It is bahubali vervus bayanveer in Khatauli, a prestige bypoll for the BJP


With the Azad Samaj Party (ASP) declaring support for the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RJD)-Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate in Khatauli on November 15, the bypoll has turned interesting as now, with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress not contesting the bypoll, the RLD can hope to build on its Jat-Muslim-Gurjar combined vote bank that fell short by 16,000 votes in the Assembly polls earlier this year. The BSP candidate fetched more than 30,000 votes.

With around 77,000 Muslims and 57,000 Dalits in an electorate of around 3,12,000, Khatauli is considered to be a tough constituency because it neither has one dominant caste group nor does it have a significant Muslim population that could change the outcome.

The election was necessitated after two-time BJP MLA Vikram Saini, who defeated RLD’s Rajpal Saini earlier this year, was disqualified after he was convicted in a case related to the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. While the BJP has fielded his spouse Rajkumari Saini, the RLD has placed its faith in four-time former MLA and Gurjar strongman Madan Bhaiya, who has several criminal cases pending against him.

In the analysis of Assembly elections, sources in the RLD said it had been observed that in the Jat-dominated villages, the Scheduled Castes voted for the BSP, and in Muslim-dominated villages, they pressed the button for the BJP. “The alliance [with the ASP] will strengthen our presence in communities where we have been found lacking in the past,” Anil Dubey, national spokesperson, RLD, said. After the election results earlier this year, the RLD leadership had said that they had missed a trick by not giving ASP leader Chandra Shekhar Azad his due in western Uttar Pradesh.

Chandra Shekhar Azad with Jayant Singh in New Delhi.

Chandra Shekhar Azad with Jayant Singh in New Delhi.
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement 

However, by fielding a candidate with serious criminal charges and who openly proclaims himself a bahubali (strongman), the RLD has lost some of the moral ground that it created after party chief Chaudhary Jayant Singh highlighted the rush in disqualifying SP leader Azam Khan, while keeping Mr. Saini’s case pending till the last minute.

Party sources said a bypoll is like a quick wedding where you need a candidate who had the resources and influence to perform in a short time, and Madan Bhaiya has those qualities. “Madan Bhaiya calls himself prabhavshali (influential) and not a bahubali,” Mr. Dubey said.

Madan Bhaiya won his last election in 2007, and for many, he doesn’t fit in the current stream of politics. Ravi Chaudhary, a resident of Mansurpur village in Khatauli, who works in Delhi, said the area has seen development around NH58 in the last decade. “We have a McDonald’s [restaurant] just outside the village and the Cheetal Grande [restaurant] is not far either. We don’t expect a bahubali from Loni, known for its high crime rate, could bring development to Khatauli. Even Madan Bhaiya’s arsenal looks outdated,” Mr. Chaudhary said.

It is not the first time, though, that the RLD has picked a Gurjar candidate from Khatauli. Their last MLA from Khatauli in 2012 was Kartar Singh Bhadana, a Gurjar. In 2022, Mr. Bhadana fought on the BSP ticket and fetched more than 30,000 votes. The party also feels that Chandan Chauhan, its MLA from the neighbouring Meerapur, is also a Gurjar and will help influence the voters.

The seat has around 27,000 Saini voters but it also has around 19,000 Pal and around 17,000 Kashyap voters who identify with the Saini community that largely relies on horticulture. It becomes a consolidated group for the BJP to counter the Muslim voters, many of whom work outside and may not be enthused by the bypoll to return home. The rest of the voters are almost equally divided between Gurjars, Jats, Brahmins, and Vaishyas.

“Most of the Jats in the constituency are well endowed and they would not like to part ways with the ruling party in a bypoll. Even in the Assembly election, when there were strong hopes of a regime change, only 50% of Jats voted for RLD. We are not expected to stretch it further,” admitted an RLD leader.

As for the BJP, Khatauli is a prestige seat for Cabinet Minister and Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjeev Balyan, the BJP’s Jat face in the region. The SP-RLD won eight out of 12 seats in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and Baghpat, districts most affected by the Muzaffarnagar riots. It’s common knowledge in the area that Mr. Saini was Mr. Balyan’s man. Despite a section of the party distancing itself from Mr. Saini after he made a series of controversial remarks, which earned him the title of bayanveer, he was endured because of his proximity to Mr. Balyan. It was the Khatauli Assembly segment that turned the tide in Mr. Balyan’s favour in 2019, during a tough contest with the then RLD supremo, Ajit Singh.

This is also the first test of Bhupinder Singh Chaudhary, the party chief, in the sugarcane belt, and in a way, the bypoll will set the mood for 2024, when the RLD chief is expected to contest from Muzaffarnagar.


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