Knives out in Uttar Pradesh BJP, Som counters sabotage charges levelled by Balyan

Former MLA Som says Balyan should not have brought up differences in public, a day after the former Union Minister, who lost the Muzaffarnagar seat, appealed to party leadership to take action against those who ‘openly worked for the SP’

Updated - June 12, 2024 11:15 am IST

Published - June 12, 2024 09:56 am IST - Ghaziabad

Sangeet Som

Sangeet Som | Photo Credit: PTI

The cold war between two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders that affected the prospects of the party in key seats of western Uttar Pradesh came out in the open on Tuesday as former party MLA Sangeet Som countered charges of sabotage levelled by former Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan.

Also read: SP’s robust non-Yadav, OBC outreach pays off with BJP’s Purvanchal setback

Addressing mediapersons in Meerut on Monday, Mr. Balyan had appealed to the party leadership to “take action against those who openly worked for the Samajwadi Party while taking benefits from the BJP”. The two-time MP lost the prestigious Muzaffarnagar seat to SP’s Harendra Malik by 24,672 votes. Mr. Som said that Mr. Balyan “should not have brought up the differences in public, and instead raised his concerns at the party forum”.

 Sanjeev Balyan

 Sanjeev Balyan | Photo Credit: PTI

Hindutva laboratory

The sugar bowl of U.P. emerged as the laboratory of Hindutva for the BJP after communal riots in 2013. Both Mr. Balyan and Mr. Som gained prominence following the polarisation that swept the Saharanpur and Meerut divisions for almost a decade.

However, in the 2022 Assembly poll, when Mr. Som lost the Sardhana seat which comes under Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha, his supporters held Mr. Balyan responsible for the defeat, accusing him of not delivering the Jat votes. They felt he supported the Jat farmers who participated in the agitation against the farm laws to safeguard his interests. The well-wishers of Suresh Rana, the then sugarcane Minister in the Yogi Adityanath government, also blamed Mr. Balyan for the loss their leader suffered in the Thana Bhawan seat that is part of Kairana Lok Sabha. Mr. Balyan had little choice because he scraped through in the 2019 Lok Sabha against the Jat-Muslim unity mounted by the then Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh.

The infighting diluted the Hindutva glue and the Jat and Rajput identities of party workers surfaced. It became all the more prominent in the run-up to the Lok Sabha poll as Rajput panchayats were held against Mr. Balyan and stones were pelted at his convoy in a Thakur-dominated village, a night before Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed his first election rally in Meerut. Unsigned and undated letters on Mr. Som’s letter pad made it to social media and accused Mr. Balyan of corruption and misuse of power. In Rajput villages, Mr. Balyan faced the ire of Rajput youth for allegedly pushing only Jat candidates in the Agniveer recruitment camps. Mr. Adityanath called for peace as he shared the stage with them, but fissures remained throughout the campaign. Both the leaders continued to take jibes at each other where caste pride was palpable.

‘Jats betrayed BJP’

On Tuesday, Mr. Som underlined that the party had won from his Sardhana Assembly seat and it is in Charthawal and Budhana segments that it has come second, suggesting that the Thakurs stood by the BJP and it was the Jats who betrayed the party despite it aligning with the RLD. However, Mr. Balyan’s supporters pointed out that the difference in Sardhana was only 45 votes when the party expected it to secure a lot more from Rajput villages that dot the constituency. Local observers feel there is more to it than meets the eye in Mr. Balyan’s presser. Mr. Balyan held consolidation of the Muslim vote and division of the Hindu vote as the big reason for his defeat.

Talking to both camps reveals the possible sources of energy behind the battle between the two powerhouses. While the Jats in the Balyan camp allege that the State government’s attitude to their leader was visible when the district administration cancelled the candidature of three independent Muslim candidates; it ensured there was no division in the Muslim vote, which is around 33% of the total vote. Influential figures in the Muslim community also expressed surprise that there was no Muslim candidate among the 11 candidates in the fray.

The Rajputs, on the other hand, hold Home Minister Amit Shah’s poll speech in Shahpur, wherein he referred to the region as Jatland, responsible for deepening the caste divide that augmented Mr. Balyan’s casteist image. It not only irked the Rajputs but also angered the Most Backward Classes (MBCs) who stood by the BJP in the last two elections.

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