Lucknow: Eight constituencies of Uttar Pradesh — Bulandshahr, Agra, Hathras, Aligarh, Mathura, Nagina, Amroha and Fatehpur Sikri — are going to polls on 18 April under the second phase of the 2019 General Elections.
These parliamentary constituencies are set to witness a tough battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the SP-BSP-RLD ‘Gathbandhan’ (alliance).
All of these seats were won by the ruling BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections, but this time the wind does not seem to be blowing in the BJP’s favour.
Here are the main issues that will impact the elections in five of these constituencies:
Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, brings in the maximum revenue through tourism in the country, but has hardly seen any development in the recent past. The sitting Member of Parliament Dr Ram Shanker Katheria, while stoking controversies during his tenure, has drastically failed to work for the people of his constituency.
The monkey menace in Agra remains a big problem that locals are facing. A few months ago, a newborn was stabbed by monkeys. Yet neither the administration nor any lawmaker has paid heed to the problem.
The state of employment in this constituency has hit a new low in the past four months owing to the policies of the government.
Agra’s shoe industry, which was once famous, has been hit with the prohibition on running tanneries in Kanpur and Unnao since last November.
The home of the best ‘petha’ (a form of sweet) industry in the country was also hit by demonetisation and GST, and big players have had to resort to lay-offs.
According to Agra-based journalist Manvendra Malhotra, development is the main issue in Agra.
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“The government could have done wonders but it was busy in hitting controversies in the name of the Taj Mahal, in the name of Dalits, etc. The city of Agra did not see any development in any sector in the past five years, and this will cost the saffron party,” said Malhotra.
While the BJP has pitched UP minister SP Singh Baghel as the MP candidiate, the Gathbandhan has fielded Manoj Soni. The Congress is trying to turn it into a triangular contest by fielding Preeta Harit.
The issues in the Fatehpuri Sikri Lok Sabha constituency are the same as in Agra. The tourists coming to see the Taj Mahal also go to Fatehpur Sikri to have a glimpse of the Mughal architecture, but the city has missed out on development.
The city was also home to a large number of shoe makers but the industry is slowly dying. Meanwhile, the issues of unemployment and agrarian crisis have not been touched upon by the parties.
It was a few days ago that Congress contestant Raj Babbar released a local manifesto, in which issues of the leather industry and the MSP for potato farmers had found a place.
The parliamentary constituency is also facing problems like increased levels of air pollution and scarcity of drinking water.
Babbar is facing BJP’s Rajkumar Chahar and the SP-BSP-RLD alliance’s Guddu Pandit (who belongs to the BSP).
The small city of Bulandhshar was torn in the cow-related violence that broke out last December. The violence has resulted in the division of votes on caste lines.
The contest in Bulandhshar is between the BJP’s Bhola Singh, the Congress’ Banshi Singh and the alliance’s Yogesh Verma.
According to Bulandshahr-based social activist Prashant Balmiki, the main issues in Bulandhshar include delay in payment to the cane farmers, absence of a railway line to Delhi, and other developmental issues.
“Despite being very close to Delhi, there is no direct railway line from Bulandhshar to Delhi. There are no major industries here and students have to go to either Delhi or Ghaziabad for professional studies,” he says.
The city of Aligarh, once known for its premier university and for locks, has been in the news over all the wrong reasons lately. In the past few years, the city has seen many controversies, fanned by the BJP, erupting from none other than the Aligarh Muslim University — for example, the row over a Jinnah portrait last year.
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Meanwhile, unemployment among the youth is growing at an unprecedented pace. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior university professor from the Law department said the city had been divided on the issues of nationalism and patriotism. “The BJP has played the nationalism card this election season, but one should know that patriotism has become an important issue in Aligarh over the past two years. Every time a controversy happens, the patriotism of the university is questioned. Development or any other issue in Aligarh is not paid attention to,” he says.
The BJP has fielded Satish Gautam, the Congress has given a ticket to Chaudhary Brijendra Singh while the Gathbandhan has fielded Ajit Baliyan.
BJP’s star candidate and sitting lawmaker Hema Malini is going to face a tough fight as Mathura is set for a battle between the ‘dream girl’ and the potato farmers. Yet another potato farmer in Mathura’s Vrindavan area committed suicide a few days ago over growing debts and underpayment of the crop price.
Malini is facing the brunt of anti-incumbency in Mathura, because of the lack of development work done by her.
Pollution of Yamuna river, lack of industrialisation and Mathura’s inclusion in the national capital region are the main issues.
The BJP has fielded Hema Malini against the Gathbandhan’s Kunwar Narendra Singh while the Congress has pitched Mahesh Pathak.