram Kumar, a former pradhan of Khanpur. Surendra Kumar, a resident of Pherupur, said 305 of the 400 houses owned by the SC families were without toilets.
Farmers too have their litany of woes. “It’s been over a year but sugar mills are yet to pay our dues,” said Ashwini Chauhan, a sugarcane grower from Pherupur.