Amidst Opposition’s tight field, BJP’s ‘Ram’ on a tricky wicket in city famous for cricket bats? - Hindustan Times
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Amidst Opposition’s tight field, BJP’s ‘Ram’ on a tricky wicket in city famous for cricket bats?

ByS Raju, Meerut
Apr 21, 2024 05:10 AM IST

Since 2009, the BJP has batted well on Meerut’s electoral turf to ensure a hat-trick of wins against the Opposition parties. However, barring in 2014, when the Modi wave defined the narrative, the contest had been fierce and the BJP was able to win by a narrow margin, both in 2009 and 2019.

As election fever grips the nation, the city known for manufacturing the best quality cricket bats is turning out to be a tricky turf for the political parties.

BJP candidate Arun Govil on the campaign trail in Meerut. (FILE PHOTO)
BJP candidate Arun Govil on the campaign trail in Meerut. (FILE PHOTO)

Since 2009, the BJP has batted well on Meerut’s electoral turf to ensure a hat-trick of wins against the opposition parties. However, barring 2014, when the Modi wave defined the narrative, the contest had been fierce and the BJP was able to win by a narrow margin both in 2009 and 2019.

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Now, in 2024, the electoral turf of Meerut is subject to some new factors that make the contest very interesting. The reigning champion BJP has entered the contest with a new face. Three-term MP Rajendra Agarwal has been rested and replaced by Arun Govil, the man who had played Ram in the iconic serial “Ramayana”.

The principal Opposition SP-Congress alliance has refrained from playing their usual Muslim card and bet on a local Hindu Dalit woman candidate. The BSP has fielded Devvrat Tyagi, an upper caste Hindu. This is clearly a new move to corner the BJP.

In 2019 Yaqoob Qureshi, of the seemingly strong alliance of SP-BSP-RLD had lost by less than 5,000 votes, primarily because the election had got polarised.

In 2014, when Rajendra Agarwal had won for the second term by a big margin of 2,32,326 votes, it was under the Modi Tsunami, but the majority Hindu card had also played well. Challenging Agarwal were Shahid Akhlaq of the BSP, Shahid Manzoor of the Samajwadi Party and Nagma from the Congress. The BSP had polled second.

In the 2009 election though, the BSP had fielded Maluk Nagar, a Hindu candidate, his possibility of a win had taken a big hit with the presence of SP’s Shahid Manzoor. With a split of the anti-BJP Muslim vote, Nagar lost the polls to the BJP by just 47,000 votes.

In the Meerut Lok Sabha constituency, comprising five assembly constituencies, Muslims are a strong voting bloc, but like many other seats, they alone are not in a position to ensure a victory. For any non-BJP party to win , it requires two factors, one a united minority voter and second support from any other strong voting segment, generally Dalits.

The constituency has around 6 lakh Muslim voters followed by an estimated three lakh plus Hindu Dalit voters. There are around 1.30 lakh OBC Jats. Among the upper castes, the seat has around 1.18 lakh Brahmins and 1.83 lakh Vaishyas.

Given these statistics, an analysis of past three elections suggests that the absence of a non-Muslim candidate, both of the SP and the BSP, has added new factors to the electoral contest. The SP’s Dalit candidate Sunita Verma’s husband Yogesh is a former Samajwadi Party MLA. Sunita Verma had been the mayor of Meerut. No doubt, the SP is banking on the strong Dalit-Muslim factor to work in its favour. Muslims and Dalits combined make around 50% of voters in Meerut Lok Sabha seat.

The BSP’s Tyagi is a lesser known public face and comes from the upper caste. The BSP leadership hopes that Dalits will continue to support their traditional party and will not be swayed away by Sunit Verma. It also hopes for Muslim support.

While the BJP will surely hope that BSP contests the seat with full force, thereby ensuring a split in the non-BJP vote, the BSP’s upper caste card can also be counter- productive for it.

Amid this field set by the opposition, the election pitch has surely become a bit more harsh for the BJP as compared to the past three elections. Despite Arun Govil emphasising on his roots being from Meerut, he has the challenge of making an impression.

On his part, he has been campaigning hard. Top BJP leaders have been camping in Meerut and chief minister Yogi Adityanath had personally been to Meerut to seek votes for Govil. From Meerut, Yogi had reminded people about who has brought Lord Ram Back to Ayodhya. He has also appealed to people to vote for those “jo Ram ko laye hain.”

It will be interesting to see if people will also choose the “Ram” who has entered Meerut for the electoral contest. Meerut votes in the second phase on April 26.

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