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Advantage BJP in western UP as cracks surface in SP-RLD alliance

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Jayant Singh of Rashtriya Lok Dal and Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@AndhbhaktKiller)

Regardless of the bravado, cracks have surfaced in the Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance in western Uttar Pradesh over ticket distribution. The RLD supporters are up in arms as they feel that a major chunk of tickets are going to the SP while the Jats were "not getting their due." A number of seats in the RLD strongholds in Meerut and Muzaffarnagar have gone to the SP. RLD minority wing leader, Anudin Shah has come out against the party leadership saying that the party chief, Jayant Chaudhury has "succumbed to the SP pressure." Former MLA and RLD leader, Rajeshwar Bansal quit the party after his son was refused ticket from Shamli Assembly seat. Elections for 58 seats in Western UP will be held during the first phase of the polling on February 10.

Led by state president Rashtriya Jat Mahasangh, Rohit Jakhad, jats sat in protest under the statue of former Prime Minister, Chaudhary Charan Singh in Meerut. Jakhad went on to threaten that if the Jats were ignored during the ticket distribution, "Akhilesh Yadav's dream to become the chief minister would be shattered."

Reports emanating from the state that in Swalkkhas, "RLD supporters including Muslims, are threatening to vote against the alliance's candidate, SP's Ghulam Mohammad." Siwalkhas falls under Baghpat Lok Sabha constituency. On Thursday RLD was forced to change its candidate for Chaprali and no pressure is mounting t do the same in Siwalkhas. RLD supporters campaign at the residence of the party chief, Jayant Chaudhury were demanding that the SP candidate Gulam Mohammad be replaced with a Jat candidate.

Reports of discontent were also emerging from Muzaffarnagar. Even as the region has nearly 38 per cent Muslims the SP-RLD alliance has not given tickets to a single Muslim candidate. This has upset the local Muslim population. An SP leader indicated that this could "split the Muslim votes and move to AIMIM and BSP."  The BSP has fielded five Muslim candidates in this region. There are six assembly segments in Muzaffarnagar.

Meanwhile, Bharat Kisan Union(BKU) leader, Rakesh Tikat's u-turn has also created a flutter in the SP-RLD camp. Earlier Tikat had urged the farmers to vote for the alliance. However, after the visit of the UP minister of state. Sanjeev Balyan, Tikait did a u-turn and said that "BJP is not our enemy." Tikait has indicated that the BKU would remain "neutral."

 Asked whether the BKU could lean towards the BJP, a senior party leader remarked: "Good possibility." The Jats who comprise only two per cent in the entire state, however, account for 18 per cent in western UP. Muslim population in this region is a little over 25 per cent.

Next week, BJP chief, J.P. Nadda and Union Home Minister, Amit Shah are expected to tour Western UP and meet Jat leaders. Changing its strategy, the BJP, which had earlier been targeting SP, has now shifted its focus to RLD. BJP accused the RLD chief of "letting down farmers for his own greed."

Besides wooing the Jats, BJP has also focussed on OBCs and the sizeable Gurjar community in the region. With BSP and AIMIM in the fray, the BJP was hoping that the Muslim votes would split between the SP-RLD alliance and the other two outfits. It may be recalled that bagging nearly 50 per cent of the Jat votes, the BJP had swept western UP winning 91 of the 113 seats during the 2017 Assembly polls.

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