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In Western UP, BJP's Quest to Upset Caste Cart Revolves Around MODI - Mobilisation, Division of Votes, India

Of the eight seats going to elections in the first phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has retained all its sitting MPs.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:April 4, 2019, 2:36 PM IST
In Western UP, BJP's Quest to Upset Caste Cart Revolves Around MODI - Mobilisation, Division of Votes, India
PM Narendra Modi waves during an election campaign rally of his Bharatiya Janata Party in Hyderabad. (Image: AP)

Bijnor: With just a week left for the Lok Sabha elections to begin, Uttar Pradesh is charged up with poll mood. In western Uttar Pradesh’s Bijnor district, volunteers are busy canvassing for their parties.

"Someone in Najibabad wants to join RSS. I was guiding him about that,” says Mayank Mayur after attending a phone call. This election is about making the country strong, he elaborates.

For more than three decades now, Mayur has been a key functionary of the RSS in Bijnor.

"No one has been discriminated here. In Bijnor, the minorities have been the major beneficiaries of government schemes," he adds.

At the other end of the neighbourhood, a group of BJP workers canvas for the party candidate and sitting MP Bhavtendra Singh.

Himanshu, in his late teens, hands over the party pamphlet to a voter and gets himself photographed, clad in a saffron shirt.

"Modi ji ko vote dijiye. (Vote for Modi ji)," he says.

These photographs of the BJP volunteers are then immediately passed on to the IT cell of the constituency.

"This is to keep a tab on the activities of the workers and to motivate the cadre to reach out to as many people as possible,” says a BJP campaign manager, wishing anonymity.

Of the eight seats going to elections in the first phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has retained all its sitting MPs. Only Mriganka Singh from Kairana, who lost the bypolls, has been replaced.

Re-nominating candidates also points towards party's strategy that leadership and not candidates assume importance - a presidential style of campaigning that the BJP has relied on during recent elections.

The demographics of western Uttar Pradesh have traditionally suited the BJP. The party’s top leaders like Kalyan Singh have had their support base in this region. The region is also communally polarised and sensitive, owing to the density of minority population.

However, in the last 5 years, the top party leadership has been representing the eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents Varanasi, while Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath represents Gorakhpur. Deputy chief minister KP Maurya is from Prayagraj.

In the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP faces the SP-BSP combine and Ajit Singh's RLD.

In Baghpat, bordering the national capital, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satya Pal Singh faces RLD's Jayant Choudhary. Grandson of former prime minister Charan Singh, he is the joint candidate of the opposition.

Satya Pal Singh, during his election campaign, is focusing on just one thing —PM Modi and his leadership.

"Voting for the BJP and Modi means ‘Suraksha ki Guarantee’,” he tells villagers assembled to listen to the sitting MP.

In the adjoining Muzaffarnagar, Sanjiv Balyan of the BJP is contesting against RLD chief Ajit Singh.

Campaigning in villages, Balyan says, “All the thieves have come together to defeat Modi". Not many BJP MPs are campaigning on the performance of its government at the Centre or the state.

In Khatauli, Jayant Choudhary is visiting a village with mixed Jat and Muslim population. The two communities, which had broken into riots in Muzaffarnagar ahead of 2014 general elections, are seeking to conflate and reconcile.

"People will try to mislead you. They will tell you this is an election for bigger issues. Be very careful. Should elected representatives from panchayat to parliament not be held accountable?" Choudhary asks the audience.

Since the downfall of the Congress in UP politics, the BJP has been the repository of upper caste votes in the states. The incremental votes for the party has, however, come from smaller backward caste groups, which are individually lesser in numbers than Yadav's and Jatavs. But together, they form almost a fifth of the electorate.

This amorphous group includes communities like Dheemar, Pal, Nai, Saini, Kashyap, etc.

The Kairana Lok Sabha seat, for instance, has pockets of Kashyap influence. Saharanpur has almost 5% Saini voters.

"In Bijnor, the BJP has influence in smaller communities like Pal and Dheemar. They may go with the party in the caste mobilization,” says Bijnor Times editor Suryamani Raghuvanshi.

With Congress fielding candidates in six seats out of eight seats going to the polls on April 11, the BJP hopes to gain from the division of minority votes if any. In Saharanpur and Bijnor, Imran Masood and Naseemuddin Siddiqui of the Congress are seen as strong candidates.

In Bijnor for instance, Siddiqui, a former aide of BSP chief Mayawati is being tactically projected by BJP local leadership as the main opponent to undercut BSP's minority votes.

"Ladai Naseemuddin se hi hogi app dekhna" says Bijnor BJP leader Vikas Agarwal.

Both in terms of acronyms and otherwise BJP's quest for UP revolves around only MODI - MObilisation of OBCs, especially the numerically non-dominant castes, Division in minority votes and India, the pitch to 'make India strong.'

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| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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