Lok Sabha elections 2019: In voting for first phase, big test for Akhilesh-Mayawati’s grand alliance
The Uttar Pradesh alliance led by Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav – once bitter rivals who teamed up in an effort to defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party – faces its first test in Thursday’s polling. Nearly 15 million people across eight western Uttar Pradesh constituencies are eligible to vote in the first of the seven-phase national election.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won all the eight seats: Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar. That is when Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party were also on opposite side.
There was also a wave in favour of Narendra Modi in 2014 that helped the BJP net 71 of the state’s 80 seats, helping the BJP form the government at the Centre. It was after the BJP improved upon its performance in the 2017 assembly elections and captured 325 of the 403 assembly seats that the first suggestions about the two rivals joining hands were made.
An experiment, first in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home turf of Gorakhpur in the by-elections, worked when a joint opposition candidate won Gorakhpur. The opposition scored the next victory in the Kairana by-poll in May 2018, a victory that cemented ties between the two UP rivals.
For today’s election, the SP, BSP and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal have joined hands to contest 78 of 80 Lok Sabha seats leaving out Amethi and Rae Bareli, represented by Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi respectively.
How the eight seats that have a significant population of Dalits and minorities will vote is seen as a key indicator of how much the arithmetic of votes that brought the rival parties will play out in this general election.
The communally sensitive seat of Muzaffarnagar will see a clash of titans with RLD chief Ajit Singh locking horns with sitting BJP lawmaker Sanjeev Balyan.
Thursday’s election will also decide the fate of three Union ministers - V K Singh (Ghaziabad), Satyapal Singh (Baghpat) and Mahesh Sharma (Gautam Buddha Nagar).
Prominent among those in the fray include-- Imran Masood (Congress) and Raghav Lakhanpal (BJP) from Saharanpur, and Tabassum Begum (SP) from Kairana.
In Bijnor, Congress candidate and former UP minister (during Mayawati’s tenure) Naseemuddin Siddiqui will challenge Raja Bharatendra Singh. In Meerut from where PM Narendra Modi had launched his campaign in this part of the state, BJP’s Rajendra Agarwal hopes for a repeat of 2014. He is pitted against BSP’s Hazi Mohammad Yaqub.
In Baghpat, Union minister Satyapal Singh is pitted against Jayant Chaudhary (RLD), son of Ajit Singh. Dolly Sharma of the Congress is contesting against Union minister V K Singh, while in Gautam Buddh Nagar, it is Union minister and BJP candidate Mahesh Sharma versus Arvind Kumar Singh of the Congress.