Sexagenarian Kripa Ram is connfident that the Bahujan Samaj Party, which he supports, bagged the votes of a majority of SC community at the booth in Chhapur-Sher-Afgan village in Bhagwanpur assembly segment under the Hardwar Lok Sabha seat. However, he was a bit worried too — he thinks the Muslims voted for the Congress this time.
In the 2012 assembly elections, Muslims and SC voters together had ensured victory for BSP candidate Surendra Rakesh, who is now transport minister in the Harish Rawat government. After being suspended from the BSP, Rakesh apparently sided with Congress candidate and CM Harish Rawat’s wife Renuka Rawat, who is locked in a triangular contest against BJP nominee and former CM Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and the BSP’s Haji Islam.
“This election has come as a major challenge for the BSP. Both parties — Congress and BJP — tried to make a dent in the BSP’s votebank, but only 10 to 15 per cent SC people voted for them,” Kripa Ram told The Indian Express after his vote on Wednesday afternoon. His statement was supported by fellow villager Sanjay Kumar, a BJP supporter. “While a majority of SC votes remained with the BSP, the BJP and the Congress got a little share in this vote bank,” he said.
Chhapur-Sher-Afgan village has around 2,600 voters of whom 80 per cent are Muslims, while 19 per cent belong to SC communities. Nearby villages Sirchandi, Sikandarpur, Khelpura, Mohitpur and Premrajpur also have almost the same demography. According to the locals, in neighbouring villages too Muslims and SC voters, unlike in the 2012 assembly elections, are no longer voting together.
Most villagers of the SC community were surprised by what they see as a decision of Muslim voters to support the Congress despite the BSP having fielded a Muslim candidate. “They wanted to stop Modi from becoming PM. We want to see Mayawati. A tie-up didn’t work out and they chose a different path,” said Banwari Ram, a villager.
A little distance from Chhapur-Sher-Afgan village is Karaundi town booth, where RSS workers were at work. Apart from Muslims and SCs, the booth has voters from extremely backward castes such as Saini, Chauhan, Jhibar and Jat. Sainis are considered a base vote of the BJP.