New Delhi: It was once known as the badlands on the eastern fringes of the national where only the brave stirred after dark. Then came roads, industries, a railway junction, educational institutes, shopping complexes, Metro connectivity and even condominiums, so much so that it has become the preferred residential destination of Noida’s young upwardly mobile brigade. Along the way, it has become a high profile parliamentary constituency—being represented by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh.
In fact, according to a survey by the City Mayors Foundation, a global think tank on urban affairs, Ghaziabad is the second fastest growing city in the world. Unlike its sister constituency Gautam Budh Nagar, Ghaziabad has a distinctly urban sheen. Of the total 27.26 lakh registered voters in the LS seat, the metropolitan assembly constituencies of Sahibabad and Ghaziabad together account for 51 per cent of votes. It’s a tougher battle for votes in the rural pocket. The rural part of the Ghaziabad LS seat— comprising Loni, Dhaulana (partial) and Muradnagar assembly constituencies—accounts for 32 per cent of the voters.
As per the 2011 Census, the constituency has 25.34 per cent Muslims, 72.93 per cent Hindus and 16.5 per cent people from the SCs. Unofficial caste estimates put Gujjars at 11.2 per cent of the total population, Vyasas 9.6 per cent, Rajputs 8.6 per cent, Tyagis 8.22 per cent, Brahmins 4.6 per cent and Yadavs 2 per cent. To this extent, though General V K Singh won the 2014 LS poll with a margin of over over five lakh votes — the second highest after PM Modi — retaining the Ghaziabad constituency will have to depend on a lot more than the euphoria generated by his political plunge immediately after stepping down as the Indian Army chief.
A major factor in the election is the resentment of the local MLAs at not being given a shot at the seat. Singh is facing a tough challenge from Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Suresh Bansal, a former Ghaziabad MLA who had fought the 2017 Assembly election on a BSP ticket but lost to the BJP’s Atul Garg. In 2017 Assembly poll, the BJP had won all the five Assembly segments of this parliamentary constituency and many of the MLAs were contenders for an LS ticket. In 2009, the BJP had fielded Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and he won. He became the first Lok Sabha MP from Ghaziabad after the constituency came into existence in 2008 as part of the delimitation process.
Singh had defeated the Congress’s Surendra Prakash Goyal by a margin of 90,681 votes at a time when there were 16 candidates in the fray. In the last general election, the BJP again denied a ticket to any of the locals and fielded VK Singh. Gaining from the Modi wave, the former General bagged the seat in 2014 with a record margin and later became a minister in the Modi govt. Singh, who filed his nomination papers on Monday, had announced that he will focus on development of his constituency but locals said he was busy in urban areas and could not focus on rural areas.
“The General will win for sure. But the people in the villages are not happy with him because he kept his focus on urban areas,” Nitesh a resident of Loni, said. Rahul Chouhan, a resident of Crossing Republik, said that the General will secure victory because the BJP has a huge following in the constituency, but the fight will be tough because SP’s Bansal has the support of both the SP and the BSP supporters. “Bansal’s selection is really a good choice of alliance parties and he would undoubtedly give a fight to the BJP,” Chouhan said.
Arun Tyagi, a property dealer and resident of Dundahera, told IANS that the BJP’s inner clash against outsider candidates may shrink its vote bank but there is no doubt about the party’s victory. “V.K. Singh’s margin of vote is going to shrink this time because there is the issue of local and outsider candidate. The five MLAs of the BJP were waiting that the party would select one of them for the seat as they are the hard working candidates of the party. “But the renomination of the General really has affected their blind faith in the party which is being seen on the ground. The issue is not new for this constituency,” Tyagi said.
Arpit Sirohi, who runs a medical shop in Raj Nagar, agreed. “BJP will win from the seat but his vote margin will go down as Sharma of the Congress will cut its Brahmin votes and help Bansal,” Sirohi said. Bansal, on the other hand, is from the Vaishya community and has a good hold in the business community, he added. (Rajnish Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)