Sardhana: Triangular contest between two hardliners, a moderate
Sardhana (Uttar Pradesh), Jan 29 (IANS) Sardhana, which came into limelight after the Muzaffarnagar riots, is facing a triangular contest between two hardliners belonging to the BJP and BSP and a moderate face from Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party.
Sangeet Som, an accused in the 2013 riots and the outgoing Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, is known for his controversial remarks to polarise the two major communities. Banking on his hardliner Hindutava image, the BJP has fielded him again in this communally sensitive seat.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has pitted Imran Quereshi against Som. Imran is the son of Haji Yakub Quereshi, who is no different from Som.
The Quereshi Sr came into limelight when he offered Rs 51 crore to anyone who kills a Danish cartoonist who drew a controversial cartoon of Prophet Mohammed.
Another major contestant in Sardhana is SP’s Atul Pradhan, who seemed to be a moderate to Som and Quereshi. Pradhan is banking on his own and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s image and development work.
Driving through the fertile fields of mustard and sugarcane, interspersed with mango orchards, this IANS correspondent entered Sardhana from Muzaffarnagar. A group of youths were discussing elections.
They were residents of Jafarnagar-Begamabad, a village of around 1,500 voters but divided between the BSP and SP. Half the population is Dalit.
“Atul Pradhan is hard working but he does not behave equally with everyone. He is a right man in the wrong party,” Vikram Kumar, 22, a Dalit youth said.
“(Som) has done nothing for us like the SP government. Som has not even come to the area after winning the last election,” he added.
Devinder Srinivas, another Dalit youth in his 20s, said: “Pradhan comes regularly to the area but we won’t support him. He favours those closer to him.”
Kamal Kant Tyagi (44) is also bitter about Som.
“I have always voted for BJP but this time we are going to vote for Pradhan. See this road, he has constructed it. Som has done nothing for the area’s development,” said Tyagi.
Pradhan’s wife Seema Pradhan is President of Zila Panchayat.
Sardhana, with a sizeable Muslim population, is part of the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha seat but falls in Merrut district.
Muslims, who form 35 per cent of the constituency’s 3.15 lakh population, have not entirely overcome memories of the 2013 communal violence. Jats and Dalits form 20 per cent of the population each.
“One of the contestants is a riot accused while the other has come here as a tourist,” Saiyad Mumtaz said, referring to the BJP and BSP candidates.
“Development is our issue. We will vote on this issue. This time Sardhana will create history,” he added.
Abrar Ahmed Quasmi (56) of Daurala said Muslims would vote to defeat the BJP.
“Only Quereshi can defeat BJP,” he said, adding that Muslims know that if their vote was divided, secular forces would get a boost.
“There have been more than 400 riots in the last five years. We all know who are responsible for these riots,” said Md. Abaad, 47.
Vjaya Bharti (36), a Dalit, said: “During the SP regime, 3,700 Urdu teachers were appointed. And 1,435 of them were Yadavs. The BSP is a party which cares for all.”
In the last five assembly elections, Sardhana has either elected a BJP or a BSP candidate. In 2012, Som defeated Haji Yakub Quereshi, than a RLD nominee. Atul Pradhan got 48,023 votes as a SP candidate.
In 2007, BSP’s Chandraveer Singh defeated RLD’s Tabassum Begum. In 2002 and 1996 BJP’s Ravindra Pundir won by defeating BSP’s Harpal Saini.
In the 1993 assembly election, Pundir defeated Vijay Pal Singh Tomar of RLD.
As per records, the division of Muslim votes amongst the BSP, SP, RLD and others always benefits the BJP.
This time also, apart from united Hindu votes, the BJP is banking on a division of Muslim votes.
Vinod Kumar, 34, a Jat, said: “We Hindus are from 36 different castes but they (Muslims) are one.”
Lokesh Singh, 46, of Fareedpur (Som’s village) said even Muslims would vote for BJP.
“A image has been built that Som is anti-Muslim but the reality is different. Very few people know that Som’s cook is a Muslim who has been assosiated with the family even Som was born.”
Sardhana will go for polls in the first phase beginning on February 11.
(Brajendra Nath Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)