Mathura: The impassioned attempt made by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to project the sacred land of Mathura as one of the three symbolic Hindutva bastions after Ayodhya and Varanasi seems to have politically disappointed the saffron brigade, going by the mood and the electoral composition of the five Assembly seats in the district.
Here’s a look at who stands where in all five seats of the Western Uttar Pradesh district:
Brahmins, vaishyas and Muslims decide the fate of candidates contesting from this seat, which is at present represented in the Assembly by BJP’s Shrikant Sharma, who has once again been fielded by the saffron party to take on Pradeep Mathur of Congress.
The sacred city, which is believed to be the birth place of Lord Krishna, is one among the few constituencies that Congress can call its traditional seats in the country’s most populous state.
Mathur had registered impressive victories in three consecutive elections -- 2002, 2007 and 2012. In 2017, he lost to Sharma who is the minister of power in the incumbent UP government.
The Samajwadi Party- Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance has played the vaishya card by fielding former Sadabad MLA Devendra Agarwal, while the Bahujan Samaj Party has made Jagjit Chaudhary its candidate.
Those who closely observe politics in the region have their own take on what lies ahead in the elections, which are schedule to begin from February.
“The previous election was exceptional in many ways — it was followed by the 2014 general elections when the popular (Narendra) Modi wave had swept the country and BJP won 282 seats, while its coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), won a total of 336 seats. There was strong anti-incumbency for the then SP government; and strong communal polarisation. The BJP managed to get support from all caste groups, including the politically significant and numerically strong non-yadav OBC (Other Backward Classes) and non-jatav dalit voters by inducting their leaders in the party and aligning with smaller parties,” said Pawan Chaturvedi, a big businessman and keen political observer.
People — especially businessmen — are extremely unhappy with Sharma, the incumbent MLA, who is accused of cracking down on consumers who had electricity bill arrears. Because of the high tariff, about 70% of rural and 25% of urban consumers are unable to pay dues and have turned defaulters.
Mathura has also witnessed the highest number of FIRs (first information reports) related to electricity theft in the state. The number of cases is so high that a court asked the electricity department to explain why such a high number of electricity theft cases were being reported from the district.
Apart from this, the Yogi Adityanath government is also facing resentment due to several other reasons such as poor health infrastructure, joblessness, apathy towards MSMEs, etc.
Given the reasons cited above, there seems to be direct fight between Congress and BJP — with the former having an edge.
The constituency has around 3.75 lakh votes. Jats constitute about 35-40% of the total voters here. Brahmins and Scheduled Castes too have major concentration in this Assembly segment, with 25% population each. Muslims and other smaller communities together form 15% of the total electorate.
The fight here is triangular -- Shyam Sundar Sharma of BSP, Yogesh Nauwahar of RLD that has an alliance with SP and Rajesh Chaudhary of BJP.
BSP’s Sharma has been representing the Assembly constituency for eight consecutive terms. He was first elected in 1989. He is popular among people who say he is “not an individual but a party in himself”. “A triangular contest has always benefited him,” say political observers.
Since RLD has an alliance with SP, Nauwahar is expected to get Muslim votes apart from jat votes. Therefore, he will be giving a tough fight to Sharma.
“Only in worst case of sharp division votes, which is not expected, the BJP will have any chance to win with a very thin margin, as the caste equation of the constituency is not in its favour because jats are mostly farmers, who staged a year-long protest against the controversial farm laws, which were later repealed. Also, there is infighting within the saffron party. SK Sharma, who was preparing for the election for the past five years, was denied a ticket. As a result, he has resigned from the party,” said some political old-timers.
This seat traditionally goes to either BJP’s Chaudhary Laxmi Narayan Singh or RLD’s Tejpal Singh. Both are seasoned politicians. The former is a jat and the latter is a thakur by caste. The two communities share almost equal population here 20-25% each.
With around 22% votes, the SCs have a sizeable chunk of votes here. Brahmins make for somewhere around 15%, while Muslims and vaishyas contribute are 8-10% each of the total electorate here.
Laxmi Narayan, the minister of dairy development, animal husbandry and fisheries in the UP government, has once again been fielded by BJP to take on his principal opponent, Tejpal, who is a former minister. BSP has given ticket to Sonpal Singh.
There seems to be a direct fight between BJP and RLD here, with the latter having an edge.
This constituency is set to witness a razor-sharp contest between BSP and the RLD-SP alliance. The voters here were disillusioned with the five-year tenure of Karinda Singh, who won the Assembly seat on a BJP ticket from here during the Modi wave. Sensing the huge anti-incumbency, the BJP leadership has replaced him with Thakur Meghashyam, a thakur by caste.
The BSP has played the brahmin card, expressing trust in former MLA Rajkumar Rawat. On the other side, the SP-RLD alliance has fielded Pritam Singh (a jat), while Congress has also chosen a jat candidate in Deepak Chaudhary.
The BSP candidate seems to have an edge as the party has a strong cadre base and traditional vote bank. Disgruntled with the functioning of Chief Minister Adityanath, who allegedly prefers people belonging to his caste, the thakurs, over others, a section of brahmins are also likely to vote for BSP.
Of the total around 3.62 lakh votes here, jats constitue around 60,000, thakurs 70,000, brahmins 40,000 to 42,000, SCs 20,000, OBCs 40,000 and Muslims 14,000.
Sitting MLA Puran Prakash, who had joined BJP after quitting RLD in 2017 and had bloomed the lotus (BJP’s election symbol) in this constituency, has been fielded by the party again.
On the other side, the SP-RLD alliance has given a ticket to Babita Devi, BSP has selected Ashok Kumar Suman, and Congress has fielded Vinesh Sanwal.
With over 30-35% votes, jats are a major voting bloc in this constituency. The SCs constitute 25% of the voters, while brahmins form around 20% and Thakur voters stand somewhere around 8%.
Compared with the BJP candidate, who is a four-time MLA and is considered a ‘master of booth management’, RLD seems to have fielded a weak nominee, feel political observers. There seems to be a direct fight between BJP and RLD, with the former enjoying an edge.
The Election Commission announced the schedule of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh on January 8. Voting for the 403-seat 18th Assembly will be held in seven phases from February 10 to March 7. The results will be announced on March 10. Voting will be held on February 10, February 14, February 20, February 23, February 27, March 3 and March 7.