BJP win Muzaffarnagar bypoll: a victory for divisive politics?

The Muzaffarnagar by-poll won by the BJP today, was a litmus test for the party before assembly elections in 2017 because the party’s prestige was at stake. The focus of all the political parties and the media was directed at this one constituency even though there were by-polls in two more assembly seats in UP — Bikapur and Deoband won by the Samajwadi Party and Congress, respectively.

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This is the first assembly bypoll after the 2013 communal riots and the BJP campaigners included MP Hukum Singh and MLA Suresh Rana who were named in cases related to riots. Local MP and Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Balyan too camped in the constituency during the campaign period.

The Muzzaffarnagar victory more than made up for the losses in the other two by-polls. It was crucial for the BJP because it had to assess the impact of the 2013 communal riots and its effect on voters and their polarisation along communal lines.
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“The party was hopeful of a win in Muzaffarnagar because the polarisation of voters after the communal riots two years ago. But still the party was under pressure because if BJP had lost the election, the morale of the state party workers would have been badly affected. This win is vital for BJP because the party is already the target of opposition parties who are uniting against BJP,” said a BJP leader.
Another challenge for the BJP was the ‘sympathy’ vote expected in favour of the Samajwadi Party candidate Gaurav Swaroop – the by-election was held after the death of Gaurav’s father Chitranjan Swaroop who was also minister of state for urban development in Akhilesh government.
Swaroop worked under Cabinet Minister Azam Khan who is the minister in-charge of Muzaffarnagar. During the campaign, Gaurav had promised development in the Muzaffarnagar assembly segment with investments of Rs 500 crore in the remaining one year of current government.
BJP sources said that party will now have the advantage in the ‘divisive politics’ going into the the assembly elections. During the campaign, BJP candidate Kapil Dev Agrawal had coined a slogan, “Bahu-beti ke samman mein—Kapil Dev maidan mein”.
BJP had appealed voters to vote for party candidate Kapil to teach a lesson to those who implicated innocent people in false cases after the riots by invoking National Security Act (NSA) against them after riots.
Party spokesperson Chandra Mohan said that BJP’s win in the Muzaffarnagar by-poll was a defeat for Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Azam Khan.
“Voters of Muzaffarnagar have given a verdict in the BJP’s favour to defeat SP’s politics of misusing money and power. Muzaffarnagar result has raised the morale of the party workers,” said Chandra Mohan who added that BJP also won the by-election for the mayor in Ghaziabad today and that was sign that public was not satisfied with Akhilesh government’s claims of development.