All eyes on Jat, Muslim voters

Assembly polls 2017: Uttar Pradesh gears up for first phase today

All eyes on Jat, Muslim voters

 Stakes are high for the BJP and the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in the Jat-Muslim-dominated western Uttar Pradesh, which goes to polls on Saturday.

The polls in the first phase would decide if Muslims, who constitute around 26% in the districts where polling is scheduled, would support the alliance or there will be a division in the votes.

 It would also decide if the Jats, who constitute around 17% of the electorate in the region, would switch loyalty and root for its traditional party — the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) — or continue to remain loyal to the BJP.

A good performance is crucial for the alliance if it hopes to form the next government.

In the 2012 Assembly polls, the region had witnessed a tough contest between the SP and the BSP. The SP-Congress combine had won 29 seats and the BSP had bagged 23 of the 73 seats in the region.

Though the alliance hope to get the majority of Muslim votes, the BSP has sought to queer its pitch by fielding a large number of Muslim candidates. “A division in Muslim votes will favour the BSP and the BJP,” said a senior SP leader here.

Firebrand Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Muslim Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has also put up its candidates on a number of seats, triggering apprehension of a division in their ranks.

Muslim votes are decisive in Muzaffarnagar, which had witnessed large-scale communal riots in 2013, Bulandshahar, Hapur, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Shamli districts.

The BJP’s hopes hinge on the Jat support. Though there was no visible wave in its favour like in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the saffron party hopes the community will back it this time too.

A perceptible anger in the community owing largely to the Centre’s handling of the Jat agitation in neighbouring Haryana, non-payment of sugarcane arrears and lack of assurance on reservation, however, has sent the alarm bells ringing in the BJP.

BJP national president Amit Shah reportedly held a meeting with prominent Jat leaders in Delhi in a bid to persuade them to support his party.

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