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UP Polls Phase 2: How the Trends in Minority Seats May Spell Trouble for BJP

The highly polarised political atmosphere over the hijab row posed challenges to the BJP in phase two of UP polls.

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The second phase of the political battle in Uttar Pradesh is over. On Monday, 14 February, 2.02 crore voters decided the fate of 586 candidates on 55 crucial Assembly seats in nine districts.

Till 5 pm on Monday, the average polling percentage of the second phase stood at 60.44 and hinted at the emerging political scenario in Lucknow.

The hijab row started in Karnataka and engulfed the whole of north India at a time when votes for phase 2 were being polled in UP. Muslim voters form a sizeable chunk in the nine districts that went to poll in this phase. Rampur and Moradabad have around 50 percent Muslim voters followed by Bijnore with 43 percent, Saharanpur 42 percent, Amroha 41 percent, Sambhal 33 percent, and 23 percent in Bandau.

The highly polarised political milieu over the hijab row posed challenges to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but divisive politics continued.
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The BJP complained to the election commission that burqa-clad women were doing bogus voting in the second phase of the polls. It was alleged that burqa-clad women were being allowed to vote without their identity being examined. In Amroha, BJP candidate Ram Singh Saini openly came out and alleged bogus voting by burqa-clad women.

Meanwhile, the video of school girls being stopped from entering the schools from Mandya district in Karnataka was going viral too.

Voting Pattern, a Challenge for BJP

The voting trend in minority-dominated areas may become a major challenge for the BJP. Rampur, Moradabad, Bijnore, and Saharanpur witnessed average polling of 55 percent. The average Muslim population in these districts is around 40 percent. Minority voters have come out in big numbers to use their franchise and were definitely affected by the din over burqa, hijab, and niqab in the country.

The pattern in individual Assembly segments gives a clearer idea about the hijab row and its impact on voters' psyche. The poll percentage in Behat was 72.21 percent while 65.76 percent polling was recorded in Amroha city, 65.48 percent in Kundarki, 63.94 percent in Dhampur, 63 percent in Saharanpur rural, 59.48 percent in Moradabad rural, 56.02 percent in Rampur, and 57.4 percent in Sambhal.

All these seats are minority-dominated where Muslim voters form up to 55 percent of the electorate.
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The average polling in these Assembly segments is 55.05 percent.

If we consider the voting average in other minority-dominated segments along with these, the estimated polling percentage is around 60.03. Reports from many minority-dominated seats confirm a surge in polling up to 3 percent due to the polarising political atmosphere.

It is pertinent to note that Rampur, Moradabad, Bijnore, and Saharanpur are four districts where the Muslim population forms the largest chunk in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Less Polling in Comparison to Previous Elections

For the BJP, it could be alarming that the nine districts that went to poll on 14 February have recorded 5 percent less polling in comparison to the last Assembly election in 2017. The average poll percentage recorded in phase 2 is 60.44 percent while it was 65.33 percent in these areas in 2017.

Historical data tells us that whenever poll percentage increases, it goes in favour of the BJP. Less polling not only affects the other parties but fewer votes go into the BJP's fold.

The highly polarised political atmosphere over the hijab row posed challenges to the BJP in phase two of UP polls.

The Caste Equation in Phase 2

Though The Quint has detailed the importance of Muslim votes in phase 2 of the election it is also important to note that in western UP Dalit and upper-caste segments also hold sway over the political fortunes. In the last election, the BJP had managed to secure a sizeable chunk of support from non-Yadav OBCs in these areas.

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In the first phase, the SP-RLD combine is claiming gains because of the overwhelming influence of Jat voters. But in the second phase, OBC votes like Kurmi and Saini hold the key to success instead of Jats.

Kurmi voters form a sizeable chunk in the area which went to poll in the second phase and they are influenced by the BJP.

OBC-dominated Bareilly in the last election showed the influence of the BJP in the non-Yadav OBC areas as it swept all nine seats.

A swing in OBC votes in the second phase could prove decisive for the political parties. In the 2017 elections, the BJP had won 38 seats out of 55 in this region while the SP had won 15. The Congress could win only two seats.

However, 11 Muslim candidates had won in 2017 in 55 seats in nine districts which went to poll in the second phase in UP.

(Translated from Hindi by Arvind Singh.)

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