Updated: January 30, 2022 11:41:22 pm
Over a dozen incidents of convoys of BJP contestants being shown black flags or having mud thrown at them have been reported from villages in western Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls in the first two phases, on February 10 and 14.
In one incident, where BJP Siwalkhas candidate Maninderpal Singh came under attack at Chur village on January 24 evening, an FIR has been lodged naming 20 people, with 65 listed as unidentified. While Singh did not register a complaint, police filed the FIR on its own on Thursday.
Singh told The Sunday Express: “I have not lodged a complaint though seven cars following me were damaged in stone-pelting. Ye humare hi log hain, maine unhein maaf kar diya. Loktantra mein vote maangnewalon se aisi ghatna nahin honi chahiye (These are our own people, and I forgive them. But such incidents should not happen to those seeking votes in a democracy).”
The police FIR says the men who pelted stones were carrying Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) flags and were being identified. “We are identifying them through available video footage and will take action,” said Lakshman Verma, the in-charge of Sardhana Police Station.
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While the BJP had swept western UP in the 2017 elections, it is facing a difficult fight this time, due to the lingering anger over the contentious farm laws that were repealed by the Modi government after year-long protests. During the agitation, BJP MLAs had routinely been heckled in west UP villages, with the legislator from Budhana in Muzaffarnagar, facing a violent mob of BKU workers on August 14 last year.
The alliance formed by the Samajwadi Party and RLD, which could bring together their vote bases of Yadavs, Muslims and Jats respectively, could also cut into BJP votes. The 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots had pushed Muslims and Jats apart, which partly explained the BJP’s sweep in 2017. BJP top brass, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah, are leading the party push in the area. Shah held a meeting with Jat leaders in Delhi and has been door-to-door campaigning through the region.
On Thursday evening, Vikram Saini, the sitting BJP MLA as well as contestant from Muzzafarnagar’s Khatauli, was gheraoed by a crowd of farmers raising anti-BJP slogans at Bhainsi village in his constituency.”You have come after five years,” the protesters shouted at him.
Saini had criticised farmers protesting at Singhu on Delhi’s border when the agitation was at its peak.
In Munnawar Kalan in the same constituency a few days earlier, Saini faced similar protests.
Asked about being heckled, Saini said: “There is nothing new. Such incidents do happen during campaigning.”
The BJP contestant from Chaprauli in Baghpat, Sahendra Ramala, was shown black flags at Daha village on Friday, and later the same day, not allowed to enter Nirupada village.
Speaking at Taharpur village in Bijnor on Wednesday, BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait said the people’s anger was valid. “Government representatives have to face protests from farmers if they ignore their grievances,” he said.
With everyone waiting to see which side the BKU will tilt, Tikait reiterated that the party was not supporting anyone. However, he added, “If the farmers don’t mind selling their yields for half the due price, they should vote for the BJP.”
Manoj Poswal, the BJP vice-president for western UP, said the Opposition was behind the demonstrations. “A majority of the attackers have been carrying RLD or Opposition parties’ flags. This shows their frustration as they are losing the coming electoral battle. It also reflects the weakening grip of the RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary on his party workers,” he said.
“How one can attack when he is carrying the flag of his party?” countered Rajkumar Sangwaan, a senior RLD leader. “The protest against Maninderpal Singh in Siwalkhas was planned by disgruntled BJP leaders because he is an outsider, being a resident of Sardhana town, and is a habitual party hopper. He joined the BJP after being with the SP and BSP for a long time.”
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