UP Elections 2022: Tough battle for BJP as minority-dominated cane belt to vote on Monday

With the full inclination of minority voters toward the SP-RLD alliance and cane growers, the BJP is finding it hard to retain its seats obtained in previous assembly polls of 2017.

Rashmi Sharma | S Kamran Husain | Updated on: Sunday, February 13, 2022, 11:27 PM IST

UP Elections 2022: Tough battle for BJP as minority-dominated cane belt to vote on Monday  | Photo: Representative Image
UP Elections 2022: Tough battle for BJP as minority-dominated cane belt to vote on Monday | Photo: Representative Image

In what may prove to be a defining moment for the Yogi Adityanath government, the stage is set for polling on 55 seats in the second phase of the assembly elections.

Given the demographic profile of West UP and Rohilkhand region, all eyes are on the Dalit and Muslim voters. But given the fiery polemics, with emotions riding roughshod over ground realities, it is hard to assess the imponderables.

UP’s voters often speak of bread-and-butter issues, as though these alone matter, but then get swayed by the Hindutva discourse.

The second phase witnessed an impressive 67 per cent voter turnout in 2017, one of the highest in any elections in the State so far; it remains to be seen whether the region will show the same enthusiasm this time also.

This phase would decide the fate of four ministers of the Yogi Adityanath cabinet, including Suresh Khanna, Baldev Singh Aulakh, Mahesh Chandra Gupta and Gulab Devi. Senior SP leader and the party's prominent Muslim face Azam Khan's fate will also be decided in this phase – at Rampur. Khan is currently lodged in jail.

The BJP has fielded Aakash Saxena against Samajwadi Party candidate and Uttar Pradesh’s tallest Muslim leader Azam Khan. Saxena is said to have played an important role in sending Khan to jail. Contesting on Congress ticket on this seat is another arch rival of Azam Khan, Nawab Kazim Ali Khan.

The large chunk of Muslim voters in the nine districts that are going to polls is bound to give sleepless nights to the incumbent BJP. In Moradabad, the number of Muslim voters exceeds 50 per cent, while it is close to 47 per cent in Rampur; in Amroha and Bijnor, they constitute more than 40 per cent of the electorate. In Bareilly and Sambhal districts, there are more than 30 per cent Muslim voters, whereas in Badaun the number is lower at 23 per cent.

Theoretically speaking, Muslims are known to vote en masse and resort to tactical voting; but, on the flip side, the overweening desire to vote out the incumbent can also lead to reverse consolidation of the Hindu vote.

Known as cane belt of UP, nearly half of the cane growers in the state come from these districts only. For them, non-payment of cane arrears is the biggest issue. During and after the farm movement, this region had witnessed protests from farmers clamoring for cane arrears.

Sensing the importance of cane dues, the ruling BJP, as well as the SP and the Congress, have made promises in this regard in their manifestos. Each of these parties has assured that if voted to power, the farmers would get payment of cane dues in 14 days, failing which the sugar millers will be asked to pay interest. Farmers in the region have lamented that such promises were made in the past too, but nothing happened. According to them, even the court has directed millers to pay interest but they have not got even the principle amount.

With minority voters and cane growers supposedly leaning towards the SP-RLD alliance, the BJP may find the belt a hard nut to crack.

In 2017, in the 55 seats, the BJP had won 38; the Samajwadi Party secured 15; and two had gone to the Congress. The SP and Congress were allies then and the BJP was still riding high on Modi wave.

Percentage of Muslim population in districts going to poll

Saharanpur (42 percent), Rampur (51 percent), Bijanur (43 percent), Moradabad (47 percent), Sambhal (32.88 percent), Amroha (41 percent), Barielly (34.54 percent), Badaun (23.26 percent) and Shahjehanpur (17.55 percent).

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Published on: Sunday, February 13, 2022, 11:27 PM IST