UP polls: BJP banks on Hindutva, Labharthi factors to counter opposition’s caste arithmetic

The challenge for the ruling BJP in Uttar Pradesh is to repeat its performance of 2017. In 2017, the party had won 16 out of 17 assembly seats of Aligarh division. On the other hand, the challenge for the opposition, mainly the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance, is to break into the BJP’s voter consolidation.

On the ground there are several issues which voters are discussing before the assembly election. The issue of stray cattle is among them. Villagers in almost every village complain of crops getting destroyed due to the stray cattle menace.

Ganpat Singh, a 55-year-old farmer in Rustamgarh village of Khair assembly constituency, said his five bigha crop of mustard was damaged by stray cattle last week. “There are around 50 stray cattle in our village and it has become a huge problem for us. We keep a watch the entire night but if they all come together towards your field, you can’t do much,” he told ET. “There is no gaushala (cow shelter) in our village and our request to the government is to rescue us from this.”

In almost every village there are one or two persons who have got injured in stray cattle attacks. “This is the biggest issue in our village as eight to ten people have got injured. We will vote for the RLD this time,” said Hakim Singh, a 55-year-old farmer from Bisawar, one of the largest villages of the Jat community in the Aligarh region. Subhash Singh, 26, of Rustamgarh was attacked by stray cattle a day before in the night and he was lying on his bed with plaster on his left leg. “Two cows just came on the road and I couldn’t control my bike,” he said.

“We have got used to it now,” said Lokesh Tiwari, 30, of Nadroi village. “The gaushala also leaves the cows during the night and we are having to live with it.”

However, this may not necessarily be an election issue for many people. “We will vote for the BJP come what may,” said Subhash Singh.

Others in Rustam Garh, all from the Banjara community, echoed this view. “The government has done enough. We are getting free ration, free toilets and even houses,” said Ajab Singh Nayak of the same village.

“There are 22 villages of Brahmins in the region and are called Baiesee. Our votes go to the BJP,” said Lokesh Tiwari.

The Hindutva factor is also present and for some it is dominant over any other issues. “For us it is more important to save this country from becoming Pakistan,” said Shree Bhagwan Parashar of Sadabad town. “Voting would also depend on who becomes the BJP candidate.”

Sadabad was the lone seat won by the BSP’s Ramveer Upadhyay. His family members have joined the BJP but he has still not joined the party. “If he contests then most of the people will vote for him,” said Atul Narayan of Hathras.

There are four districts in Aligarh division – Aligarh, Hathras, Etah and Kasganj. The BJP is banking on a larger Hindutva umbrella and the beneficiaries among the lower castes and non-Yadav and non-Jat other backward castes (OBCs). The party is also trying to woo Jats through the newly announced Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh University in Aligarh.

The opposition is trying to pose a challenge through the caste arithmetic of Jats, Yadavs and Muslims on certain seats, along with a few votes from other communities. The SP had won 11 seats out of 17 in 2012 while the RLD and BSP had won three each. The mood on the ground is more of a bipolar battle between the BJP and the SP-RLD combine. “The BJP may lose a few seats but the party will come to power again,” said Yogesh Kumar, manager of a gaushala in Lodha village.

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