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Kairana By-Election: Can BJP’s VHP Strategy Halt Mayawati’s Plan of Transferring Dalit Votes?

To stop the BSP from transferring its vote share of mostly Dalit votes to the joint opposition candidate, the BJP used the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to reach out to Dalit voters.

Uday Singh Rana | News18.com

Updated:May 31, 2018, 11:03 AM IST
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Kairana By-Election: Can BJP’s VHP Strategy Halt Mayawati’s Plan of Transferring Dalit Votes?
File photo of BSP chief Mayawati.
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Shamli: The results for four Lok Sabha by-elections, including the one in Western UP’s Kairana, will be announced on Thursday. The BJP, stung after bypoll defeats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur earlier this year, is not taking any chances in Kairana and in Noorpur Assembly bypoll. To stop the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) from transferring its vote share of mostly Dalit votes to the joint opposition candidate, the BJP used the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to reach out to Dalit voters. This, a source said, would help create a “Hindutva” consciousness among Dalits.

“We should not have lost the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls. We got complacent and our biggest mistake was underestimating Maywati’s influence among her supporters,” said a senior BJP leader, adding that “this time, we did not repeat the same mistake. We sent out VHP and Bajrang Dal workers to the field to sit with Dalit voters, dine with them and convince them to vote BJP.”

A VHP leader told News18 that they used several Dalit leaders and activists for groundwork. “It is important that ahead of these polls, Dalits view themselves as Hindus. Even BJP MPs were canvassing for the party. For example, just last week, Rajya Sabha MP Kanta Kardam, who happens to be a Dalit herself, was on the ground visiting Dalits. Since she is a Jatav, a community that has usually voted for BSP, it will have an impact on the polls.”

Vivek Premi, VHP’s student wing head in Western UP, said this was also part of a larger project for the organisation. “We should not see this in connection with the elections. To create a larger Hindu consciousness is a larger project of the VHP. We have been creating caste-harmony from the very beginning.”

The last two months have witnessed caste tensions in western UP, first with the Bharat Bandh in opposition to the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, then with the arrest of Dalit activists in the region and finally, with the death of a Bhim Army leader’s brother in Saharanpur. Two of Kairana Lok Sabha area’s 5 assembly segments fall within Saharanpur district.

When asked if there was Dalit resentment against the BJP, the president of the party's Western UP unit Ashwani Tyagi, said, "All communities are with the BJP. Unlike the opposition, we are not doing caste calculations. Our workers are going to every house and are being welcomed with warmth."

The largest group of voters in the Kairana Lok Sabha area is Muslims, with a total of 5.26 lakh voters. This puts the SP-RLD joint candidate Tabassum Hassan at an advantage over her BJP rival Mriganka Singh. Dalits, with 2.25 lakh votes, form the second largest chunk of voters.

A senior Samajwadi Party leader and close confidant of former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said, “Dalits were already disenchanted with the BJP and SP-BSP coming together for bypolls has given them a viable alternative. With the recent events, of Bharat Bandh and the Saharanpur tension, this will give us a bigger advantage.”

The Kairana Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after the death of sitting BJP MP Hukum Singh in February.

After losses in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls, BJP leaders don’t want to leave any stone unturned in Kairana. In this constituency, Mriganka Singh is up against the member of another prominent political family from Western UP. Tabassum Hassan, mother of Samajwadi Party MLA Nahid Hassan, who had defeated Mriganka in the 2017 UP Assembly Elections from Kairana.

Tabassum Hassan is contesting on a Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) ticket, is the joint candidate of the opposition parties.

(Get LIVE by-election results of ALL the seats here)

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