In the Jat country of Western UP, SP and BJP in battle royale

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New Delhi: It was an action-packed Thursday in western Uttar Pradesh. With only a week until the first round of the battle royale, all the big guns have taken over the area. On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a virtual rally in Aligarh, Noida, Meerut, Ghaziabad and Hapur. Its virtual influence will cover 23 Assembly constituencies. Western UP, one of the most politically sensitive and polarized regions, will go to the polls in the first of seven phases on February 10.

Ranging from Interior Minister Amit Shah, Samajwadi party chairman Akhilesh Yadav, his ally RLD leader Jayant Chaudhury, BSP supremo Mayawati and Congress scion Priyanka Gandhi Vadra parachuted in to court the electorate of WesternUP. As the Home Secretary covered Anupshahr, Dibai and Loni, Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary reached out to voters in Bulandshahr. AICC Secretary General Priyanka Gandhi Vadra walked through Anupshahr and Siana. BSP Chief Mayawati has made his presence felt in Kavinagar, Ghaziabad. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath held a press conference to highlight his government’s achievements.

It can be mentioned here that the western UP, with the dominance of Jats and Muslims, has become a tricky ground for the BJP. Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav has publicly stated that “the first phase of the UP is a farmers’ election and will set the tone for the remaining phases.”

While the SP-RLD alliance attempts to unite Jats and Muslims against the BJP, the Saffron Brigade relentlessly woos the Jat community with its Hindutva push. As one BJP leader put it, “In Western UP, the fight is between SP OBC sensitization and BJP Hindutva push.”

Jats make up about 17% of Western UP and have significant influence over nearly 40 Assembly seats and about 10 Lok Sabha berths. In the first phase, 58 seats in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Ghaziabad, Shamli, Hapur, Baghpat, Gautam Budh Nagar, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Mathura and Jat dominated Agra will go to the polls.

In a bid to counter the Hindutva agenda of the BJP, the SP is working to get the formidable combination of 17% Jats and 26% Muslims back on track after its alliance with the RLD. However, in 2017, while the SP won 21 seats, the RLD managed only one seat in the region. Moreover, over the past two decades, the RLD appears to have weakened considerably in western UP. Struck by Mayawati’s social engineering, much of the RLD vote bank had shifted to the BSP. In 2014, Jat votes started heading towards the BJP.

Some BJP spin-docs have observed that the SP-RLD alliance “might work in their favor”. They argued that “while the SP’s Muslim vote will shift to the RLD, the Jat votes may not shift to the SP’s Muslim candidates.” For these BJP leaders, the Jat votes would also be “split between the BJP and the RLD”. However, the socialists claimed that Western UP “is ready to witness the return of the MAJGAR (Muslim, Ahir, Jat, Gujjar and Rajput, including farmers) alliances formed by the late Chaudhary Charan Singh.

In 2017, out of Western UP’s 136 seats, while the BJP won 109 seats, obtaining almost 43% of the vote, the SP managed to win 21 seats, the BSP three, the Congress two and the RLD only one.

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