Backed by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, RlD’s Tabassum Hasan is taking on the BJP’s Mriganka Singh in the communally sensitive Kairana lok Sabha bypoll on May 28.
The bypoll, which is being fought around a host of local issues, including law and order, the delay or non-payment of sugarcane prices, absence of good roads and schools and perennial traffic jams, will still be impacted by communal polarisation with both sides making desperate attempts.
However, the extent of the division of Jat votes among the two groups is certain to play a major role in deciding the outcome of this bypoll.
“The Jat votes would be divided 50 per cent each to the RlD and the BJP,” said Kishan Pal, a voter from Addam village in Shamli.
To consolidate their strength against the BJP, the combined Opposition has put up a Muslim candidate on a pro-Jat RlD ticket as a strategy to attract both Muslim and Jat voters, who were at loggerheads after the 2013 riots.
RlD’s candidate is a former BSP MP, who later joined the Samajwadi Party. She is pitted against Mriganka Singh, the daughter of late BJP MP Hukum Singh. Both the candidates belong to Gujjars. Besides the ‘sympathy votes’, Mriganka seeks to sail through with the help of Gujjars, upper caste Hindus and votes of a bouquet of Other Backward Castes, including Jats. Unlike 2014 and 2017, a swing of Jat voters to the RlD may make things difficult for the BJP.
The battle of Kairana — the result of which could provide a firm indication whether the SP-BSP combination may stop the BJP across the Uttar Pradesh in 2019 general elections — is still evenly matched and a last-minute change (polarisation) will swing the balance.
BJP’s Hukum Singh had won with ease the lok Sabha poll in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots collecting 5,65,909 votes against SP’s Nahind Hasan, who polled 2,29,081. Hasan, son of Tabassum, had defeated Mriganka in 2017 Assembly polls and is currently MlA from Kairana.
The grand RlD-SP-BSP alliance claims it has the support of 5.80 lakh Muslims, 2.5 lakh Dalits and over 1.70 lakh Jats in Kairana, accounting for roughly 60 per cent of the electorate.
The BJP, however, asserts that Gujjars (1.50 lakh, OBC), upper caste Brahmins (about 55,000), Sainis (1.80 lakh OBC) and a range of castes like Kashyaps, Pal and Prjapatis would back the party. The BJP is also counting on the support from section of the Jatav voters who are traditional supporters of the BSP.
The BJP’s campaign in Kairana is led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who wants to prove a point after the shock defeat of the party in the March lok Sabha bypolls in his home constituency Gorakhpur and Pahulpur, the constituency of Deputy Chief Minister
Keshav Prasad Maurya. Besides, Yogi and Maurya, Jat leaders and BJP MPs Satya Pal (Bagpat), Sanjiv Balyan (Muzaffarnagar) and UP’s sugarcane development Minister Suresh Rana are working overtime to win Jat votes for the party.
Assurances have been, accordingly, given by the BJP leaders that cases against Jat youths, allegedly involved in riots, would be withdrawn.
As the BJP is trying to retain their 2014 sway with the Jats, RlD supremo Ajit Singh, 79, who had lost ground to the BJP in his home ground culminating his own defeat in the nearby Baghpat lok Sabha seat in 2014, is trying to win back the votes of his community.
The delay in payment to sugarcane farmers has emerged an important issue in the constituency with three sugar mills. Several people this correspondent interacted with said sugarcane is the main crop of the region and reminded the BJP Government of its promise that the payment would be made within 14 days.
Rana, also an MlA from Tahan Bhawan Assembly seat in Kairana, said there was bumper production of sugarcane and that prices of sugar fell down but still the Government made payments in time. He quoted RlD leader Janyant Chopudhary (son of Ajit Sngh) jibe “Jinnah Nahin, Ganna chalega” (it is not Jinnah but sugarcane that is the real issue here) and retorted, “I am also saying Ganna is important in Kairana.”
Balyan said 50 per cent of payment has been made to farmers and only 50 per cent remained. “By the election day, floating voters will be with us. We have restored law and order. There were seven encounters in Shamli with criminals,” he said. He predicted a win for Mriganka saying she lost in Assembly as his nephew Anil Chauhan, who had contested from the lok Dal is now back in the BJP.
Presently four of the Kairana’s assembly segments are with the BJP and one with the SP. One thing seemed very clear that Thana Bhawan Assembly segment was not favourably inclined to the BJP and the RlD may have an upper hand there.
Former SP lok Sabha MP from Azamgarh Balaram Yadav, who was also camping in Kairana dismissed BJP’s claim of winning the seat saying people were not happy with the Modi Government and “jumlebazi” and the SP-BSP combine is ready to defeat “communal forces”. He predicted that the RlD would win Kairana with a margin of two lakh votes.
At the bustling Shamli Bazar, local trader and transporter Sanjay Pawar said the battle is evenly matched and the BJP could win with the votes of Gujjars, Sainis, Nai, Thakur and even SCs. He said Hindu-Muslim polarisation would go in favour of the BJP. Pawar said that Modi is still the best bet for the country and credits him for keeping sugar mills running in the region. “Muslims here have only one aim that is to defeat the BJP,” Pawar said with a deadpan expression.
While Pawar is charitable towards the BJP, some of the traders (also BJP supporters) in the same market said officials are not implementing what the Chief Minister promises. “Nothing changes here, roads are bad, no bypass, continuous traffic jam and no good schools,” said Sanjay. Children seem to be going to as far as Karnal in Haryana -- over two-hour journey -- to study in good schools.
Asked about triple talaq as an issue in Kairana bypoll, Saud Ahmed -- a transporter, who does business with Hindu partners -- said, “It is never an issue as it is an attempt by the BJP to interfere with our religion that gives enough rights to women.”
The next two days will be crucial as Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a function in nearby Bangpat on Sunday, a day before Kairana goes to polls.