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A village in Uttar Pradesh, a people worried about Congress’ polarisation and what sways their vote: A ground report

Salawa falls within the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha constituency where the sitting Member of Parliament Dr Sanjeev Balyan is fielded by the BJP for a second time against the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Chief Ajit Singh who has allied with the SP-BSP alliance.

As the polling for the first phase of Lok Sabha election 2019 started yesterday, the enthusiasm of the people in my village was evident from the long queues and smiling faces both young and old shining with hope, at the polling booths since early morning. My village Salawa is one of the 24 villages in the Meerut district collectively known by the name of ‘Thakur Chowbisi’. It is the largest of all the 24 villages both in terms of population and area and therefore has a certain political significance when it comes to elections.

Salawa falls within the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha constituency where the sitting Member of Parliament Dr Sanjeev Balyan is fielded by the BJP for a second time against the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Chief Ajit Singh who has allied with the SP-BSP alliance. Dr Balyan, who holds a doctorate in Veterinary Anatomy and has worked as an Assistant Professor and Veterinary surgeon, had defeated Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) Kadir Rana by a margin of around 4 lakh votes during the ‘Modi wave’ in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Though the Thakur Chowbisi has traditionally been a BJP voter base and therefore there are chances of voters leaning towards the BJP again but this time certain other significant factors might play a role in shaping the opinion of the voters. Apart from the factors like the lack of a Prime Ministerial face in the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ and the work done by the Modi government specially in rural areas, one important factor that seems to have drifted the voter away from the opposition parties is the 2016 mass exodus of Hindus from Kairana town of Shamli district which has a Muslim majority. The resettlement of around 25,000 members of the Muslim community in Kairana post the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots changed the demography of the region making Hindus a minority in Kairana. Shattered law and order situation post the resettlement and the subsequent mass exodus of Hindu families from Kairana out of fear of the gangsters of the majority Muslim community, left the people of nearby villages worried about the possibility of a similar situation in their own villages if any demographic changes took place. Having a neighbouring village like Kaili which has Muslims in the majority, a similar fear gripped my village as well. This brought back the memories of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the ’90s in the minds of people.

On top of that the cold attitude of the then Samajwadi Party government in the State accompanied by the deafening silence of the mainstream media which blatantly refused to even acknowledge that something like that had happened, created a deep sense of disbelief and insecurity among the Hindus. The situation improved only after the BJP government was formed in Uttar Pradesh under Chief Minister Yogi and as a result, the Hindu families who had fled out of fear started returning to their homes. This gave out a message that Hindus could feel safe under the BJP rule. True or not, this is what the voters feel at least in my village. A feeling of apprehension in the wake of the Kairana Hindu exodus seems to have been at the back of the minds of the voters along with the development work carried out by the Modi government.

I witnessed the faith of voters in the Modi government as I talked to some of them to know their opinions. “I did not see which candidate the BJP fielded in my constituency, I voted for Modi”, said a young voter named Mohit Som who was impressed by the way Modi government has improved India’s relations with other countries. He said the Kairana incident is going to have an influence on the voting pattern.

Another voter named Deepak Som appreciated the work done by Dr Sanjeev Balyan in his constituency during the last five years. He said that the “special effect” of PM Modi has also played a role in his decision to vote for the BJP. On the issue of Kairana, Deepak says that the Kairana incident is going to influence the voters in favour of the BJP as the opposition parties are openly indulging in the polarisation of Muslims for votes.

This appeasement by the opposition parties seems to be having a repulsive effect on the voters particularly in Salawa. “They (opposition parties) indulge in the politics of appeasement”, said  Rahul Som terming the Kairana exodus a big issue. When asked about his opinion on Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Rahul described him as nikamma (good for nothing). “He does not have a single quality to be a leader. It is because of his family background that he enjoys all the perks otherwise no one would keep him even as labour”, said a furious Rahul.

Similar views are held by about Rahul Gandhi by another voter named Kapil Som who was unhappy with the Congress party for having done nothing during its rule. Calling Rahul lafanga, Kapil said, “He is not even good enough to be employed as a sweeper. In fact, if he is given any job, it would be an insult to the job itself”. He praised PM Modi for having reached where he is coming from humble beginnings. Speaking on the issue of Kairana, Kapil said that it was only because of the BJP government that the Hindus could return to their home and that wherever Hindus are in minority they have no choice but to vote for the BJP.

However, another voter named Abhishek Som seemed the disagree with others on whether Kairana is going to impact the votes in this elections. “It has been quite some since that incident took place and it is not a major issue in these elections”, said Abhishek. When asked what was his reason to vote for BJP, he said that he liked the way Modi government has worked on improving the national security.

Vijay Som, a young voter, has his hopes rested on Modi government for creating employment opportunities for the youth. He said that the Modi government worked for everyone regardless of caste or religion.

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