In U.P.’s Sambhal, it’s Barq’s legacy vs BJP’s double engine campaign - Hindustan Times
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In U.P.’s Sambhal, it’s Barq’s legacy vs BJP’s double engine campaign

ByS Raju, Sambhal
May 05, 2024 05:04 AM IST

Voters in Muslim-dominated Sambhal are silent as legacy vs. double engine campaign unfolds. BJP, SP, and BSP vie for support in the upcoming elections.

Voters in this Muslim-dominated Uttar Pradesh city famous for its horn craft globally are silent this time even as the poll here is between Samajwadi Party (SP) veteran the late Shafiqur Rahman Barq’s legacy versus BJP’s double engine phenomenon campaign.

BJP candidate Parmeshwar Lal Saini during an election meeting in Sambhal.
BJP candidate Parmeshwar Lal Saini during an election meeting in Sambhal.

The ruling party, which has won the seat only once in 2014, has made Parmeshwar Lal Saini its candidate from the seat. The SP has fielded Zia Ur Rahman Barq, while the BSP has reposed its faith in former MLA Saulat Ali.

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Barq, the sitting MLA from Kundarki assembly, is the grandson of SP veteran Shafiqur Rahman Barq who won the seat two times in 2009 on a BSP ticket and in 2019 on an SP ticket. He died at the age of 93 a few months ago. Locals in Sambal claim that their issues like stray bull and cow menace and guarantee for minimum support price remain unresolved.

However, many of them say they will vote for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as law and order has improved and they are getting free ration. In horn craftsmanship, bones and horns of dead animals are used to make decorative items of everyday use.

There are more than 18 lakh voters in Sambhal constituency that will vote in the third phase polling on May 7. Sitting inside his mango orchard to avoid scorching heat in his Mubarakpur village, veteran farmer leader Harpal Singh Bilari says, “Go around the constituency and you will barely find enthusiasm among voters for election.”

Harpal Singh heads his organisation Bharatiya Kisan Union (Asli) and actively participated in the farmers’ movement. His union had extended support to the ongoing protest of farmers at the Shambhu border in Punjab. “This election is different. Voters are silent, but they know on what issues they will vote,” he claims.

Sambhal Lok Sabha constituency has five assembly segments namely Chandausi, Sambhal, Asmoli, Kundarki and Bilari. The Samajwadi Party won four of them and BJP’s Gulab Devi was the lone winner from Chandausi seat in the 2022 assembly election.

Almost 30 km away from Harpal Singh’s village, sitting in his office inside a bustling market of Chandausi, BJP leader Akhilesh Kumar Khiladi, husband of Chandausi Nagar Palika chairperson Lata Varshney, echos similar views, “Karyakarta aur matdata dono udaseen hai (both party workers and voters are indifferent.”

A party leader, who refused to be named, claimed that a team of over 250 people from Noida and other places has taken over the campaign and election work of BJP candidate Parmeshwar Lal Saini. As per him, party’s dedicated local leaders and workers who worked hard for decades to build up the party in the area were being ignored.

They expressed their reservation to senior party leaders but nothing happened. “Left disheartened, a lot of these workers and leaders have turned indifferent to the election,” the BJP leader claimed.

The constituency has 18.92 lakh voters. They include around 9 lakh Muslim voters, 3 lakh Dalit, 1.5 lakh Saini, 1 lakh each Jat and Thakur, 80,000 each Yadav and Vaishya, 70,000 Brahmins and other voters like Gujar, Kashyap, Lodh and Kurmi. Castes like Kashyap, Kurmi, Lodh and Saini are considered BJP’s traditional voters.

The BJP won this seat once in 2014 when its candidate Satyapal Singh Saini defeated BSP’s Shafiqur Rahman Barq by a slender margin of 5,000 votes. Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav represented the seat twice in 1998 and 1999 and his brother Ramgopal Yadav in 2004.

DP Yadav contested from here as a BSP candidate and won in 1996, while Bijendra Singh Yadav and Shanti Devi of the Congress registered victory in 1980 and 1984 respectively. Zia ur Rahman last week met his family’s arch-rival and SP MLA Iqbal Mehmood to seek his blessings. Political observers view this as a significant development that will strengthen Rahman’s chances of winning.

On May 3, chief minister Yogi Adityanath addressed two rallies in support of Parmeshwar Saini. Amid hustle and bustle of political parties, people point out their problems have been persistent but unresolved. Sher Singh of Hafizpur village and Rajendra Singh of Mau village also expressed anger over the issue.

On the other hand, farmer leader Harpal Singh, a roadside vendor in Mohammadpur Tanda Sher Singh and social activist Sunil Saurav in Chandausi are all praise for improved law and order under the Yogi rule. “Crime has declined in the state,” they say. “I will vote for the BJP because it is provide ration to us,” says roadside vendor Rampal.

Social activist Sunil Saurav, however, anticipates that the ruling party could see a split even in their traditional votes on issues of inflation, unemployment, Agniveer and exam paper leaks. Harpal Singh claims that Jat voters will divide between the BJP and INDIA bloc candidates.

Sher Singh, a dalit in village Hafizpur, claims, “Village has over 600 votes of dalits and all will go to ‘Haathi’, BSP’s poll symbol.” BJP leader Akhilesh Kumar Khiladi also said inflation, unemployment and Agniveer are major issues, and they do everything possible to convince voters that “ Modiji will definitely resolve these issues after the election”.

Chandausi is a constituency where BJP’s traditional Vaishya voters are in good numbers and BJP gets their unflinching support in every election. But, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s arrest has sent a wrong message among them as Kejriwal is also a Vaishya, and many of them appreciated his work in Delhi.

“ye achcha nahi hua,” said many traders and claimed this has disheartened them. All such issues are responsible for growing ‘indifference’ among voters and many of them may skip polling to register their protest.

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