Battle of Survival

Both Mriganka Singh and Ajit Singh are fighting for their survival in Kairana Lok Sabha by-poll as anybody’s loss would mean end of the political legacy they are claiming right now

By Asit Manohar

With an aim to repeat Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-poll outcomes in Kairana Lok Sabha constituency, which got vacated after the sudden death of its sitting MP Hukum Singh, the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have pitched former MP Begum Tabassum Hassan to take on BJP’s Mriganka Singh, daughter of Late MP Hukum Singh. Candidate selection from both camps have made this Lok Sabha by-poll interesting as Mriganka failed to make a cut into the list of winners in 2017 UP Assembly Polls from Kairana when her father was alive while Begum Tabassum is a SP candidate who is contesting on RLD’s ticket.

This selection of candidates have made both camps happy as BJP believes candidature of Tabassum would help them polarize Hindu votes in their favour by scratching the wounds of Meerut riots that took place ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha Polls. Meanwhile the SP-RLD camp is also buoyed by Mriganka Singh’s candidature as both Chaudhary Ajit Singh and Akhilesh Yadav believes that the daughter of Late Hukum Singh is fully dependent on the sympathy wave which can be contained by the support extended by BSP chief Mayawati and the anti-incumbency against the Late MP that caused loss of Mriganka Singh in 2017 UP Assembly Poll from Kairana.

POLL CALCULUS

On selection of Mringanka Singh — a Gujjar by caste — by the BJP majority of the poll observers said, “Cast factor is going to play major role in this Kairana LokSabha by-poll and by putting a Muslim candidate, both RLD and SP have given BJP a chance to polarize this election by once again raising the exit of Hindus from the region.” They were of the opinion that Muslim candidate would irk Jats who still not been able to come out of the Meerut riots. So, Begum Tabassum would help BJP to gain support of both Jats and Gujjars who together constitute around 3.25 lakh (2 lakh Jats and 1.25 lakh Gujjars) voters out of 16 lakh net voters enrolled in Kairana Lok Sabha seat. Apart from this Thakurs and Trader community votes too are to the tune of around 1.75 lakh. Around 1 lakh other Forward Caste voters too are expected to vote in favour of the BJP.

Giving edge to Tabassum in this by-poll, poll observers believe, “Begum Tabassum has devoted vote bank of near 5.5 lakh Muslims which will vote enmass in this election. If the Dalits, which are to the tune of near 2.5 lakh in Kairana constituency, votes in favour of Tabassum after Mayawati’s extended support, the RLD candidate can sweep this election with a handsome margin of more than lakhs of votes.” Since, a huge amount of Dalit votes, especially non-Jatav, have gone away from Mayawati and have preferred BJP to BSP in both 2014 and 2017, BJP candidate can expect to dent into the deadly Dalit-Muslim combination of the RLD-SP candidate. If the BJP is able to garner non-Jatav votes (which is almost half of the net Dalit votes), then BJP can expect to edge past Begum Tabassum.

However, there is one more problem that BJP candidate Mriganka Singh will have to face in this by-election — low voter turnout. It has been found that except Gujjars and Jats other traditional voters of the BJP (Traders and Forward Castes) have a tendency to avoid voting during by-polls as they hesitate to skip their work for the sake of voting in by-polls. Hence, low voter turnout would mean BJP candidate falling behind Begum Tabassum as Muslims and Dalits have shown high voter turnout in various elections, especially after Mandal agitation and Babri Masjid demolition, which took place almost together in early nineties. But, one thing is for sure, neither Begum Tabassum nor Mriganka would leave any stone unturned in this by-election as both candidates have high stake in this election.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

In fact, it is battle of survival for both candidates. While RLD has been fighting for its survival post 2014 route, loss in Kairana would mean end of Hukum Singh legacy as in 2019, BJP might be tempted to fill another candidate as Mriganka has been given enough chance to claim the legacy of her father. The by-poll is of prime importance for the RLD, which has been a regional power in western UP but currently has no MPs or MLAs. Its lone MLA in the state assembly joined the BJP a few days ago. Despite having a considerable clout among a cross section of voters, especially farmers, the RLD’s vote share had dropped to a meager 1.8 percent in the 2017 assembly polls.

And yet, Chaudhary Jayant Singh — grandson of Chaudhary Charan Singh — insists that the party still has a loyal vote base. “Winning or losing an election is a different matter, but we have a loyal vote base, especially in the western belt, and that vote is transferable too,” he said adding, “We will benefit from the votes of other parties in Kairana, and we will work hard in the Noorpur assembly by-election, so that our vote gets transferred to the SP candidate.”

On pitching SP candidate on RLD ticket might give an arsenal to the BJP for gunning RLD, Chaudhary scion said, “It was important to send out a message that the opposition is united, and more than anything else, it is the winnability of the candidate which would matter,” said Chaudhary. “When two parties are working together, it becomes clear that there aren’t going to be any ideological differences as such.” However, political observers have a different view on SP pitching its candidate on RLD ticket citing, “Politically, Ajit Singh is a lose canon and by going through his track record, Akhilesh Yadav is still not ready to rely on him.”