Ever since the Rampur Assembly seat election on December 5 saw a turnout of just 33%, the Samajwadi Party has accused the authorities of using high-handed measures to ensure that voters (specifically Muslims) could not come out to vote. The BJP’s victory on Thursday in the seat, the unvanquished bastion of its leader Azam Khan, was called by the SP as the affirmation of its fears.
While the BJP – whose Akash Saxena cornered 62% of the votes compared to SP candidate and Azam aide Mohd Asim Raja’s 36% – denied the SP’s claims, a look at the booth-wise polling in Rampur suggests a wide gap in voting between areas dominated by the Hindus and those by the Muslim community.
In urban areas of the seat, the voter turnout in Muslim-dominated booths was half of those in Hindu-dominated booths. Besides, the urban areas, where the Muslims are in larger numbers, saw just 28% voting, compared to rural Rampur where the total turnout was 46%.
Almost 65% of the Rampur Assembly constituency’s voters are Muslims. About 80% of the community lives in urban areas, while Hindus form substantial numbers in rural areas. The constituency is largely urban, accounting for 2.7 of the 3.8 lakh voters.
The urban areas have traditionally helped Azam Khan win the seat, with the SP veteran a 10-time MLA from Rampur.
The low Muslim turnout was seen despite both the BJP and SP actively wooing the community.
In the 77 polling booths of total 325 in Rampur urban that are dominated by Hindus, and have more than 68,000 voters, the turnout was around 46%. Conversely, in the remaining 248 booths dominated by Muslims, which have over 2 lakh voters, the turnout was only 23%.
In some Muslim areas, such as the seven booths of Peela Talab, the turnout was as low as 4%. In booths on Kothibale Road and in Bazariya Himmat Khan, both dominated by Muslims, the voter turnout was 5% and 7%, respectively.
In fact, the more than 90 polling booths in Rampur urban that witnessed turnouts of less than 20% are all dominated by Muslims. Even in the SP’s stronghold of Qila, where the party has its office and some of its most loyal supporters, the voter turnout in 17 polling booths was just 24%.
The highest polling recorded in a Muslim-dominated booth in Rampur urban was 39%, in the twin booths at Sarai Gate Ghosiyan.
Conversely, the lowest polling in a Hindu-dominated booth in Rampur urban was 27%, in the six polling booths of Ganna Vikas Office. The highest polling in Hindu-dominated booths in Rampur urban, conversely, was 74%, in the three booths of Zila Krishi Office on Mohd Ali Johar Marg.
In the rural belts, where the BJP enjoys considerable support, the voter turnout was far higher, over 80% in some polling booths. In as many as 32 village-level booths believed to be Hindu-dominated, the turnout was more than 60%. But, in many Muslim-dominated villages such as Ajitpur, Shazadnagar, Fazulla Nagar and Ali Nagar, the turnout was in the range of 30-40%.
While campaigning for SP candidate Asim Raja, Azam Khan had repeatedly asked voters in Muslim areas to come out in large numbers and vote, as he pitched these polls as a test of Muslim pride and his own legacy. Even before the polls he repeatedly alleged that the police were creating an atmosphere of fear to stop voters from going to polling booths.
BJP candidate Akash Saxena, and several other top leaders of the party who toured the constituency, underlined the benefits of “double-engine growth” and being “on the side of the government”. Saxena accused Khan of creating an atmosphere of fear to win the polls and said the SP was making allegations of police excesses as it knew it was going to lose.
The state administration too denied Khan’s allegations.
The polls in the constituency were necessitated because of the disqualification of Azam Khan following his conviction in a hate speech case. The case had been lodged against Khan by Akash Saxena, the BJP’s winning MLA on Thursday.