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regular-article-logo Sunday, 26 May 2024

Modi appeal vs electoral bond anger: Disunity, targeting of Opposition stalk BJP in western UP

Large numbers of voters in the region are still enamoured with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his free food grain scheme, but those disenchanted with his government over national controversies and bristling at their local BJP candidates are increasingly speaking up

Piyush Srivastava Agra, Mathura Published 22.04.24, 05:58 AM
The bustling Amir Nishan market in Aligarh on April 18.

The bustling Amir Nishan market in Aligarh on April 18. PTI

From disunity and disconnect to disillusionment stemming from the electoral bond revelations, the BJP faces a raft of challenges in western Uttar Pradesh, a region it had swept in the past two general elections.

“The year 2024 is not 2014 or 2019. We had not heard of the electoral bonds before and so many Opposition leaders had not been put behind bars. Nobody in the past wanted to change the Constitution,” said Amar Pal Singh, a farmer in Kannauj.

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In both 2014 and 2019, the BJP had won 15 of the 18 western Uttar Pradesh seats that will vote in the second and third phases, on April 26 and May 7.

Large numbers of voters in the region are still enamoured with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his free food grain scheme, but those disenchanted with his government over national controversies and bristling at their local BJP candidates are increasingly speaking up.

MPs Hema Malini and S.P. Singh Baghel — re-nominated from Mathura and Agra — are castigated for their infrequent visits and labelled snobs for their tendency to avoid popular interactions when they do come.

In several constituencies — such as Aligarh, Fatehpur Sikri, Firozabad and Badaun — disappointed ticket hopefuls are refusing to cooperate with, or are directly working against, the official party candidates.

Raghav Chaturvedi, a priest in Vrindavan which falls in Hema Malini’s Mathura constituency, said he was a staunch BJP supporter but would change sides this time.

“Hema Malini comes here thrice a year but doesn’t want to do anything substantial for the people. We also fear that Modi and Yogi Adityanath would change the face of Mathura and Vrindavan the way they did Varanasi’s,” he said.

People in Mathura-Vrindavan believe that Krishna had walked barefoot on their soil, and consider the earth and dust of these places holy. Many, therefore, do not want any Varanasi-like development that would involve large-scale paving of the earth with concrete.

“Besides the local issues, there is also anger against the electoral bond scheme of the Modi government,” Chaturvedi said.

“The BJP has failed to explain why it got the highest donations through the bonds. We had voted for the BJP to cleanse the system but it has continued polluting the country’s politics.”

He added: “They have no moral right to raid and arrest Opposition leaders without any substantial reason. I don’t like Arvind Kejriwal but his arrest sounds weird. Maybe some people support the BJP because they get food grains, but the educated class is angry with it.”

An industrialist in Agra, who too said he used to support the BJP, said the electoral bond scheme had “exposed” the party.

“I’ll vote for any candidate who can defeat the BJP,” he told The Telegraph, seeking anonymity. “India’s image has suffered a blow in the world following the anti-Muslim decisions of the government in recent years.”

Dissidence

In Aligarh, BJP incumbent Satish Kumar Gautam faces resistance from a senior BJP leader and is about to see his caste vote split by the BSP’s Hitendra Upadhyay Banti.

“When a BJP MP from an adjoining constituency failed to convince party leaders to replace Gautam with another candidate, he asked his supporters to campaign against the sitting MP,” said Madihur Rahman, a CPI leader from the district.

In Fatehpur Sikri, BJP candidate and sitting MP Raj Kumar Chahar faces nightmarish opposition from Chaudhary Babulal, former MP and party MLA from the Fatehpur Sikri segment. Babulal has got his son Rameshwar Singh to contest as an Independent against Chahar.

SP conundrum

The BJP has not fielded a strong candidate against Samajwadi Party nominee Dimple Yadav in Mainpuri.

“Jaiveer Singh, Uttar Pradesh minister for tourism and culture, is no match for the wife of Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav,” a senior BJP leader in Lucknow said, speculating about a possible “understanding in the future”.

In Firozabad, Akhilesh’s cousin and candidate Akshay Yadav is more visible than the BJP’s Vishwadeep Singh. Akshay was elected MP in 2014 but lost to the BJP’s Chandra Sen Jadhon in 2019 by 28,783 votes. BJP sources said Jadhon’s supporters were either neutral or with Akshay.

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