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UP Assembly bypolls: testing the communal vote and public mood before state elections

With the BSP not in picture as it does not contest bypolls, it is an opportunity for the BJP to poach its Dalit vote.

Written by Mohd Faisal Fareed | Lucknow |
February 2, 2016 7:22:14 pm
A Young Child holds Samajwadi Party's symbol Flag during party organised Road show in Lucknow on Monday. Express Photo by Vishal Srivastav. 28.04.2014. A Young Child holds Samajwadi Party’s symbol Flag during party organised Road show in Lucknow. (Source: File photo/ Express Photo by Vishal Srivastav)

Usually, results of assembly bypolls in any state end with two tailor-made responses: if ruling party wins, it is a victory for their governance; if it loses, it is not a referendum on their governance. However, in this instance, the bypolls for three assembly seats in UP Muzaffarnagar, Deoband and Bikapur cannot be explained by standardized responses.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) held all three seats and a loss will not affect Akhilesh Yadav’s government numerically. However, the result will provide a fair idea of the political situation on the ground. A major point to look out for is the movement of Muslim voters and their shift, if at all, from the ruling SP. All three constituencies have large Muslim populations.

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With the BSP not in picture as it does not contest bypolls, it is an opportunity for the BJP to poach its Dalit vote. Since the bypolls will be held just over a year before assembly elections, they will indicate the mood in UP.

A look at each of the three assembly seats:

Muzaffarnagar: The district witnessed communal riots in 2013 and a wave in favour of BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP has reciprocated by making Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Baliyan the union minister of state for agriculture. This will be a reality check for the saffron brigade, in particular, whether the polarisation along religious grounds will help it to sail through once again.

The elections will also reveal whether the region has limped backed from the communal carnage or that the dividing line persist too deeply. For the SP and the Congress, it is a case of testing the mood of the Muslim voter. The Congress has fielded Salman Saeed, the SP Gaurav Swaroop and the BJP Kapil Dev. For the Rashtriya Lok Dal, it is a matter of survival for ‘Chhotey Choudhary’ (Ajit Singh) to try and retain something of his father’s legacy and it has fielded Mithilesh Pal.

Deoband: It was the lone assembly seat won by the SP in 2012 in the Saharanpur district. The BJP will try to win by splitting vote along communal lines — it has fielded a former RSS Pracharak Rampal Singh Pundhir. For the SP and the Congress, their survival in the region is at stake. The region is famous for the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband and has a large Muslim population which must choose between Malviya Ali – expelled from the SP and now with the Congress —  or Meena Rana of the SP.

Bikapur: For the BJP, the seat comes under the Faizabad district home to Ayodhya. The BJP has fielded Ram temple activist Ram Krishna Tiwari while the SP has nominated a Yadav candidate, Anandsen Yadav to appeal to the Yadav vote.

Interestingly Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen will contest its first assembly bypoll. It has surprised everyone by fielding a Dalit candidate — Pradeep Kumar Kori — and this  will be a barometre for its Jai Bheem-Jai Meem (Dalit-Muslim) combine. In this constituency, the RLD has fielded its state president Munna Singh Chauhan and he has requested JD (U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar to campaign for him. The results will be important for the RLD which is desperate for a grand alliance in the state.

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