UP goes for polls in 1st phase, farmer resentment likely to play foul for BJP

UP went to polls today in 58 seats. | Photo by arranegement

In the first phase of the election in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh, the impact of the farmer’s movement will play a big role in determining the fate of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Aas Mohammad Kaif | TwoCircles.net 

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UTTAR PRADESH — Polling for the first phase of elections to the Uttar Pradesh state assembly has begun today. The polling will take place in 58 of the total 403 seats of the state, and 2.27 crore voters will exercise their franchise. The seats going to the polls include Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Shamli, Hapur, Bulandshahr Meerut, Gautam Budh Nagar, Ghaziabad, Mathura, Agra, and Aligarh districts. These seats are in the Western part of the state, and closer to New Delhi where the farmer’s protests took place last year. 

Another region going for polls in the first phase is Sisauli, the hometown of the influential Tikait family and headquarters of the farmers’ organization Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). 

BKU President Rakesh Tikait has openly called the BJP government “anti-farmer.” 

Gaurav Tikait from Sisauli told TwoCircles.net that “resentment is high against the ruling party as nearly 700 farmers died during the farmer agitation.” 

“While the farmers were constantly being neglected and even degraded, the government was playing deaf. The time has come for the common man to express displeasure through votes. The farmers are definitely angry and it will reflect on the votes,” he said. 

BKU President Rakesh Tikait has lot of support in the region where first phase of elections are taking place. | Photo by arrangement

An election observer Kuldeep Rathi from Baghpat said that “during the farmer’s movement, BJP lost favour with the farmer’s of the state as it used abusive language for them.” 

“The BJP withdrew the three laws only after 13 months of protests by the farmers. This is seen as a victory here,” he said. 

Re-emergence of RLD
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which had secured only one seat in 2017, has emerged as an important party in the first phase. The popularity of its national president Chaudhary Jayant Singh, the grandson of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, has considerably increased. Interestingly, RLD has made an alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP), led by former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. The two parties contested the last election separately.

If early reports are any indication, western Uttar Pradesh seems to have accepted RLD at this early phase of the election. 

According to an election observer Vinod Malik from the Jalalabad town of Thana Bhawan assembly seat, the anti-incumbency is a big factor going into the elections. “Sugarcane pricing is a big issue here and the sugarcane minister Suresh Rana has failed. He has not been able to do anything for his area even though he himself cultivates sugarcane.”

Observers noted that the success of the first phase of polls depends on the RLD-SP alliance which is in a direct fight with the BJP. 

Jat factor is the key
Jats constitute 17 per cent of the assembly seats going to polls in the first phase and they have historically been efficient voters. 

In the last assembly elections of 2017, the Jats changed sides to BJP. Observers, however, maintained that Jats will not support BJP in this election.

“It is not just the Jats but the other farmers who are also suffering at the hands of the BJP government,” Vicky Kaushik, a local from Siana of Bulandshahar told TwoCircles.

He said the majority of Jats wanted to change the government. 

Another important development witnessed ahead of the first phase of UP polls is the alliance between Jats and Muslims. 

Observers noted that this “alliance is a headache for the BJP, which is why it was constantly slamming Jayant Chaudhary.” 

In the last elections, Muslim votes were divided between SP and BSP. “But this time there is no scope for division,” an observer said.  

The opposition has also highlighted the issue of voting machines getting tampered and have moved the Election Commission regarding the issue of postal ballot. 

Advocate Pramod Tyagi, District President of Muzaffarnagar Samajwadi Party, pointed out that in the Lok Sabha elections, most of the government machinery displayed a heavy inclination towards the ruling party. 

“The Election Commission has been informed in this regard. We want fair elections and will nullify any influence,” he said.

Tough road for BJP
The poll predictions have indicated that the BJP will not have an easy run on these seats. 

“The BJP, which won 25 out of 28 seats in Meerut division in the 2017 elections, will find it tough to win with such a margin this time around,” an observer said. 

Although, during the campaign for the first phase of polls in UP, the BJP used its good old tactic of division and polarization to maximum pitch—this will not impact voting in western UP. 

BJP leaders fuelled the public by raising issues like the Muzaffarnagar riots, migrants’ crisis and made polarizing speeches. 

Observers noted that although the BJP made every effort to play the Hindutva card, “this will not change the consensus of people.” On the contrary, the statement of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath regarding turning “hot” Kairana and Muzaffarnagar into colder Shimla had a negative impact and there is resentment among the youth. 

The youth of the state are angry that when the government should be focused on ending unemployment, it is only interested in giving speeches. “The issue of development seems to be missing from the election and discussion on it is not happening anywhere,” a youth told TwoCircles.net.

For Iqra Hasan, the sister of Samajwadi Party candidate from Kairana, Nahid Hasan, “BJP will lose.” 

Iqra has taken over the election campaign in absence of her brother, who was arrested ahead of the polls and is currently in jail under the Gangsters Act. 

“Western UP is going to make history. BJP will lose badly,” she told TwoCircles.net.


Aas Mohammad Kaif is editor and special correspondent with TwoCircles.net. He tweets at @AasReports