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In multi-phase assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, there are two types of campaigns that are being run side-by-side. On one hand there are customary rhetoric touching the so-called agenda of development where talks revolve around education, health, civic infrastructure et al. And on the other hand it is all about polarization on communal lines.
This is exactly what is happening in majority of the 140 seats in the 26 districts of western Uttar Pradesh that goes to poll on Friday (February 11). Leaders of three major political forces Ã¢ÂÂ BJPÃ¢ÂÂs Narendra Modi and Amit Shah; Samajwadi Party-Congress combineÃ¢ÂÂs Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi; and BSPÃ¢ÂÂs Mayawati Ã¢ÂÂ all are harping on development planks, with occasional mentions of Hindu-Muslim polarization. But the entire contest now seems to be by polarisation on religious lines.
A major part of western Uttar Pradesh, directly and indirectly, bore the brunt of Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. While some areas of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Meerut districts saw exodus of Muslims and Hindu communities post riots, communal tensions in the entire region has become a routine affair now. Examples of it are communal tensions in Bijnor, Masuri, Kairana and Bisada.
It is on these grounds that the elections in the western districts are being fought. In majority of places it is being done covertly, while in some places it is done overtly. The examples of latter are Sardhana, Thana Bhawan, Kairana and Dhaulana. From Sardhana and Thana Bhawan BJP has fielded its sitting MLAs Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana, both Muzaffarnagar riots accused, while from Kairana Mriganka, daughter of sitting BJP MP Hukum Singh is in the fray. These two places were most affected in the riots.
But the peculiar example is that of Dhaulana assembly seat in Hapur district, which is just 50 kms from Delhi, where candidates and their supporters are openly seen seeking votes on communal lines and are banking on religious polarization to secure their win. Dhaulana will witness a three-cornered fight between BJP, SP and BSP where two Tomars, the dominant Thakur community of the region, are pitted against a Muslim, a local strongman.
BJP has fielded its four-time MP from Hapur, Dr Ramesh Chand Tomar, who came into limelight during the Ram Temple movement in the 90s, SP has given ticket to its sitting MLA, Dharmesh Tomar, while BSP is being represented by Aslam Choudhary, who was runner-up in 2012.
Alleging that Ã¢ÂÂfatwaÃ¢ÂÂ has been issued to Muslims to support BSPÃ¢ÂÂs Aslam Choudhary, BJP candidate Dr. Ramesh Chand Tomar is openly appealing to Ã¢ÂÂHinduÃ¢ÂÂ voters across various castes to vote for him and not to let Dhaulana seat go into the hands of a Muslim. An FIR has already been registered against him for giving inflammatory speeches. But this has not deterred him from seeking votes on communal lines.
What is happening openly in Dhaulana, is also happening in a discreet and hush-hush manner in other places across constituencies; be it a rural seat in places like Bijnor and Muzzafanagar or in so called modern sub-cities like Noida and Sahibabad. Significantly, division on communal lines is more where BJP nominees are pitted against Muslim candidates from either SP or BSP, or both, compared to assembly segments where there is the contest between all Hindu candidates from the three major parties.”