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UP Elections: BJP ‘Losing’ Steam in Meerut, Wind Blowing in SP’s ‘Favour’

The lack of development and the impact of the farmers movement could give the SP an edge over the BJP.

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The Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance has an “edge” over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in most of the seven Assembly seats in the Meerut district due to the “unfulfilled promises made to voters in the 2017 elections”, believes professor GR Malik.

A resident of Ganga Nagar, Malik feels except for close contests in Meerut Cantonment and Meerut South that may produce unexpected results, the SP has a clear advantage in Kithore, Meerut, Siwalkhas, Hastinapur and Sardhana. In the 2017 elections, the BJP won six seats with the SP’s Rafiq Ansari bagging only Meerut city.

“Almost all sections of society are turning away from the BJP because the promises made to develop the city and rural areas were never fulfilled. The situation has, in fact, worsened,” Malik tells Newsclick pointing out the “acute shortage of basic necessities” and “the lack of development after Yogi [Adityanath] came to power”.

Whatever roads or health infrastructure “you see in the city and rural areas were built by the Akhilesh [Yadav] government. There has been no progress since then”, Malik adds.

There is a huge shortage of doctors and health workers at the PL Sharma Hospital and the Meerut Medical College, established in 1909 and 1966 respectively, according to Malik. “The medical centres set up by the SP government by combining four to five villages have neither doctors nor other staff and are usually overcrowded. The villagers have no option but to go to private hospitals, which charge exorbitant fees.”

Meerut comprises three tehsils, six CD blocks, 604 villages and 18 towns. Out of its total population of more than 34 lakh, Hindus are 63.40% and Muslims 34.43%. The city is well-connected via road, rail and air, which has helped in the promotion of industries, like sports goods, scissors, musical instruments, sugar, tyres and pharmaceutical products.

Sunil Sharma, a Life Insurance Corporation of India development officer, too believes that the BJP will “lose most of the seats” in Meerut. A former member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, he said that the political situation in the state has “changed and the common people—whether farmers, labourers or workers—have turned against the BJP mainly due to the farmers movement, which was successful in the rural areas of Meerut”.

Nadeem (name changed), a resident of Meerut city, believes that the movement has “united the farmers and all the communities against the politics of Hindutva”. “Restoration of the old pension scheme, 300 units of free electricity and arresting the rise in prices of essential items have become big issues in the state. The SP alliance has promised restoration of the old pension scheme and 300 units of free electricity if it comes to power,” he says.

Claiming that the political situation in the state would be reversed following the movement’s impact, Nadeem says, “Jats, Muslims, OBCs and Dalits in large numbers have decided to defeat the BJP. Farmer leaders associated with the movement are also urging people not to vote on caste or religious lines and analyse why they suffered in recent years.”

Ravikant, president, Shoshit Kranti Dal, who is quite vocal about Dalit issues and plays a major role in the movement against the land mafia, says both the rural and urban population of Meerut is “very angry” with the BJP government’s style of functioning. “The condition of the roads in Meerut is very poor with frequent jams. Cancer patients face severe difficulties due to lack of a radiotherapy machine at the medical college.”

Alleging “an atmosphere of anarchy in the state and unabated police and mafia repression against the poor”, Ravikant says,” “The authorities ignore the voice of the poor. Women who are harassed, especially dowry victims, never get justice. Shoshit Kranti Dal raises its voice against the oppression of women and keeps fighting against the administration to get them justice.”

Ravikant alleged that “the fundamental rights of the people are being trampled upon. The youth is very angry with inflation and unemployment being their biggest concerns”.

“Fearing that another Yogi government could reverse job reservations, Dalit youths are banking on the SP alliance. Several Dalits could vote for the SP alliance because they feel that the BSP is not in a strong position,” says Ravikant, who believes that if the alliance comes to power, “it will create employment opportunities and also increase reservation”.

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