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Here parties ‘caste’ away main issues for poll gains

People will cast their votes in 71 seats of 14 districts of Meerut, Saharanpur and Moradabad divisions in the first and second phase of voting on February 11 and 15. Experts believe that election in western UP would largely be fought on the basis of caste and religion.

lucknow Updated: Jan 31, 2017 15:56 IST
Hindustan Times
Khap panchayats,Western UP,UP elections
A motorcycle rally being taken out by BJP workers in support of party candidate as campaigning intensifies in Meerut ahead of first phase polling.(Chahat Ram/ HT Photo)

An area hit by riots, polarisation and khap panchayats, the divisive politics in Western UP has often been exploited for political gains. Comprising largely of farmers, traders, students, women and labourers these groups are often divided into Jats, Muslims, other backward castes (OBC), dalit, gurjar, lodh and many others based on their caste and community.

These groups generally question the motive of political leaders who promise them the moon during their campaigning but do nothing when voted to power. “Hamare liye politicians ne kya kiya?,” say panchayat elders during their initial discussions on chaupal, streets and in drawing rooms. Caste and religion eventually play a major role in election of western UP while major issues go on the back burner. Politicians prefer shifting focus from ‘politics of issues to caste and religion’ because it helps them polarise supporters to ensure their victory.

Law and order, demonetisation, dues of sugarcane farmers, employment and development are some of the major issues in western UP that have affected lives of people. Politicians do mention these issues in their speeches but behind the curtains their election strategists keep themselves busy in formulating moves to draw voters of a particular caste and religion in favour of their candidates and parties. A candidate claims ‘these are trusted calculations since decades to ensure victory in the poll fray.’

Read more: PM may raise exodus issue in west UP rallies

People will cast their votes in 71 seats of 14 districts of Meerut, Saharanpur and Moradabad divisions in the first and second phase of voting on February 11 and 15. Experts believe that ‘Election in western UP would largely be fought on the basis of caste and religion. Head of political department, CCS University, Prof Sanjeev Sharma says, “Voters in west UP talks about many issues including development, employment and plights of farmers but at last majority of them prefer to vote on the basis of caste and religion’. BSP candidate in Meerut city constituency, Pankaj Jolly, also admits that ‘Quotients of caste and religion had always affected election in western UP.”

Labourer Momin, his friends Shaan Mohammad and Bhura of Visthapit colony in village Palra, Muzaffarnagar, also speaks about development and declares his affiliation for Akhilesh Yadav. But this is not the sole reason of giving their votes to Akhilesh. When prodded further, they reply in unison, “We like him because he and his party takes care of Muslims.” In neighbouring district Meerut, Thakur Harkishan of village Kapsad supports BJP MLA Sangeet Som and his party because he and other villagers believe ‘Hindus too need patronage’. Anil Dalit in village Abdullapur of Meerut says, “Dalits are dedicated to behanji (Mayawati) because she has given a new identity to the entire clan.” He says development and employment are essential but protection of the entire clan and ‘identity equally matters for us.’

These equations also reflect in election strategies of political parties. BJP is banking on combination of non- Yadav OBC( Kurmi, Kashyap, Lodh, Gurjar, Saini and others) with upper castes( Brahmin, Thakur, Vaishya etc) and its rival BSP is working to forge a bond between its cadre dalit votes with Muslims and the party has fielded 36 Muslim candidates to attract minority voters. On the other hand SP-BSP alliance is confident of their victory by combining votes of Muslims, Yadav and upper caste voters. It is believed that SP did not ally with RLD because the party did not want to take the risk of annoying Muslim voters, who largely believe that Jats were responsible for Muzaffarnagar riot in 2013. The RLD is also depending on its base Jat voters for success in this election and it may play spoilsport for other parties.

Read more: 75 Aligarh villages left ‘in the dark’

On the other hand, parties also have given tickets to 12 turncoats in the fray and experts say that the motive behind it was to attract voters of their clan. They feel, it would help parties and candidates to consolidate voters on the basis of castes and religion.

Interestingly, in this elections political parties are out to woo women candidates who form approximately 45 per cent of the total votes in western UP. BJP and RLD each has fielded 8 women candidates, Samajwadi Party has given tickets to 6 women, BSP has fielded 3 women candidates and Congress has given ticket to 2 women candidates.

In the previous assembly election of 2012, BJP won 12 seats, BSP 22, SP 28, Congress 7, RLD 3 and others 1 on 71 seats of the region. Later, in the by-election the ruling SP registered victory on Kairana, Bijnor and Thakurdwara seas while it lost the Muzaffarnagar seat.

Read more: Muslims hold the key in West UP

First Published: Jan 31, 2017 15:56 IST