Abdul Bari Masoud dwells upon the public ire and protests that BJP candidates for Assembly elections are facing in many constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, and reports how the party is making frantic efforts to protect itself from losing ground in the electoral race.

BJP leaders and party nominees have been facing public ire and protests in towns and villages across the western UP districts despite the top BJP leadership’s desperate efforts to appease the electorally powerful Jat community ahead of the first phase of polling in the region. This public ire is not limited to the western region of the state, but can be found throughout the state as the local people are seen driving out ruling party candidates from their villages.

Take the case of BJP MLA Devendra Singh Lodhi, who is seeking re-election from the Sayana assembly constituency in Bulandshahar district. He had to confront twice public outrage and shouts against him. 

On January 21, during electioneering at the Nagla Madaripur village, Lodhi faced the fury of the locals. The villagers are apparently heard hooting the MLA and screaming chants against him in footage that went viral after his visit to the area. As Lodhi left the village, gauging the people’s anger against him, he was further accosted by another group of people outside the village and was purportedly heard facing the slogan, “Lodhi Murdabad”.

The residents are also heard in the video wondering why he is seeking votes from them when he has maintained during his time as the people’s representative for the area that the village does not lie within his constituency.

Lodhi also faced the people’s ire in the Maankdi village of the area recently when he was accused of forgetting his pre-poll promises. After facing the people’s wrath, the MLA apologised to the people of the area for his alleged mistakes and promised not to repeat them again.

Lodhi is not the only BJP candidate facing such fierce opposition from people. Another BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini from Khatauli faced the same fate. The people of Munwarpur village in Muzaffarnagar chased Saini away. He was compelled to leave the venue and return in anger to his car.

The people chanted anti-Saini slogans after he visited the area for election campaigning on January 20. Saini can be seen getting back to his car in disgust after the protest in a video that has become popular on social media. Locals can be seen and heard yelling angrily at Saini’s car as the driver honks, attempting to clear the road before eventually driving away.

He was also gheraoed and heckled by a crowd of farmers shouting anti-BJP chants at Bhainsi village in his constituency on January 27. The protesters yelled at him, “You have come after five years!”

It is to recall that when the farmers’ movement was at its height, Saini had chastised farmers protesting along the Delhi borders. Later, Saini claimed that those who objected to his presence were under the influence of alcohol.

Sahendra Singh Ramala, BJP candidate from Chaprauli in Baghpat, faced black flags in Daha village on January 28 and was not permitted to enter Nirpura village later that day.

While campaigning in Shakarpur village in Sambhal’s Asmoli constituency, BJP candidate Harendra Singh Rinku was chased away by irate residents. Some may be seen in a widely circulated video supposedly alleging that the BJP had “placed spikes at the Ghazipur border to disturb the peaceful farmers’ agitation”. They claimed that BJP activists in Lakhimpur Kheri “opened fire” on farmers as well as “using water cannons and tear gas.” “We will not allow any BJP leader to enter the village,” one of them added.

According to sources, those protesting against the BJP candidates were members of a farmers’ union. “We can’t forget what the BJP did to farmers,” one protester remarked. “We will not vote for any candidate from the Bharatiya Janata Party.”

“There were a few men who originally talked to me by identifying themselves as farmers,” Singh said. “We later discovered that these were SP agents attempting to sabotage the peace. I’ve asked the district panchayati raj officer to inspect the village’s status and perform any outstanding work. The village chief is on our side, and I met a number of villagers who pledged to vote for the BJP. They are dissatisfied with the SP candidate Pinki Yadav, a sitting MLA, since she has failed to deliver on her promises.”

Meanwhile, a case has been registered against him for violation of model code of conduct and COVID-19 guidelines. The BJP candidate was holding an election meeting in Chaupa village, in which a large number of people had gathered without masks and violating social distancing.

When he visited the Valmiki Basti in Khatauli, even state BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh had to face the wrath of the locals. Several youngsters yelled slogans against him as his cavalcade approached the Valmiki Basti. They were enraged over the Hathras incident, in which a Dalit teen girl was allegedly kidnapped, gang-raped and brutalised before being murdered, and her body was incinerated by cops at midnight in the absence of her family in October 2020.

In another incident, BJP Siwalkhas candidate Maninderpal Singh came under attack at Chur village on January 24 evening. When he went for door-to-door canvassing in the district, someone threw stones at him, and his vehicle’s windowpanes were shattered. A supporter of BJP, who was driving the car, took out his country-made pistol to intimidate the angry villagers. An FIR has been filed against 20 individuals with listing of 65 unidentified persons. Despite the fact that Singh had not made a complaint, the police filed the FIR on their own.

BJP Meerut city candidate Kamal Dutt Sharma also faced public ire during his door-to-door campaign. He and his supporters were not allowed to put up posters in many localities of the city.

Keshav Prasad Maurya, deputy chief minister of UP, has also faced the music in his home turf Sirathu, where he is running in the upcoming assembly elections.  He was seen in a video that went viral on social media escorted by the police and his supporters to protect him from the slogan shouting public, including women in large numbers.

A video of UP minister Anil Sharma’s son distributing cash to some people went viral after which he was issued a notice by the returning officer. The viral video purportedly shows Sharma’s son Kush distributing Rs 100 notes to people.

There have been over a dozen incidents of black flags being waved or mud being thrown at BJP candidates’ convoys recorded from villages in western UP.

The BJP blamed the rival Samajwadi Party and its coalition partner Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) for the protest videos that went viral on social media platforms against BJP candidates and leaders. It all started with protests against BJP candidate Vikram Saini in Muzaffarnagar district.

The BJP vice-president for western UP, Manoj Poswal, claimed that the opposition was behind the protests. “The majority of the assailants were waving RLD or Opposition party flags. This reflects their discontent as they prepare to lose the upcoming election. It also demonstrates RLD President Jayant Chaudhary’s waning hold on his party’s members,” he added.

“How can one assault while waving his party’s flag?” said Rajkumar Sangwan, a top RLD leader.

“Disgruntled BJP leaders arranged the protest against Maninderpal Singh in Siwalkhas because he is an outsider, a resident of Sardhana town, and a party hopper.” He switched to the BJP after a long stint with the SP and BSP.”

Denying any involvement in these incidences of public ire, SP president Akhilesh Yadav said that the BJP leaders were being ‘thrashed’ by the villagers but the TV channels were not showing it.

BKU spokesperson Rakesh Tikait has also said the people’s anger was justified. Speaking at Taharpur village in Bijnor, he said, “If government leaders overlook farmers’ problems, they will face protests.”

Speaking with Radiance, Saharanpur-based senior journalist Shahid Zubairi said these protests were spontaneous and reflected the real mood not only in Western Uttar Pradesh but also in the rest of the state. Coming together of Yadavs, Muslims and Jats is an awesome combination in this region that is why Union Home Minister Amit Shah is making frantic efforts to woo RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary and doing himself door-to-door campaign, he added. Jayant Chaudhary however turned down Shah’s gestures, stating he wasn’t a 25-paisa coin that would flip.

Lucknow-based senior journalist and former editor, Obaidullah Nasir told Radiance that Mandal is dominating Kamandal in the upcoming UP assembly elections for the first time in over thirty years. The BJP, particularly under Modi’s leadership, has captured a sizable share of backward caste votes, that account for over 55 per cent of the population of UP.

While the BJP swept western UP in the 2017 elections, it is facing a tough battle this time around due to lingering discontent over the contentious farm legislations that the Modi government scrapped after a year of protests. BJP MLAs were often heckled in west UP villages during the agitation, with the lawmaker from Budhana in Muzaffarnagar encountering a crowd of BKU workers on August 14, last year.

The Samajwadi Party and RLD combination, which might bring together their separate support bases of Yadavs, Muslims and Jats, could cut into BJP votes. The 2013 anti-Muslim violence in Muzaffarnagar had pushed Muslims and Jats apart, which contributed to the BJP’s victory in 2017.

The farmers’ agitation brought Jats and Muslims closer together once more, and the Jat community has finally recognised their error in dismissing the RLD leadership, which used to raise their issues in Parliament and the assembly, according to Zubairi.

Top BJP officials, including Amit Shah, are spearheading the party’s efforts in the region which goes to polls in two phases on February 10 and 14. They are brazenly  resorting old communal rhetoric to  woo the voters. 

“About 200 ruling party MLAs publicly revolted against their CM for the first time in UP, but they were discreetly suppressed, and now that the polls have been called, this fury has spilled over, and there is an exodus from the BJP, giving Modi and Amit Shah sleepless nights,” as Nasir sums up the election mood in the state.

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