Saharanpur: Among the Western Uttar Pradesh seats going to the polls in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, Saharanpur presents a unique picture. The constituency has a large presence of Muslims and the BJP won the seat in 2014. The scenario could repeat itself in 2019.
The significance of Saharanpur can be judged from the fact that Uttar Pradesh BJP started its election campaign from the constituency and Bahujan Samaj Party-Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal combine will hold its first joint rally here.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath began the Lok Sabha campaign from Shakumbhari Temple in Saharanpur district as an apparent move counter the SP-BSP-RLD alliance’s campaign from Deoband in the same district.
The three Uttar Pradesh alliance partners – SP, BSP, and RLD – are slated to hold their first joint rally at Deoband on April 7 and the choice of the venue, which has India’s largest Islamic seminary, is being considered significant.
Adityanath had said at an event that the opposition alliance’s choice of Deoband was an indication “of its orientation and priorities”.
The Shakumbhari temple is about 40 km from Deoband. BJP President Amit Shah had launched BJP’s Parivartan Yatra in 2017 from Saharanpur.
While the BJP has repeated its sitting MP Raghav Lakhanpal, both the Congress and BSP-SP-RLD combine have fielded strong candidates from the minority community.
The Congress has repeated its candidate Imran Masood who had put up a strong fight in 2014 but had lost to Lakhanpal by about 65,000 votes.
Masood had made controversial remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi ahead of 2014 Lok Sabha polls. He was censured by the Congress leadership for his “chop Narendra Modi into pieces” remark and was asked issue a public clarification.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded Fazlur Rahman from the seat. He owns meat and food processing units and also has clout in the area.
With both Masood and Rahman considered strong candidates, there is a feeling among voters that there could be division among minority votes which would benefit the BJP candidate.
There is also talk of tactical voting by the Muslim community, which accounts for over 40 per cent of the population, to defeat the BJP. In such a scenario, Rahman could benefit as the BSP already has a core support base.
Voting for this Lok Sabha seat will take place on May 11.