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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: In GB Nagar’s Khurja segment, direct fight likely between BJP and SP-BSP alliance

With nearly 40% voters comprising Muslims and Rajputs, Khurja often votes along communal lines—votes from the two groups are usually for a fixed party. Additionally, Brahmin and Jat voters also help sway the margin of winners, as they form about 20% of the total voters in Khurja segment.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 08, 2019 17:06 IST
Snehil Sinha
Snehil Sinha
Hindustan Times, Khurja
lok sabha elections 2019,LS polls,GB Nagar Lok Sabha seat
The pottery town of Khurja, in Uttar Pradesh, often votes on communal lines. It comes under the Gautam Budh Nagar Lok Sabha constituency. (Virendra Singh Gosain/HT Photo )

Most voters seem to be supporting either the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samajwadi Party alliance in the Khurja assembly segment of Gautam Budh Nagar parliamentary constituency.

With nearly 40% voters comprising Muslims and Rajputs, Khurja often votes along communal lines—votes from the two groups are usually for a fixed party. Additionally, Brahmin and Jat voters also help sway the margin of winners, as they form about 20% of the total voters in Khurja segment.

Khurja has 3,77,250 voters, the second lowest among the five assembly segments that make up the Gautam Buddh Nagar parliamentary constituency. The small ‘pottery town’ of Khurja is the largest ceramic cluster of the country and has over 400 ceramic industries.

One of the greatest challenges is the growing disharmony in the area, according to residents — in the past few years, the celebrations of festivals have become louder; so has the polarisation of votes. “We are seeing Navratri processions for the first time. Festivals with blaring loudspeakers were not common here. Similarly, our festivals are also now celebrated with greater pomp and show. It’s more about the display of strength than celebrating with family and friends. In reality, everyone fears an untoward incident,” Mohammad Yunus, a ceramic store owner, said.

Currently, while there is increased support for the grand alliance, voters seem to still be weighing their options.

“We have voted for the BSP in the past and we will continue to do so. The current government has not offered any benefit to labour, and the prices of everything have gone up. The government has also not fulfilled any of its promises—either of ₹15 lakh in our bank accounts or of reducing poverty,” Mohammad Irfan, a ceramic factory worker, said.

Others said that increasing taxes have impacted business, leading to the closure of several industries as well. Despite having a pottery association and allotment of additional funds for small industries by the state government, nothing seems to have trickled down for the benefits of industries.

The introduction of GST has added to the woes of ceramic industry. “Khurja is one of the oldest industrial areas of the region, with the ceramic industry dating back to about 400 years. However, these are all small industries and need support. There is no reason why cheap items made of ceramic should have 18% GST,” Imran Khan, a ceramic factory owner, said.

While there is discontent towards the local BJP leadership, the support for Modi government is evident among large sections of the town. Some schemes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and ‘Swachh Bharat’ have benefitted the rural sections of Khurja. Despite differing views, the constituency has often chosen BJP leaders in the past. The current MLA Vijendra Singh is from BJP and the sitting MP Mahesh Sharma received over 40% of the total votes from Khurja during the previous Lok Sabha elections. Ashok Kumar Pradhan, veteran BJP leader, was elected as MP for four consecutive terms from Khurja and was also a cabinet minister. “We are going to vote for Modi. Thanks to him, we have a toilet in the house, the children are going to school and women are safer now. Health care has also become effective and there is good hospital in Khurja now,” Bobby (known by his first name), a factory worker from rural Khurja, said.

According to popular opinion, Arvind Kumar Singh, the Congress candidate, seems weak, with few supporters even from within the party. The party functionaries are working hard to increase support for the new Congress candidate who has recently joined the party and is not known to most local residents.

“We know there is competition, but we are also trying our best. There are local leaders and old timers who have a consistent following here, and these people always vote for the Congress. Besides this, the ceramic industry has suffered much neglect during the past five years and people are disillusioned now,” Nizam Mallik, secretary of state Congress committee, who is based in Khurja, said.

Two candidates, who hail from Khurja, do not seem to be known to many here. Rodas Gupta, an independent, a Baniya by caste, hopes his community will vote for him, while Dayaram from Aapki Apni Party (People’s) believes people will vote for him as he is working for resolution of local issues of labour welfare, health care and communal harmony.

First Published: Apr 08, 2019 17:06 IST