Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh:
The Samajwadi Party and BJP leaders have been exchanging barbs.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is campaigning on Saturday in Western Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar. This comes a day after Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav along with his Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) ally Jayant Chaudhary launched a sharp attack against the BJP here. Mr Yadav had dismissed the BJP's poll issue of the exodus of Hindus from Kairana as well as BJP's post poll alliance offer to Jayant Chaudhary saying, "Who is accepting their invitation? Imagine what condition they are in that they are compelled to invite?" Mr Chaudhary himself had also dismissed the offer earlier saying that he is not a "chavanni" that he will flip so easily.
Mr Shah, while addressing the public during a campaign programme, said, "Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhary are together only till counting. If their (SP) government is formed, then Azam Khan will sit (in their government) and Jayant Bhai will be out. Their candidates' list can say what will happen after elections." He also challenged Akhilesh Yadav saying, "Akhilesh babu is not even ashamed, yesterday he said here that the law and order situation is not good Akhilesh babu, today I have come to give our figures in a public programme, if you have the courage, declare the figures of your regime in a press conference tomorrow."
Mr Shah dismissed all other parties saying, "Earlier SP-BSP ruled here, when Behenji's (BSP Chief Mayawati) party used to come, she used to talk about one caste. When Congress party came they used to talk about family and when Akhilesh babu used to come, he used to talk about goondas, mafia and appeasement."
The Samajwadi Party and BJP leaders have been exchanging barbs. After Akhilesh Yadav yesterday claimed that his chopper was earlier halted in Delhi as part of BJP's conspiracy to prevent him from flying to Muzaffarnagar, UP Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya tweeted, "Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav's plane failed, the campaign plan failed. The public punctured the cycle in 2014", a reference to SP's election symbol.
The farmers' movement has given a new chance at revival to the RLD in its political bastion of Western UP and its alliance with the Samajwadi Party is posing a big threat to the BJP which did extremely well in 2017 here. The BJP won 83 out of the 108 seats in Western UP, which means three out of every four seats - a strike rate of 76 per cent.
The BJP is now trying to placate several sections including farmers and is leaving no stone unturned in its fight for Western UP seats. All of its top leaders have been on a campaign spree throughout the region, from carrying out door-to-door campaigns to holding meetings with local party workers.
The SP-RLD alliance is hoping that the Jat-Muslim combination will find consolidation on the ground in the backdrop of the farmers' protests. The Jats and Muslims had parted ways after the 2013 communal riots that shook Muzaffarnagar. Those riots had not only bolstered the BJP's impressive victory in the 2017 UP assembly elections, but also had resonance at the national level in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
When NDTV visited Muzaffarnagar's biggest marketplace Shiv Chowk to get the views of its people, many appreciated the BJP's work on development and also connected with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's repeated mention of Ram Temple. Some, however, said the BJP failed in creating more jobs.
A local resident, Vimal Madan, said, "There is a BJP wave here. Crime incidents are almost nil. The BJP has definitely done really well by constructing the Ram Temple. I don't think that the other community has any issue with it. People live with unity and brotherhood here."
A trader, Bharat Arora, said, "BJP has done a lot of work to improve infrastructure from better roads to improved electricity supply. The only party who can go anywhere near competing with BJP is the Samajwadi Party because for them the community factor will come into play."
Ramesh Chaudhary, a resident, said, "It is the SP-RLD alliance that will win from here. BJP has done nothing and completely failed in providing jobs. There is unemployment everywhere. It has no work to talk about and that is why keeps playing the Hindu-Muslim card. In fact, I believe that governments should be changed every five years and that is what keeps all leaders on their toes and prevents them from taking the public for granted."