Hopes run high for BJP in UP’s first phase of polls

Lucknow: Hopes run high for the BJP in the first phase of elections in Uttar Pradesh.

With Rashtriya Lok Dal as its ally, the BJP is confident of winning all seats here.

“The BJP-RLD combine will sweep in the first phase. The public mood is in our favour and so are the electoral combinations,” said the party functionary.

In 2019 elections, SP-BSP combine had won five seats — Saharanpur, Bijnor, Nagina went to the BSP, and Moradabad and Rampur to the Samajwadi Party (SP).

This time BJP has given Bijnor to ally Rashtriya Lok Dal but is treading cautiously in other three constituencies. RLD has fielded its Meerapur MLA Chandan Chauhan, a Gurjar, against SP candidate Yashveer Singh, a Dalit in Bijnor. The BSP has fielded Bijendra Singh, a Jat, who left RLD to join Mayawati’s party.

In Rampur, BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Lodhi who had defeated SP’s Asim Raja in 2022 bypoll when the seat fell vacant after the disqualification of SP leader Azam Khan who was convicted in a criminal case. SP, which has tied-up with Congress, is yet to name its candidate for Rampur but the Azam Khan factor will continue to play a role even though his entire family is missing from the elections this time.

The BJP is trying to wrest back Saharanpur where BSP’s Haji Fazlur Rehman had defeated its candidate Raghav Lakhan Pal by 24,000 votes in 2019.

In Moradabad, which was won by SP’s S.T. Hasan in 2019, is also on BJP’s bucket list this time. However, both BJP and SP-Congress combine, are yet to name the candidates for these two seats.

Kairana is also a keenly watched seat which hit headlines ahead of 2017 UP elections amid reports of exodus by Hindu families. BJP has repeated sitting MP Pradeep Chaudhary, a Gurjar, against SP’s Iqra Hasan, sister of SP’s Kairana MLA Nahid Hasan. A postgraduate in international law from the school of Oriental and African Studies, London University, Iqra had campaigned extensively for Nahid during the 2022 Assembly polls. Incidentally, it was the tussle over Kairana that made RLD sever its ties with SP because Akhilesh Yadav was keen on Iqra contesting the seat. BSP is yet to name a candidate though speculations are rife that Mayawati may pick a Muslim to cut SP’s Muslim votes.

In Muzaffarnagar, BJP is banking on its sitting MP and Union Minister Sanjeev Baliyan, a Jat, who had defeated the then RLD chief Ajit Singh by a slender margin of 6,500 votes in 2019. He is pitted against SP’s Harendra Malik, also a Jat. The BSP, on the other hand, has played the OBC card by fielding Dara Singh Prajapati.

The reserved seat of Nagina was won by BSP’s Girish Chandra in 2019 by defeating BJP’s Yashwant Singh, and will now see a change of candidates. The BJP has opted for MLA Om Kumar, a Jatav, instead of Yashwant Singh. He is up against SP’s Manoj Kumar. BSP has yet to announce its candidate. Speculation is rife that Dalit leader and Azad Samaj Party chief Chandrashekhar Azad will also throw his hat in the ring from Nagina and if he does, it will make the contest increasingly interesting.

The focus, however, in the first phase, is on the Pilibhit seat because the BJP is yet to decide on fielding its sitting MP Varun Gandhi who has been openly critical of his own party since the farmers’ protest against agricultural laws in 2021. The Samajwadi Party has already said that it is ‘open’ to the idea of fielding Varun Gandhi in Pilibhit if he does not go with BJP. His mother Maneka Gandhi, MP from Sultanpur, too has been keeping a low profile in the party, after the BJP dropped the mother-son from the national executive committee in 2021. Whether or not the BJP names Varun Gandhi as its candidate, there is little doubt that the contest in Pilibhit will remain in public focus.

IANS

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