LUCKNOW: With the first phase of UP polls just two days away, 73 constituencies across 15 districts in state’s western region are battle-ready to set the tone for the subsequent six phases.
In one of the richest and industrialised regions of the state, agriculture is the main occupation of the people of Western UP. This region has been the seat of famous green revolution since the late 1960s.
In view of SP-Congress alliance, BSP’s early headstart and demonetisation looming large over the political horizon of UP west, the strong undercurrent which was visible in favour of BJP in 2104 Lok Sabha polls seems to have fallen weak this time around. BJP had swept the polls with all 10 seats in 2014 riding high on Dalit-OBC combination with an intact upper castes vote.
UP west has 18 percent of state’s total Dalit population making a considerable chunk of 3.66 crore population of the region.
The mood of Jat-Muslim combination has always been a major deciding factor in this part, which accounts for 16 percent of the state’s area as both the communities have a relatively higher concentration of their population here. While 30 percent of state’s OBC population, including Jats and Yadavs, resides here, it is home to 22 per cent of state
Known to be a bastion of Kisan leader and RLD chief Chaudhary Ajit Singh, the Jats deviated from their traditional line and polarised in favour of the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha election as the party had a clean sweep in this region winning all the 10 seats in the first phase then.
In 2012, Assembly elections, however, SP and BSP were on equal footing with 24 seats each, BJP was at number three with just 11 closely followed by RLD, which bagged nine seats and Congress was largely rejected by the electorate as it could muster only 5 of 73 seats in the region.
In a region which gave BJP a 50 per cent vote share in 2014, the equations on the ground seem to be quite different this time. Many Jat outfits have come out openly against the saffron party mainly in the districts like Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Baghpat and Bulandshahr giving enough indication of the changed priorities.
Jats’ annoyance for saffron ranks can be attributed to three main reasons-- BJP appointed a non-Jat chief minister in adjoining Haryana, alleged police atrocities on Jats during an agitation, and also the growing issues of cane growers, especially, in the aftermath of demonetisation.
Moreover, 22% of state’s minority population here also plays a crucial role in deciding the fate of parties and setting the tone for voting in subsequent phases.
From Meerut to Baghpat, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar, Ghaziabad, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Firozabad and Agra, the poll matrix is dominated by minorities. While BSP chief Mayawati is eyeing a Dalit-Muslim combination with her aggressive wooing of the two communities, Congress, on the other hand, would be piggybacking its senior partner SP.
Unlike Lok Sabha elections of 2014, communal polarisation is not visible on the ground, barring pockets of Thana Bhawan and Sardhana where BJP’s Suresh Rana and Sangeet Som, both Muzaffarnagar riots accused, are contesting.
Elections then were held in a backdrop of 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal bloodbath which had destroyed the social fabric of the region to a very large extent. It, somehow, then resulted in exodus of a particular community from areas like Kairana.
Despite heavy political rhetoric by BJP leaders in a bid to polarise voters over the issues of exodus, riots, rape and slaughter houses, in the ensuing elections, it doesn’t seem to be evoked that bigger an issue especially in the aftermath of demonetisation which has hit all sections of the society including farmer, traders, and service class equally hard.