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Lok Sabha Election in Saharanpur: Advantage BJP in Triangular Contest, But Here's What It Is Up Against – News18


Saharanpur comprises five assembly segments: Behat (Samajwadi Party), Saharanpur Nagar (Bharatiya Janata Party), Saharanpur (SP), Deoband (BJP), and Rampur Maniharan (BJP). Representational image/PTI

Haji Fazlur Rehman from the Bahujan Samaj Party is currently the MP from Saharanpur. The key candidates for the election this time are Raghav Lakhanpal from the BJP, Congress’s Imran Masood, and Majid Ali from the BSP. Saharanpur will have voting on April 19, in the first round of the seven-phase elections

Saharanpur is one of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. It is a general category seat and is one of the westernmost parliamentary constituencies in UP. It comprises five assembly segments: Behat (Samajwadi Party), Saharanpur Nagar (Bharatiya Janata Party), Saharanpur (SP), Deoband (BJP), and Rampur Maniharan (BJP).

Haji Fazlur Rehman from the Bahujan Samaj Party is currently the MP from Saharanpur. The key candidates for the election this time are Raghav Lakhanpal from the BJP, Congress’s Imran Masood, and Majid Ali from the BSP.

Saharanpur will have voting on April 19, in the first round of the seven-phase elections.

Political Dynamics

  1. Although the BJP had lost Saharanpur to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 2019, it now appears in pole position to wrest the seat. The BJP has again fielded Raghav Lakhanpal, who had won the seat for the party in 2014, due to his perceived proximity to the RSS and the fact that he is seen as an active leader on the ground. Lakhanpal remains a popular leader, and this was reportedly confirmed in the BJP’s internal surveys. He is also said to have close ties with Rajnath Singh. The political wind is blowing in the saffron party’s favour, say observers and this is largely in line with the trend across Uttar Pradesh. Even in Saharanpur’s neighbouring constituency of Kairana, 22 village heads joined the BJP recently.
  2. The BJP is placed well this election season due to a tri-cornered contest between itself, the INDIA bloc (SP+ Congress in UP) and the BSP. It is widely believed that the Muslim vote, largely seen as a deciding factor in the constituency, could be split between INDIA and BSP. This leaves the BJP in an advantageous position. The BJP is also not only bringing round independents to its side but is also set to benefit from infighting among the other parties. Recently, Sanjay Garg, a three-time MLA and former minister from the Vaishya community who was close to Mulayam Singh Yadav, joined the BJP. Before him, Nanauta Nagar panchayat chairperson Rumana Khan, her husband Afzal Khan (who is a former chairman too), and many others switched to the BJP. In February, Sarsawa panchayat chairperson Komal Panwar also joined the saffron party along with her husband Pramod Panwar. Both had contested the elections previously as independents. By including these leaders, the BJP has made inroads among the Vaishya, Muslim, and Scheduled Caste communities.
  3. Apart from these, the BJP is also in a comfortable position electorally among the Thakurs, Brahmins, Gujjars, and Valmikis, among others. Ground inputs suggest that as much as 50 per cent of the Dalit vote in this election could go to the BJP, which explains why the BSP looks in an extremely perilous situation in Saharanpur now.
  4. The Modi factor is once again aiding the BJP’s prospects, despite the fact that the constituency withstood the Modi wave in 2019. People are happy with the work done by the Modi government, and the various welfare and development schemes of the Prime Minister are adding an advantage for the BJP, say observers. The delivery of flagship schemes which provide amenities like pucca houses, tap water, toilets, LPG connections, digital connectivity, free ration, electricity connections, are being well appreciated.
  5. As a part of its alliance with the Congress, the Samajwadi Party has allotted Saharanpur as one of the seats for the grand old party to contest in Uttar Pradesh. The Congress no longer has a voter base in Saharanpur to help it sail to victory on its own. The Congress is largely banking on the support of the Samajwadi Party, like the BSP did in 2019 when it was in alliance with Akhilesh Yadav’s party. Realising its weakness on the ground, the Congress high command has replaced 21 district presidents recently. As a result, Sandeep Rana has been made the district president of Saharanpur. Chaudhary Muzaffar Ali, who was the district president for over four years, has been removed.
  6. The Congress has made Imran Masood its candidate. But he has a troubled past. He left the Congress before the 2017 assembly elections to join the BSP, only to be expelled by the party in August 2023. Two months later, in October last year, the Congress welcomed Masood and hailed his return as a great “ghar wapsi”. Masood had earlier been arrested in March 2014 on charges of hate speech after he threatened to “chop” Narendra Modi “into pieces”. Ground inputs suggest that while Masood’s tirade against PM Modi may have helped him consolidate the Muslim votes in Saharanpur, it led to the alienation of several other communities, who have not returned to the Congress fold since. By repeating Masood as a candidate, the Congress has failed to recognise that there is still anger among voters against him for his remarks in 2014, say observers.
  7. This time, the SP-Congress combine hopes that Muslims will rally behind them, but with the BSP also fielding a strong Muslim candidate, there could be a split in votes that the opposition can ill-afford. A split in the Muslim vote especially bolsters the chances of the BJP, which has managed to not just retain but also grow its support base in Saharanpur. The BSP has fielded a fresh face, Majid Ali. He is an OBC Muslim and a former zila parishad chairperson. Majid Ali is facing several criminal cases and has huge assets worth Rs 92 crore. He is one of the richest candidates in the entire region and is the brother of actor-cum-producer Kamaal Rashid Khan.

Key Issues

Bypass: There is a positive impact that the construction of the Saharanpur bypass will have on the BJP’s chances, say observers. Earlier, commercial and passenger vehicles had to travel from within Saharanpur to reach Uttarakhand, Haryana, Punjab, and other regions. With the bypass, though, these vehicles are now diverted away from Saharanpur. While traffic congestion still exists, the rush of vehicles not bound for Saharanpur entering the city nevertheless has now been done away with. Similarly, the creation and upgradation of road infrastructure in general is likely to help the BJP.

Bureaucratic High-handedness: A recent complaint among the voters, according to inputs from the ground, is that the high-handedness of bureaucrats has gone up. Voters complain of having to pay bribes and endure a lot of hassle to get even nominal work done. This could prove to be a cause of worry for the BJP, which in the run-up to the elections, is itself making a big issue out of corruption.

Power Woes Solved: Earlier, there were complaints in Saharanpur that only VIP areas got uninterrupted power supply, while ordinary colonies and blocks had to suffer from repeated power cuts. That problem appears to have been largely solved, and uninterrupted power supply to all areas is now being appreciated by the people.

Maa Shakumbhari University: A long-standing demand of voters in Saharanpur was the setting up of Maa Shakumbhari Devi University in the Behat assembly constituency. Amit Shah laid the foundation stone for this university in 2021, a year ahead of the previous assembly elections in the state. The university has been constructed at a cost of over Rs 92 crore and is spread over 50.43 acres. The fulfilment of the demand for a university has helped the BJP in recent years, say observers.

Law and Order: The Yogi Adityanath government in particular is credited for greatly improving the law-and-order situation in Uttar Pradesh as a whole and Saharanpur as a constituency in particular. There is appreciation for a sense of security that has been instilled, with people no longer afraid of venturing out at night. The crackdown on mafias comes as an added bonus for the saffron party.

Delivery of Central Schemes: Prime Minister Modi’s flagship schemes to provide tap water, pucca houses, toilets, electricity, free ration, LPG connections, bank accounts and the overall delivery of basic amenities has created a positive environment for the BJP. However, there are complaints that those who did not vote for the BJP are getting these facilities at a faster pace. Our reporter from Saharanpur says this discrepancy is between those applying for such schemes online and those standing in physical queues in the district’s administrative offices. Those who apply online stand a better chance of getting quicker delivery than those who opt for physical applications.

Pockets of Resentment: In the village of Nangal, which is predominantly inhabited by the Thakur community, residents voiced discontent with various government policies. Key concerns revolve around problems such as the threat posed by stray cattle, significantly lower sugarcane prices compared to Haryana and Punjab, outstanding payments from sugar mill owners, and a noticeable shortage of labourers.

In Sheikhpura Kadeem, the primary issues centred on insufficient sanitation infrastructure. The local dumping site spilled over near the entrances of the sole school and mosque, posing significant health and safety risks. Young residents expressed worries about the limited employment opportunities and repeated incidents of leaked competitive examination papers.

Demography (As per 2011 Census)

  • Total Population: 3,466,382 (Projected population now: 4,190,000)
  • Males: 1,834,106
  • Females: 1,632,276
  • Rural Population: 2,399,856 (69.23%)
  • Urban Population: 1,066,526 (30.7%)
  • Hindus: 56%
  • Muslims: 42%
  • Sikhs: 0.54%

According to the demographics of the constituency, the combined Muslim and Dalit vote accounts for almost 64 per cent out of which Muslims are 42% and Dalits are 22%. Hindus generally dominate rural areas while Muslims are the majority in urban areas.

Infrastructure Development

  1. In December 2023, the Yogi cabinet approved the expansion of the border of the Saharanpur Development Authority. 33 new villages have been included in this. Now there are 177 revenue villages in the development authority area. The scope of the authority has increased to 296 square kilometres, paving the way for SDA to take up development tasks in a broader area.
  2. Earlier, the boundary expansion of the development authority took place in 2016. Following this expansion, various development works took place outside the authority’s limits. These included the construction of the Delhi- Yamunotri Highway, construction of Ambala-Dehradun bypass, construction of a university on Janata Road and dedicated freight corridor depot in Pilkhani. Apart from this, the construction work of the civil airport in Sarsawa is also in progress.
  3. Saharanpur Development Authority has also sent a proposal to the government to develop a new Saharanpur on the mini bypass and highway route. Along with this, the Master Plan 2031 has also been expanded keeping in view the bypass highway and township that is planned around it.
  4. Chief minister Yogi Adityanath in March this year reviewed Master Plan 2031 for Saharanpur. He directed officials to make well-planned provisions for the development of industrial, commercial and residential activities. Officials were told to select a suitable site for a wood-carving cluster, ideally near the current woodcraft hub. Space for logistics and warehousing hubs will also be allocated, and an action plan for a new residential project to cater to the general public’s needs is expected to come up soon.
  5. Also in March, the stage was set for giving the Saharanpur division of Uttar Pradesh a facelift with the launch of 14 significant projects valued at over Rs 50 crore each. These projects, totalling Rs 5,435 crore, are poised to create over 10,000 job opportunities. They encompass diverse sectors such as ethanol production, solid waste management, power transmission, private industrial ventures, wooden handicrafts, hospitality, distilleries, and rebar manufacturing.
  6. Saharanpur’s rank has improved in development works at the state level. Revenue collection has gone up, leading to the district moving from the E category to the B category.
  7. In December 2023, Yogi Adityanath laid the foundation stone of the `Telecom Centre of Excellence’, acclaimed as the country’s first, in Saharanpur. Proposed to be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 30 crore on the IIT Roorkee campus in Saharanpur, the Centre will conduct research on connecting 5G with artificial intelligence (AI) and launching 6G. The government believes the initiative will boost innovation and development in the field of telecommunications besides providing significant employment opportunities for the youth of the state.

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