New Delhi: Extremely wary of communal polarisation ahead of the next general elections, the united opposition is exercising utmost caution in selecting candidates for the Kairana Lok Sabha bypolls in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.
The seat had fallen vacant after the death of BJP MP Hukum Singh and falls in the Muzzafarnagar-Shamli-Kairana belt of western UP which witnessed large-scale communal clashes and a charged campaign in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Kairana, like many other seats in western UP, has a high percentage of Muslim population, varying from 25% to 45% of the total electorate. In the last three General and Assembly elections, both the BSP and the SP have competed fiercely to dovetail the minorities with their core vote-base to stich a winning social combination.
For instance, in 2007 Assembly polls, the BSP fielded 61 Muslim candidates in UP, of whom 29 won. As many as 21 Muslim candidates from the rival SP could also make the cut.
Muslim representation in UP assembly peaked in 2012 when the SP wrested back power from Mayawati in the following elections. The 16th Assembly of the state had a record 68 Muslim MLAs.
Compare this with 2014 General Elections when for the first time since Independence not a single MP from the minority community was elected to the Lok Sabha, with the BJP and its allies winning a whopping 90% of the seats.
The 2014 Lok Sabha results and the near total dominance of the BJP in the assembly elections last year have not only forced the BSP and the SP to form a political coalition, but also look at alternative social alliances.
In the recent bypolls in Phulpur and Gorakhpur, the SP-BSP combine experimented by putting up non-Yadav Backward candidates. The idea was to mobilise core SP-BSP votes around a dominant local community to inflict a surprise defeat on the ruling BJP.
In Kairana bypolls, which may well shape the battlelines for a keen contest in western UP in 2019, the SP-BSP coalition may again settle for a candidate from a socially dominant Hindu caste.
There have been speculations that Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) wants to enter the grand opposition alliance in UP if Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Chaudhary is fielded from Kairana as a joint candidate.
However, SP state President Naresh Uttam was in Shamli earlier this week to assess the ground situation. The party seems to be zeroing in on three names as of now. Former MP Munawar Hasan’s wife is among those in contention.
But the opposition is wary that fielding a Muslim candidate may again polarise the elections as BJP is likely to nominate Hukum Singh’s daughter for the bypoll.
Singh, a local Gujjar leader, had started his political career with the Congress but later shifted base to the BJP.
SP’s Virendra Singh, also a Gujjar, is seeking a ticket for his son.