Lucknow: As India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, heads into its seven-phase assembly elections, all eyes are on the state’s crucial western region from where the polls are set to kick off. At this point in time, all political parties contesting have their focus set firmly on Western UP.
The importance of the region is underscored by the ruling BJP’s aggressive, door-to-door campaigning, led by none other than Union home minister Amit Shah. However, the manner in which Shah is attempting to secure votes in Western UP, knocking on every door and handing out party fliers, belies a desperation on the part of the ruling party.
While on his visit to Kairana, Shah attempted to revive the party’s old narrative that, under Akhilesh Yadav’s leadership, the city had seen an exodus of Hindus due to the violence and law and order issues spread by Muslims. However, an Indian Express survey conducted after this supposed exodus had found that no family bar one had blamed Muslims for their departure. The BJP’s efforts to revive this sectarian narrative, despite the old claims having been widely disproved in the past, seems to suggest an insecurity on the part of the ruling party.
The party’s past success in the region was fuelled, in no small part, by the divide between Hindu Jats and Muslims and, in turn, the BJP’s landslide victory in the state in the 2017 assembly elections was heavily bolstered by its success in western UP. However, the year-long farmers’ protests of 2021-2022 has seen the Jats and Muslims of the region unite against the three notorious farm laws.
Now, is the BJP trying to rekindle that old, communal divide? Is it doing so because it feels it has no other option to secure votes from the region? How do these dynamics affect the opposition parties and what do the voters in the region feel about this?
Senior journalist Sharat Pradhan attempts to look deeper into the issue and answer these questions and more.