Lok Sabha elections 2019: Battle lines drawn for phase one fight in Uttar Pradesh   

The BJP had swept the region in 2014. This time, the old caste affiliations seem to matter less.

Published: 11th April 2019 02:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th April 2019 10:30 AM   |  A+A-

PM Narendra Modi

PM Narendra Modi (File Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Eight Lok Sabha constituencies in western Uttar Pradesh, a saffron laboratory of polarisation, is going to polls today with clear battle lines drawn between nationalism harped on by the BJP and rural distress by the grand alliance constituents.

The Congress is seen a clear spoiler in the calculations of the grand alliance, with a cross-section of people dropping enough hints of loosening of old caste affiliations with political parties. 

The Modi factor rules the discourse among rural and urban voters.

“Modi’s foreign policy is good,” quipped Satendra Singh Kashyap of Badhout village in Baghpat.

Balakot airstrike, return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and Modi’s muscular image are a common refrain in discussions, though farmers’ stress and grievances against incumbent MPs, all from BJP, too, agitate people.

“Farmers face procedural issues in getting their arrears. There’s much anguish against the state government for not fulfilling the promise to clear the cane arrears,” said Praveen Pundeer, a farmer in Kairana.

The BJP had swept the region in 2014. This time, the old caste affiliations seem to matter less.

“Majority of Jats, despite the agrarian distress, are backing the BJP. Non-Yadav OBCs, too, have been affected by polarisation since 2014,” said Harendra Malik, a political observer in Bijnor. 

That the region is rooting for a prime ministerial face was reflected by Shiv Kumar Saini, a farmer in Nehrauta, who said local issues could wait; the main concern is to see a strong government at the Centre.

“The constituents of the grand alliance fight all the times. What will happen if they come to power? Modi is a credible face,” said Saini.

This view is endorsed by Birendra Singh. Muslims are galvanised in favour of the grand alliance.

“Except for seats where the Congress has put up Muslim candidates, the first choice of minority voters is the SP-BSP-RLD nominees,” said Raquib Qureshi in Muzaffarnagar.

UP discourse turns communal before vote

LUCKNOW: While Mayawati’s vote appeal to Muslims in Deoband on April 7 stirred the communal pot in UP, BJP lapped it up and CM Yogi Adtiyanath took it to the next level with ‘Ali-Bajrangbali’ rhetoric in Meerut. As polling commences today,  the discourse in UP has finally turned communal. Political pundits feel Mayawati has given an issue to the BJP on a platter.

The party had kept its narrative focused on nationalism but the grand alliance’s very first rally polarised the debate. “She has been a habitual offender. She had woven her campaign around the Muslim card in Assembly polls and had faced the consequences,” says Prof AK Mishra of Lucknow University.

However, a BSP leader called it a well-thought-out strategy of ‘Behenji’ as the 8 western UP seats going to polls today have 20% Muslim voters. 

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