New Delhi: The BJP’s first list of candidates that was unveiled on Thursday included a few surprising names, especially from the Western Uttar Pradesh region, which has witnessed communal clashes since 2014. Many of the party MPs, who represented these restive constituencies, are once again being fielded from the seats.
Some of the controversial names which have figured in the saffron party’s first candidate list are - Raghav Lakhanpal (Saharanpur), Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan (Muzaffarnagar), Kunwar Bhartendra Singh (Bijnor), Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar (Moradabad) and Satish Gautam (Aligarh).
Raghav Lakhanpal : Saharanpur
In 2017, against the backdrop of the clashes between Dalits and Thakurs, BJP MP Raghav Lakhanpal and other party leaders took a “Ambedkar shobha yatra,” around the communally sensitive parts of the city. According to media reports, the MP and the other activists went ahead with the yatra despite not having any permission. Lakhpal had reportedly said at the time that he would not allow Saharanpur to become another Kashmir. In the last elections Lakhanpal won on a BJP ticket with 4,72,999 votes. The Congress candidate Imran Masood came in second with 4,07,909 votes.
Sanjeev Balyan : Muzaffarnagar
The BJP has zeroed in on accused Sanjeev Balyan as its candidate for the Muzaffarnagar seat. Balyan, one of the accused in the riots, was reportedly a part of the mahapanchayat in September 2013, held in defiance of the prohibitory orders. He was later charged for instigating hostility between the two communities. Then in 2014 Balyan won with 6,53,391 votes as BSP’s Kadir Rana came in second with 2,52,241.
A bailable warrant was issued against Balyan a year later and he was charged with offences under the Indian Penal Code sections 188 (violating prohibitory orders), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharging his duty) and 341 (wrongful restraint).
The saffron party leader also made headlines shortly after Dadri lynching case for calling for strict “action against cow slaughtering.”
Satish Gautam : Aligarh
The BJP candidate for Aligarh in the upcoming polls is Satish Gautam. Gautam had won the seat over BSP candidate Dr Arvind Kumar with a margin of nearly 3,00,000 votes in 2014.
The soon after National Democratic Alliance (NDA) clinched power at the Centre, Gautam demanded that the Aligarh Muslim University hold celebrations marking Raja Mahender Pratap’s birth anniversary.
It was at this time that the saffron party attempted to appropriate the Marxist revolutionary and social reformer’s legacy by portraying him as a ‘Jat King’. Little changed over the years and then in 2016 Gautam appealed the AMU VC Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah to disallow all “anti-national” events on campus.
Recently, Gautam made the headlines, once again, for vehemently opposed the hanging of Jinnah’s portrait in the Union Hall of the varsity.
Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar : Moradabad
The candidate from Moradabad who figured in the party’s first list is Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar. The BJP candidate had earlier won with 4,85,224 votes and Samajwadi Party’s Dr S T Hasan SP came in second with 3,97,720 votes.
In 2016, the constituency of Moradabad saw communal conflict over the installation of a loudspeaker in a temple in Kanth village. Media reports suggest that BJP had even planned a a mahapanchayat over the issue, which the local administration did not allow.
Violent protests by party workers followed and the situation was normalised only after several months.
Kunwar Bhartendra Singh : Bijnor
BJP’s Bijnor candidate had trumped the Samajwadi Party leader in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly in 2017 with a margin of over 2,00,000 votes. Bhartendra Singh’s strategy at the time had been to manipulate people’s sentiments by calling the elections a fight between dharma and adharma, and hit out at SP’s regime for “allowing terrorists to escape”.
The elections for the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state will be held in seven phases starting from April 11. Polling will travel from West to East, beginning in constituencies bordering National Capital Region. The last phase will be held on May 19 in seats contiguous to Bihar.