Across the streets of Ghaziabad, banners demanding a sthaniya saansad (local parliamentarian) have been put up, some anonymously, some by small organisations affiliated to various parties.
But after the BJP, the AAP and the Congress named candidates who aren’t locals, the campaign of the two UP heavyweights — the BSP and the Samajwadi Party — too has been centred around this issue.
The BJP has announced former Army chief V K Singh in Rajnath’s place, the Congress will field Firozabad MP Raj Babbar, and the AAP has nominated Shazia Ilmi.
A hoarding put up by Ashit Tyagi — of the Rashtravadi Yuva Morcha, a registered unrecognised party who has traditionally supported BJP — in Chowdhury Mor in Ghaziabad states that Ghaziabad will not accept an ‘outsider’. It asks if the BJP — like Congress — will also make the same mistake.
The BSP and SP candidates are optimistic the outsider tag will work against the three heavyweights. “Ghaziabad might be close to Delhi, but here the politics is very different. People like knowing their candidate. They like knowing they can go to their sansad’s house if there’s a problem,” said Sudhan Rawat, the SP candidate, whose brother is a former MLA from neighbouring Garhmukteshwar district.
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The BJP, for it part, says the work done during Rajnath Singh’s tenure would speak for itself. “How can he be an outsider if he’s an Indian? He was a general and has always stood firm against corruption. People will vote for him because they want a strong leader,” said Vijay Mohan, a local BJP leader. But V K Singh’s nomination has led to discontent within the party with a number of workers protesting in the streets Tuesday.
Shazia Ilmi said Ghaziabad will vote for her because of the “stepmotherly” treatment given to the constituency by Rajnath. “It’s right next to Noida and Delhi. But when you step into Ghaziabad, it’s like stepping back. I want development in Ghaziabad,” she said.
With the AAP headquarters here, Ghaziabad is often seen as the epicentre of its operations. Though there are few in Ghaziabad who aren’t familiar with senior leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Kumar Vishwas, Ilmi herself is a known face primarily in the urban sections of Ghaziabad.
But Ghaziabad City is only one of five assembly segments here; victory in the constituency has been traditionally decided by the rural voters. Sensing this, Raj Babbar will begin campaigning Thursday from the rural, Muslim-dominated Loni segment. “We want to give the people here an option. Raj Babbar will meet people in Loni and even though he’s not from Ghaziabad, his work in the past speaks for itself,” said a close aide, who added Babbar’s victory over Dimple Yadav in Firozabad too will benefit him.
BSP candidate Mukul Upadhayay reminds you that his sister-in-law had defeated Babbar in Fatehpur Sikri. While filing his nominations Wednesday, Upadhayay said the BSP’s performance in the assembly elections in 2012 made him certain of victory. He would look to work “for the poor and the disenfranchised” in the district.
The BSP had successfully manipulated caste equations in the district, winning four of its five assembly segments. By garnering both Dalit votes and Muslims votes in the district, BSP had managed to stop the Samajwadi Party “wave” that eventually saw Akhilesh Yadav being elected chief minister. Most surprising was the BJP’s loss of their traditional Bania and upper-caste vote, with Ghaziabad City, a BJP bastion, going to the BSP.