When Delhiites think of Noida, the gleaming offices and malls of Sector 18 may come to mind. But for politicians looking to win the Gautam Budh Nagar Lok Sabha seat, the 40 per cent of the district’s population that lives in villages is the only thing that matters.
In the previous general elections, the rural areas had seen nearly double the turnout compared to the urban hubs of Noida and Greater Noida. Though the urban areas account for 60 per cent of the district’s total population, the voter turnout for this demographic was 35 per cent last time, compared to 60 per cent polling in rural areas.
The campaigns of all the major contenders here is coloured by that fact, as they are spending the majority of their time asking for votes in the villages across the district. The population is largely made up of Gujjars, Yadavs and Thakurs, with around 3.5 lakh Muslim voters.
According to local observers, the voters are looking out for candidates that promise them development and security, and not those who pander to their caste or religious identities. The urban voters in Noida and Greater Noida include a large number of IT professionals and ex-Servicemen who have jobs, power supply and the extension of the Metro on their minds.
The district saw a close fight last time between the Bahujan Samaj Party’s Surendra Singh Nagar and the BJP’s Dr. Mahesh Sharma, who lost by around 16,000 votes. The sitting MP, Mr. Nagar, was denied a ticket by Mayawati’s party this time and has now joined the Samajwadi Party.
Dr. Sharma, who is the current MLA from Noida, believes he has a good shot this time owing to the ‘Modi wave’ and his own work as MLA since 2012. “I’ve reached villages and slums where even the Noida Authority hasn’t been able to,” he said.
Dr. Sharma said he was worried about the future of Noida as the “villages have turned into slums and 34 per cent of the population was forced to live there”.
His counterpart from the BSP, Satish Awana, is also confident of winning. “People are tired of the Akhilesh Yadav Government and they still remember the development work done by Mayawatiji,” he said, adding that the Muslim community would vote for him “1,000 per cent”.
Samajwadi Party candidate Narender Singh Bhati, like Mr. Awana, represents the Gujjar community. He raked up controversy recently when he asked “pehelwans” to vote twice and assured them that the government would withdraw any cases against them for the same. Mr. Bhati was in the news last year for boasting about getting IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal transferred in 41 minutes.
The Aam Aadmi Party’s K.P. Singh, a Rajput, is vying for the 4 lakh votes from that community. He is a Noida-based businessman, originally from Bulandshahr. He is hoping to win over the urban voters, who are influenced by their proximity to Delhi and by extension the AAP’s success there.
Meanwhile, the Congress, as of Thursday afternoon, has no candidate from here, with Ramesh Chand Tomar jumping ship to the BJP. The four-time MP from Ghaziabad on a BJP ticket had joined the Congress in 2009. He is expected to help the BJP with the Rajput vote in both Noida and Ghaziabad.
Of the five Assembly seats that make up the Gautam Budh Nagar Lok Sabha constituency, the BSP and BJP hold two each and the Congress has one. Given that, this election too is headed for an interesting finale.