Bijnor Murder to Polarise the Second Phase of Voting in UP; Rebels in Cong, BJP Spoilers in the Uttarakhand Polls

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In the second phase of polling in UP, 721 candidates are in the fray out of which 69 are female, while there is also a nominee from the third gender; 11 districts are going to polls for 67 Assembly seats in and around Rohilkhand. This phase of polling will be affected by the Bijnor murder of the teenage Jat, who was murdered here by eight Muslims of his village last Friday. The incident came five months after an alleged incident of eve-teasing that had led to the death of three Muslims here last year. This murder figured prominently in the speeches of BSP candidates in the area and also in Mayawati’s speech. As Bijnor goes to polls, the BJP candidate from here is Suchi Chowdhary, the wife of one of the accused in the September killing of Muslims, while the BSP has fielded a Muslim candidate. Once again it seems the votes will be polarised on communal lines. In Uttarakhand, which also went to polls in 69 out of 70 Assembly seats, the from both parties – the BJP and the are expected to act as spoilers. Here too the BJP has projected Narendra Modi as the face of its and focussed its attack on Chief Minister Harish Rawat of the . The seems to have made the polls a referendum on the performance and image of Rawat. So the fight seems as a contest between personalities – Harish Rawat pitted against Modi. Here’s a report by our Associate Editor, Navodita, as polling is on, exclusively for .

The first phase of polling got over in Uttar Pradesh with almost 64% voter turnout in 73 out of 403 constituencies in the state, while the second phase of polling has 11 districts going to polls for 67 Assembly seats in and around Rohilkhand. A day after the first phase of polling major political parties claimed that they would form the government.

Addressing a rally in Sitapur, BSP supremo Mayawati said, “The first phase of UP polls was encouraging for BSP. It was a clean sweep for our party. It’s a positive signal that we are going to form a  government in the state.”

She dismissed as ‘fake’ all opinion polls and surveys that did not show BSP as the party with the single largest majority and said they will be proved wrong as in 2007, when her party got a majority.

On the other hand, Amit Shah told reporters in Lucknow, “As per the trend in the first phase, we will get more than 50 seats (out of 73). In the first two phases, we will be getting more than 90 seats (out of 140). The main rival in these two phases is BSP. In the next phases, the rival will be SP.”

In the second phase of polling, 721 candidates are in the fray out of which 69 are female, while there is also a nominee from the third gender. 15 constituencies in this phase have been declared as Red Alert constituencies, the ones which have three or more candidates with declared cases against them.

Some say that Muslim voters, who constitute about 20 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s population, hold key to electoral outcome in these Assembly polls. Muslims are considered to be the traditional vote bank of the ruling Samajwadi Party and the concern over SP family feud has been echoed by several top clerics, including Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid and Maulana Salman Nadvi of Lucknow-based Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama.

The downside of the elections is that there are reports of some names missing from the voters’ list. In Noida an auto-rickshaw driver Sabhajit Yadav said, “An Anganwadi worker came home to get the names verified. But when I went to cast my vote, they said my name was not there in the record.”

This second phase of polling will, however, be affected by the Bijnor murder of the teenage Jat, who was murdered here by eight Muslims of his village last Friday. The incident came five months after an alleged incident of eve-teasing that had led to the death of three Muslims here last year. This murder figured prominently in the speeches of BSP candidates in the area and also in Mayawati’s speech. As Bijnor goes to polls the BJP candidate from here is Suchi Chowdhary, the wife of one of the accused in the September killing of Muslims, while the BSP has fielded a Muslim candidate. Once again it seems the votes will be polarised on communal lines.

The Jats seem to be inflicting the greatest damage upon the BJP- a large percentage 50-80% – are said to be moving towards the Rashtriya Lok Dal. Most Jats are upset over issues such as mounting cane arrears to farmers from sugar mills. The Jats had gravitated entirely to the BJP in 2014, after Muzaffarnagar, leading to the defeat of Chaudhary Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary. Ajit Singh is now trying his level best to regain lost ground, something he hoped to inherit well from his father Chaudhary Charan Singh and his mother, also an MP.

However, the BSP must not be underestimated, as in 2017, Mayawati has decided to play the Muslim card. As Uttar Pradesh has mobile trucks echoing jingles of ‘UP ko ye sath pasand hai’ the ‘gathbandhan’ or the SP-Cong alliance has come as a major setback to the BSP in particular. BSP is still ahead in those constituencies where she has fielded a Muslim candidate, and the SP has a non-Muslim in the race. Given the Dalit-Muslim arithmetic, Mayawati should have swept western UP with close to 135 seats. But Dalits being the face of the Hindus’ fight against Muslims in communal riots over decades, there are signs of small percentage of Jatavs gravitating to the BJP, reacting to Mayawati’s focus on Muslims.

In Uttarakhand, which also went to polls in 69 out of 70 Assembly seats, the rebels from both parties – the BJP and the Congress are expected to act as spoilers. Here too the BJP has projected Narendra Modi as the face of its campaign and focussed its attack on Chief Minister Harish Rawat of the Congress. The Congress seems to have made the polls a referendum on the performance and image of Rawat. So the fight seems as a contest between personalities – Harish Rawat pitted against Modi; which means issues such as and disaster relief and reconstruction, protection of the environment and declining farm productivity in the hills have been marginalised. Instead the OROP (One Rank One Pension) issue, demonetisation, abstract promises on employment-centred development and promotion of tourism have found some place in the campaigns.

Once again while many of those engaged in the small-scale and unorganised sector have been severely affected by demonetisation, better agricultural productivity in the last year has helped farmers raise income levels; these developments are expected to have an impact on electoral choices continuing the trend of unpredictability in both the elections this year. Compared to U.P. which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, Uttarakhand has only five Lok Sabha constituencies. But a defeat in the state would lead to further demoralisation among Congress ranks, while for the BJP, a victory would add another state to its kitty in its quest for ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’.

©Navodita Pande

Photos from Internet

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Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24x7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.
Navodita Pande
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