Polarised Saharanpur braces for crucial bypoll

Polarised Saharanpur braces for crucial bypoll

To a casual visitor, everything may appear to be normal but deep within the divide is almost complete in Saharanpur, which witnessed large scale communal violence in July that claimed three lives and resulted in destruction of property worth several crores of rupees.

“Riots have changed the political scene....the polarisation is almost complete,” says Satpal Chabra, the editor of a local vernacular daily.

Though the police identified the trouble-mongers who fueled the communal violence and FIRs were registered, no action has been taken. 

“The state government seems to be waiting for the results of the bypoll. The action will depend on the outcome,” Chabra told Deccan Herald.

He also said that the Sikh community, which suffered heavy losses as their shops were looted, was yet to receive any help from the state government though the Sikh organisations from across the country had chipped in.

 “It is akin to blackmailing....it (government) will help us only if we support the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP),” said another resident.

Mohammed Anwar, who runs a car accessory shop on Gurudwara Road, the worst affected locality during the violence, agrees. “The electorate is divided on religious lines,” he says, conceding that “mistrust” has entrenched deep between the two communities.

And all the three main contestants-Rajiv Gumber of the BJP, Sanjay Garg of the SP and Mukesh Chaudhary of the Congress-know this too. 

While Gumber banks heavily on the Hindu votes, Garg has been trying to enlist the support of his Vaisya community voters and the Muslims. The Congress nominee also hopes to corner his Gujjar community votes along with those of the Muslims. The real issues–potholed roads, acute shortage of power and the shooting crime graph–appear to have been relegated to the back burner. “No party is speaking on those issues,” the residents said.

In the recent Lok Sabha polls, BJP's Raghav Lakhanpal, the winner from this constituency, polled 1.33 lakh votes in this Assembly seat. Congress’ Imran Masood, who finished second, secured 1.09 lakh votes.

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