Cong corporator pitches to win party's past citadel in LucknowCong corporator pitches to win party's past citadel in Lucknow

Virendra Singh Rawat

With the multi-phase 2024 Lok Sabha polling beginning on April 19, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking to book early gains in eight Uttar Pradesh constituencies on the block for voting in phase I.

The UP constituencies voting today comprise Pilibhit, Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Nagina, Moradabad, and Rampur.

Considering that the BJP could win only three of these constituencies in the 2019 LS polls, the saffron party fired on all cylinders to improve tally and feed its ambitious pan-India 400 seat victory target.

Over the past few weeks, BJP mascot and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath addressed rallies in Western UP. Yesterday, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra participated in a roadshow in Saharanpur in support of party candidate Imran Masood.

In the 2019 general elections, the BJP won Pilibhit, Kairana and Muzaffarnagar. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) scooped Saharanpur, Bijnor and Nagina, while the Samajwadi Party (SP) won Moradabad and Rampur seats.

These eight constituencies are part of the profitable sugarcane belt of Western UP, and have a sizeable population of the farming and landowning Jat community apart from the minority community as well.

Since, the BJP has poached the Jayanat Chaudhary-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), an influential regional political force, to its ranks from the opposition camp, the ruling party is counting on its pluses to overcome any undercurrent of anti-incumbency especially among the farmers.

While the BJP is contesting on the seven seats, the RLD candidate is fighting from the Bijnor seat.

Bijnore, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut and Saharanpur rank among the largest sugarcane producing districts in UP.

UP accounts for the maximum number of 80 Lok Sabha seats, and is key to the political chessboards of both the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress-led Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) coalition for coasting to victory in the general elections.

The BJP is betting on the overarching image of Modi and the interwoven themes of Hindutva, national security, social benefits to the disadvantaged sections, prompt farm payments especially sugarcane to attract voters.

On the other hand, the opposition including SP, Congress and BSP are harping on the minority, dalit and other backward caste (OBC) votes to counter the saffron party. The opposition is also banking on the popular narrative of inflation, job losses, communalism etc to gain voter traction.

Meanwhile, the prominent candidates in fray in UP phase I polling include UP cabinet minister Jitin Prasada (BJP) and former UP minister Bhagwant Saran Gangwar (SP) from Pilibhit; Sanjeev Balyan (BJP) from Muzaffarnagar; Raghav Lakhanpal (BJP) and Imran Masood (Congress) from Saharanpur etc.

Since, BSP has given tickets to a large number of Muslim candidates, it could indirectly help the BJP by dividing the minority votes in UP, which has among the largest minority population in India.

UP, would witness polling in 7 phases viz. April 19, 26, May 7, 13, 20, 25 and June 1.

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