By Rajnish Singh
Saharanpur (Uttar Pradesh), April 10 (IANS) The gateway to western Uttar Pradesh, Saharanpur will see a cracker of a contest in the Lok Sabha polls with all the three main contenders – BJP, SP-BSP-RLD and Congress – focusing on the seat and putting up a strong fight.
Saharanpur goes to the polls on April 11 along with seven other seats in western Uttar Pradesh and the trend of voting here could have an impact on polling in the rest of the seats of the politically crucial state that sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sahha.
The significance of Saharanpur can be judged from the fact that the Uttar Pradesh BJP started its campaign for the Lok Sabha elections from the constituency and Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal held their first joint rally here.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath began the Lok Sabha campaign from Shakumbhari temple in Saharanpur district as an apparent move to counter the SP-BSP-RLD alliance’s campaign from Deoband, which has India’s largest Islamic seminary.
The SP-BSP-RLD rally on Sunday at the Tibia College Ground here saw massive crowds with people saying that the show of strength of the three parties was bigger than the rally addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Adityanath had said at an event that the opposition alliance’s choice of Deoband was an indication “of its orientation and priorities”.
The Shakumbhari temple is about 40 km from Deoband. BJP President Amit Shah had launched BJP’s Parivartan Yatra in 2017 from Saharanpur.
This district and other places in western Uttar Pradesh had set the trend for the BJP’s landslide in the Assembly polls. The party’s performance in western Uttar Pradesh was better than in most other parts of the state.
But the situation is not the same for the BJP in this election. There appears no visible Modi wave, yet there is no marked anti-Modi sentiment either among people in large parts of western Uttar Pradesh. The party appears unlikely to win all the eight seats that go to the polls in the first phase.
The outgoing BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal – a young leader who has studied management – was the winner last time as both the Congress and the Samajwadi Party had put up strong Muslim candidates and their votes got divided.
The scenario has repeated itself with the Congress again fielding Imran Masood, who lost to Lakhanpal by about 65,000 votes. The Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded Fazlur Rahman, who also has considerable clout in the area.
Masood had made “chop Narendra Modi into pieces” remark in 2014 elections and was asked to issue a public clarification by his party. His cousin Shadan Masood, son of his uncle Rasheed Masood, had contested as a Samajwadi Party candidate.
Muslim voters in the constituency appeared divided in their support for the two candidates.
Muslims, along with Dalit and Jat, make up more than half of 17.22 lakh voters in the constituency and together form a formidable combination.
The constituency has an estimated six lakh voters from the Muslim community, around 3.5 lakh Dalit voters and about two lakh from the Jat community.
Rakam, a 30-year-old security guard, said people in his village will vote for the Grand Alliance candidate as SP-BSP-RLD will get the maximum seats in Uttar Pradesh.
“The BJP has cheated us in the name of development. We have been given gas connection, but don’t have money to fill the cylinder,” he said.
Some voters, however, said they will vote for the Congress as the grand old party can form the government in the Centre.
“I voted BJP in last the Lok Sabha polls because of Narendra Modi but not this time. I will vote for the Congress,” says Mohammad Ishan, a carpenter.
Mohammad Ajmal, a resident of Khatakheri, said the coalition candidate will divide Muslim votes.
Prospects of Congress’ Imran Masood look good, especially after Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi’s meeting with Bhim Army Chief Chandrashekhar in Meerut last month. The Bhim Army emerged from Saharanpur and it has found a place among Dalit youths in western Uttar Pradesh. Priyanka Gandhi held a roadshow in Saharanpur on Tuesday.
The Saharanpur Lok Sabha constituency includes five Assembly seats — Behat, Saharanpur, Saharanpur Dehat, Rampur Maniharan and Deoband.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])