In two western UP constituencies that have seen communal violence since the NDA came to power, the Samajwadi Party was the major gainer, snatching Thakurdwara from the BJP while improving its vote share in Saharanpur Nagar. The BJP, too, improved its vote count in the latter seat, apparently a result of polarisation, while its count remained largely unchanged in Thakurdwara.
In Saharanpur, where riots between Sikh and Muslims turned into clashes between Hindus and Muslims, the BJP won by 26,667 votes against the SP, which rose to second place after having finished fourth in 2012. The BJP’s vote count rose from 85,170 to 10,8306, the SP’s from 19,686 to 81,639.
In Thakurdwara in Moradabad, which saw between police and Hindus over removal of a loudspeaker from a Ravidas mandir, the SP rose from No. 4 to winner with 1.12 lakh votes, while the BJP slipped marginally from 84,530 to 84,704.
The Indian Express had published a series of reports on how communal incidents have been concentrated in regions going to bypolls. Police records showed a trend of attempts by an aggressive BJP, a desperate SP, and a flagging BSP to turn clashes between individuals into a communal issue.
In 2012, the SP had fielded three Muslims in the 11 seats that saw bypolls this year. This time it had only one, in Thakurdwara.
One of the SP’s election planners said, “We won for various reasons — we worked out a good caste combination, consolidated Muslim votes without projecting ourselves as a Muslim party with Muslim candidates, and cleared many projects in these areas.”
Overall, the BJP has retained its vote base while the SP has gained at the cost of the Congress and the absent BSP. In Western UP, which has seen 259 communal incidents in the NDA government’s first 71 days, the SP and the BJP split the seats. In Terai, which saw 29 incidents, the SP won both seats. In central UP that saw 43 incidents, the BJP retained Lucknow East that has a sizeable Shia Muslim population, long-time supporters of winner Ashutosh Tandon’s father Lalji. In Bundelkhand and Eastern UP, which had fewer incidents (six and 16), the BJP and the Apna Dal conceded all four seats.
Congress spokesperson in UP Akhilesh Pratap Singh said, “The BJP’s overdrive helped the SP consolidate Muslim votes. The absence of the BSP allowed Muslims to vote without any confusion. And [PM Narendra] Modi had raised high expectations and failed to deliver.”