Meerut/Saharanpur: Candidate selection of the RLD-SP-BSP combine, polarisation on religious lines and the Balakot air strike together may result in victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saharanpur and Meerut Lok Sabha seats.

On the Meerut seat, the RLD-SP-BSP combine has put up Haji Yaqub Quraishi (BSP) as their consensus candidate. Quraishi shot into the limelight in 2006 when he announced a Rs 51crore bounty on the head of a Danish cartoonist, alleging disrespect to Islam, and is the sole polarising factor in the area.

Quraishi is in direct contest with BJP’s incumbent MP Rajendra Agrawal who in 2014 had won by 232,326 margins.

With an eye to split the Hindu upper caste and Baniya votes, the Congress has put up Harendra Agrawal, son of former Chief Minister late Babu Banarsi Das.

From Saharanpur, Congress’ Imran Masood is in fray.

During the 2014 campaign, Masood had threatened to chop off Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hands. BSP has put up Fazul-ur-Rehman as its candidate who is banking on the support of SP and RLD. The duo on this seat will face incumbent MP Raghav Lakahnpal of BJP.

A young voter in Meerut asked: “In Meerut, we all are up to support Modiji; he has brought India to the limelight and has taught Pakistan a lesson. Whom should we vote for, Quraishi or Modiji?”

A similar sentiment could be sensed in Hapur’s Harisinghpur village where BJP’s Rajendra Agrawal had come to campaign on Wednesday. “People love me so much that I don’t need to ask them for their support; they (voters of Harisinghpur r) all want to re-elect Modi as Prime Minister,” Agrawal told The Sunday Guardian.

Harisnghpur has a sizable number of Dalit and Jat voters. Many voters said they can’t vote for Quraishi to “see him promoting criminal elements”.

About the Congress candidate, political pundits say that Harendra Agrawal is likely to split the upper caste Hindu and Baniya votes which further may add up in favour of Qurashi. However, the sentiment among voters is different.

Rakesh Kumar, a voter, told The Sunday Guardian: “Voters of Meerut are not taking the Congress candidate seriously; people of this seat understand that the Congress strategy is to make Quraishi win and that’s not going to happen.”

Jaikarna Gupta, another voter in the area, said: “Here, one can easily see the huge fan following for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

A highly polarised seat, Meerut is also working as the centre of command for the BJP from where the party is pushing the strategy for 14 constituencies of western UP. With total 1,113,384 votes, Meerut has five Assembly segments—Kithore, Meerut Cantonment, Meerut, Meerut South and Hapur.

In Saharanpur, however, the case is not even defensible for the RLD-SP-BSP alliance. 2014 poll data shows that even after coming together, the alliance cannot garner the total votes clocked by BJP’s Raghav Lakhanpal. In 2014, the BSP and SP together polled even less than 25% of the total votes.

The BJP once again is relying on its sitting MP Raghav Lakhanpal to retain this seat.

It is being said that the division of votes among the Muslim voters is likely to help Lakhanpal and this fact is even in the minds of Muslim voters in Saharanpur.

Safi Quraishi, a Muslim voter from the Behat Assembly constituency, told The Sunday Guardian: “Both Imran Masood and Fazul-ur-Rehman have quiet popularity among Muslim voters and this will lead to split in the voters and will make Lakhnapal’s victory easier.”

The problem for Congress candidate Imran is even greater as Gaddas and Qureshis, who constitute the chunk of Muslim votes in Saharanpur, are favouring BSP candidate Rahman. Saharanpur is the lone constituency where Muslims constitute 42% of votes.

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