Almost all political parties, including the BJP, summed up the election results in Uttar Pradesh on the polarisation of votes following the last year’s communal riots in the western parts of the state.
Communal clashes broke out in August-September 2013 in Muzaffarnagar and spread to neighbouring Shamli and claimed 62 lives even as more than 45,000 were displaced.
Congress’s communication cell chief in UP Satyadev Tripathi claimed that Muzaffarnagar riots made a major impact on the elections results across the state. “Western UP had a long history of Jat-Muslim unity. But, Jats and Muslims got divided during the riots and that factor played a key role in the deciding electoral results. Even a leader like (RLD chief) Ajit Singh lost in Baghpat because of that polarisation,” Tripathi said.
Ajit’s son Jayant Chaudhary too lost to BJP’s Hema Malini in Mathura. Both Baghpat and Mathura have a sizeable dominance of Jats and Muslims and it was with their support that both Ajit and Jayant had won in 2009.
Blaming RSS and the BJP for riots, Tripathi said the violence vertically divided Hindus and Muslims in the state. He also blamed the Samajwadi Party’s inaction during riots for the division of votes.
While Ajit and Jayant were not available for comments, RLD state chief Munna Singh Chauhan accepted that Muzaffarnagar riots played a major factor in results of western UP. “Hindu voters got polarised towards BJP while Muslim votes got divided,” he said, adding while both BJP and SP worked towards communal polarisation, only the former reaped its benefits.
Polling in western UP were held in the first two phases of elections ahead of which BJP general secretary in-charge Amit Shah had created a furore with his controversial ‘revenge’ remarks.
BJP president of western region, Bhupendra Singh too accepted that Muzaffarnagar riots were a factor in the elections and that BJP benefited from it. “The anger in the people was not directed against any any particular community, but against the district administration, which had acted in biased manner after the riots. Hindus got united to teach a lesson to the SP government and the Congress,” he added.
BJP state co-incharge Sunil Bansal, however, tried to play it down saying the riots had an impact on select few seats like Muzaffarnagar and its adjoining constituencies. “It was the Modi wave, along with a well planned campaign, that led to BJP’s clean sweep in UP,” Bansal said.
Biggest victim of riots: RLD
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), which lost five seats it had won in 2009 and failed to open its account in three others it contested this time, “fell victim” to the Muzaffarnagar riots, which caused a sharp division of Hindu-Muslim votes in western UP.
RLD, a state party in UP that has base in western region, had pinned hopes on eight seats, including Kairana, Bijnor, Baghpat, Bulandshahr, Hathras, Mathura, Fatehpur Sikri and Amroha. Both RLD and its senior ally, the Congress, were banking on the Jat Reservation Bill, that was brought in after last year’s riots, to garner some votes. It did not help as RLD faced defeat by a huge margin on all these seats.
Party president and Union Civil Aviation minister Ajit Singh, who had won from Baghpat with a margin of 62,978 votes in 2009, lost to BJP’s Satyapal Singh from the same seat by a huge margin of 2.23 lakh. Party general secretary and Ajit’s son Jayant Chaudhary, who won from Mathura in 2009, lost the seat this time by a margin of more than two lakh votes.
The RLD had fielded Rampur MP Jayaprada from Bijnor and Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh from Fatehpur Sikri. Both Jaya and Amar came fourth in their respective constituencies.
To woo farmers, RLD had inducted Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait and fielded him from Amroha. Rakesh got only 9,539 votes and stood fourth.
RLD state president Munna Singh Chauhan said that voters did not cast vote on caste lines and hence Jat Reservation Bill did not work in party’s favour. He said that a well managed one-year long campaign by BJP’s Narendra Modi also played a big factor.
RLD had sensed the possibility of the impact of riots and both Ajit and Jayant had held joint meetings with Jats and Muslims in the region. Jayant also met Muslim clerics and had taken out padyatras in various districts of western UP. RLD also had held a massive rally in Meerut in December to send a message that its support base of Jats and Muslims remains intact.