In what could be read as a sign of things to come for the state elections next year, BJP wrote the list for the coming assembly bypolls on three seats with its “pro-Hindutva agenda” as it named at least two candidates associated either currently or in the past with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or with the Ram temple movement.
In the list declared Monday, Ram temple movement activist Ram Krishna Tiwari has been chosen as the party’s candidate for Bikapur (Faizabad) seat; former RSS man Rampal Pundir will fight in Deoband; for the communally sensitive Muzaffarnagar, the party has picked former Nagar Palika Parishad chairman Kapil Dev as its candidate.
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In doing so, the saffron party has replaced all the three candidates who had contested, and lost to the Samajwadi Party, the assembly elections in 2012.
Ram Krishna Tiwari, the candidate from Bikapur, is the party’s current district president of Faizabad. The bypoll seat of Bikapur is adjacent to Ayodhya, where the Ram temple issue has been given a new lease of life with the arrival of a fresh lot of stones for carving and designing the structure. Tiwari has long been associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and had served time in prison in connection with the movement.
Not only this, the leader was also arrested and sent to jail in 2013 when the state government had imposed a ban on 84-Kosi Parikrama of Ram Janmabhoomi. Associated with the BJP for 37 years, 50-year-old Tiwari is contesting his first election.
In Rampal Pundir, the candidate for Deoband seat, BJP has chosen a former zila pracharak of RSS who shifted to the political party to hold posts with its youth wing. At present, Pundir is the vice-president of BJP’s west regional unit.
It seems that the BJP has played it safe while declaring Kapil Dev as the candidate for Muzaffarnagar. The former Nagar Palika Parishad chairman had once contested the assembly elections, in 2002, but lost. Significantly, the seat has been a BJP favourite as the party had won it on four occasions —1991, 1993, 1996 and 2007.
Since the coming bypoll will be the first election in Muzaffarnagar after the riots in 2013, much of BJP’s hopes would rest on “polarisation of votes”. A lot would also be on stake for Union Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan, the BJP MP from Muzaffarnagar and against whom an arrest warrant was issued in the wake of the 2013 riots.