Uttar pradesh

SP-RLD win eight out of 12 seats in districts most affected by the riots

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and RLD National President Jayant Chaudhary at a press conference in Muzaffarnagar

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav and RLD National President Jayant Chaudhary at a press conference in Muzaffarnagar | Photo Credit: PTI

Amidst the euphoria of the victory of Hindutva forces in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls, many have missed how the Jats and Muslims of the sugarcane belt have almost buried the ghost of the Muzaffarnagar riots and defeated three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates who were products of the 2013 riots that was the BJP’s central plot during the campaign.

Minister for Sugar Industries and Cane Development Suresh Rana from Thana Bhawan, Budhana MLA Umesh Malik, and Sardhana MLA Sangeet Som, all facing charges for inciting the riots, lost at the hustings. In the neighbouring Kairana, Mrignika Singh, whose father Hukum Singh built the Hindu exodus narrative, lost to the Samajwadi Party’s (SP) Nahid Hasan.

Out of 12 seats in Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat and Shamli, the districts most affected by the riots and the farmers’ agitation, saw the BJP winning in only four seats. In 2017, the BJP had won 10 of these 12 seats. In the Baraut seat of Baghpat, the margin of the BJP candidate’s victory was only around 300 votes. In Meerut, the alliance bagged four out of seven seats. In 2017, the BJP had bagged six seats.

In Bijnor, another centre of farmers’ protests and Jat-Muslim consolidation, the alliance has won four out of eight seats. In two out of the four lost, the victory margin is only around 200-odd votes.

“The results show that we have been able to defeat politics of hate and rekindle bhaichara (brotherhood) in the region,” Sandeep Chaudhary, national spokesperson, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), said.

In Charthawal, he said, the BJP was riding on double sympathy as its sitting MLA Vijay Kashyap passed away during the second wave of COVID-19 and his widow was contesting. Also, Kutbi, the native village of the BJP’s Jat face and Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan falls under the constituency. Still, the alliance candidate Pankaj Malik emerged victorious largely because the seat has a significant Muslim population and the Jats moved away from the BJP.

Data presented by Axis-My India Exit poll suggests that 44% Jats and 83% Muslims in Uttar Pradesh voted in favour of the alliance. However, local observers in these districts suggest that Jats in these districts voted 60-70% in favour of the alliance, largely because of the renewed faith in the RLD, and bonhomie between Jats and Muslims.

Like any good communication, it turned out to be a two-way process. Muslims maintained a distance from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and didn’t entertain the overtures of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). The party secured less than 0.5% votes in the State.

In Thana Bhawan, the RLD’s Ashraf Ali Khan defeated Mr. Rana despite the BSP fielding a Muslim candidate. In Budhana, the RLD’s Rajpal Balyan, a product of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, defeated Mr. Malik. Here again, the BSP had fielded a Muslim candidate. In Sardhana, the Jats and Muslims backed Atul Pradhan, the Gurjar candidate of SP, to defeat Mr. Som. The BSP had fielded a Jat candidate from the seat. In Siwal Khas, the Jats backed SP’s Muslim candidate Ghulam Mohammad, contesting on an RLD symbol, to oust the BJP’s Jat candidate.

Senior journalist Rashid Ali said that unlike in 2019, Jat-Muslim bonhomie was visible in polling booths as Muslims voted freely. “The wedge that had emerged between the two communities had taken time to fill. I must say the Muslims took the initiative by wholeheartedly voting for the then RLD chief Ajit Singh in 2019. A section of Jats appreciated the move and its result could be seen this time.”

Mr Ali said Muslims in the region seek the security that only Jats could provide them.

Senior advocate Mannan Balyan said the impact would have been greater had Muslims voted around 70-75%, as they have done in the past when the SP and the BSP had an alliance. “This time, it was around 65% in Muzaffarnagar because the alliance had not put up any Muslim candidate. The alliance also suffered because it could not anticipate that a significant percentage of Jatav and non-Jatav SC (Schedule Caste) votes of the BSP shifted to the BJP this time.”

Though RLD spokespersons cite the party’s success on reserved seats like Purkazi and the photo finish in Nehtaur, observers pointed out the last minute caste engineering didn’t help the SP alliance in stopping the flow of the non-Jatav vote and the Most Backward Classes (MBC) vote towards the BJP.

Watch | Uttar Pradesh election results 2022: key winners and losers

In Khatauli (Muzaffarnagar), where the Jat population is not decisive, the RLD had fielded a Saini candidate against the BJP candidate of the same caste. “The BJP candidate choreographed attacks on himself and cited danger from Jats and Muslims in meetings,” said Mr. Balyan. “Also, the Sainis have two sub-castes. The alliance faltered in giving tickets to the candidate of a sub-caste that is in much smaller numbers.”

The biggest example was Nakur (Saharanpur), where BJP turncoat Dharam Singh Saini lost his seat. Here, the Muslim candidate of the BSP secured 20% of the votes. Keeping distance from Imran Masood, who switched to the SP at the last minute, perhaps worked against the SP alliance in seats where it fielded non-Muslim candidates in the district. In Deoband, the SP ignored its traditional Muslim face Mavia Ali and gambled on a Thakur candidate but failed.

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Printable version | Mar 11, 2022 10:47:44 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-assembly/sp-rld-win-eight-out-of-12-seats-in-districts-most-affected-by-the-riots/article65215097.ece