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New Delhi: Although Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have been projecting the party’s win in Uttar Pradesh and three other states as a moral victory, the losses of some of their Hindutva poster boys and state ministers in UP indicate otherwise.
Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana, both accused of being involved in the Muzaffarnagar riots, lost their seats. Rana is currently a cabinet minister in the Yogi Adityanath government. He was contesting on a BJP ticket from the Thana Bhawan seat in Shamli. Som, a firebrand BJP leader, was defeated by Samajwadi Party politician Atul Pradhan in Meerut’s Sardhana seat. Rajpal Singh Baliyan of the Rashritya Lok Dal defeated BJP’s Umesh Malik, another Muzaffarnagar riots accused, by 8,444 votes in the Budhana seat.
Som and Rana were accused in 2013 of inciting riots and spreading hatred by disturbing the communal atmosphere. Following that, both BJP MLAs were arrested and imprisoned by the SP government. They were both re-elected in 2017.
Raghvendra Singh, Adityanath’s close aide and a Hindu Yuva Vahini leader in Purvanchal (east UP), joins the list of BJP leaders who lost this election. During his campaign, Singh delivered one of the most virulent anti-Muslim speeches in recent memory, labelling Hindus who voted for the opposition as traitors with Muslim blood running in their veins. “If you make me MLA again, Muslims will stop wearing skullcaps and start wearing tilaks,” he told a crowd of supporters in the Dumariyagan constituency on February 12, just days before the second phase of elections on February 14. “Will there be Jai Shri Ram or Walekum Salam?” he continued.
Various clips from Singh’s speech have been circulating online. In other sections of his speech, Singh is more direct with the anti-Muslim component of his rhetoric. Singh said that the “terrorism of miyans (a pejorative for Muslims)” has decreased since he took office. He also warns Muslims that he will send them to Pakistan if they look at Hindu women. “Listen Muslims, if any Hindu is insulted and if you look at any Hindu girl, then I’ll get you beaten so much and cut so much…that…” he said, the latter part of his warning getting drowned out amidst ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants.
Another key BJP leader from Ballia Nagar constituency in UP, Anand Swaroop Shukla, minister of state for parliamentary affairs in the UP government and often in the headlines for his anti-Muslim dog whistles, also lost the election. Like Raghvendra Singh, he had sought action against azaan and had called upon Muslims to accept Ram and Shiva as their ancestors and bow to Indian [Hindu] culture. He had called Tablighi Jamaat members “human bombs”.
The most significant bigwig to lose is Keshav Prasad Maurya. After right-wing vigilante groups attempted to storm inside a mosque in Mathura, tensions prevailed in the area and police averted the escalation. Maurya had tweeted then that “Mathura ki tayyari hai.” He had linked skull caps to violence and had refused to condemn the genocide calls at Haridwar in a BBC interview, which he later walked out of.