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Mayawati set to gain in western UP

Aditi Phadnis in Meerut | May 05, 2004 17:36 IST
Last Updated: May 05, 2004 17:37 IST

The Bahujan Samaj Party may get as many as two seats in western Uttar Pradesh, a region that once played a central role in the Bharatiya Janata Party increasing its strength from 2 to 90.

The Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal's traditional hold appears to be dwindling and the Congress is nowhere in the picture. The simultaneous consolidation of the lower castes -- both Hindus and Muslims -- seems to favour the BSP.

The emergence of lower castes could lead to a change in the balance of social and political power in the region and might even cause tension in rural areas, leaders say.

Bulandshahar (BJP in 1999), Hapur (BJP in 1999), Meerut, (Congress in 1999) Muzaffarnagar, (Congress in 1999) Kairana, (RLD in 1999), Baghpat, (RLD in 1999) and Saharanpur (BSP in 1999) are counted as western UP.

The BSP has a good chance of winning Kairana and Meerut, mainly by default and faulty ticket distribution by the BJP. The BJP's net gain from western UP is pegged at one seat, while the Congress is likely to lose at least two.

In Kairana, the BJP has fielded Jats in the last four elections, and barring 1998, when senior Lok Dal leader Virendra Verma came to the BJP and won the seat, the BJP has never been able to retain it.

Party leaders say defying all logic, the BJP has asked an industrialist and a Jat, Amarkant Rana, to contest from this seat. Rana belongs to Saharanpur and had contested a legislative council election as a Lok Dal candidate less than six months ago.

The BSP candidate is Shahnawaz Rana, whose family owns a newspaper and is known for its muscle in the region. The RLD candidate is Anuradha Chaudhary. Muslims account for over 30% of the votes in the constituency.

The BJP candidate represents a recipe for defeat, say party leaders. He is not known in the constituency though he is prosperous and owns several steel mills. A section of the BJP was plugging for Choudhary Hukum Singh as a candidate because he would have brought with him the Gujjars votes.

However, the Kairana seat was one of the last to be announced and the party was under pressure to give the seat to Rana.

The concession to the Janata Dal (United) by fielding K C Tyagi from the Meerut seat has also shocked BJP leaders. The seat is likely to be a walkover for the BSP candidate, Haji Akhlaq Queraishi.

The BJP decided not to put up a candidate from the seat under pressure from the JD(U), despite counselling from the party's local unit. Queraishi is a respected figure in Meerut and also its mayor.

However, BJP sources say the BJP's chances in Saharanpur have brightened after the entry of respected Gujjar leader Yashpal Chaudhary, a Congressman.

The Samajwadi Party has fielded Rashid Masood, a supporter of Ajit Singh once upon a time. The BSP candidate is also a Muslim. Muslims number 31% in the constituency, so the contest is between the BJP and the BSP.

The BJP is fighting hard to win the Muzaffarnager seat, although it could go to the RLD or the BSP. Jats constitute 200,000 votes in the constituency. Jats have always voted for the BJP here, but in the last election, the BJP candidate lost by 26,000 votes.

This time, unaccountably, the BJP has fielded a Thakur, Amar Pal Singh, in a Jat area. The chances are that either the RLD or the BSP could win this seat.

In Hapur, the sitting MP, Ramesh Chandra Tomar (BJP), should not have been given the nomination, party leaders feel. This seat is likely to be won by Trilo Tyagi of the RLD. The Baghpat seat is likely to be a walkover for Ajit Singh.

The consensus in the BJP is that if it had been patient and done a deal with the BSP, it would have checked the progress of a juggernaut here. Now, with the established presence of the BSP, which is sure to get block votes of both Muslims and lower caste Hindus, western UP has slipped from its grasp.

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