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Jats hold key for victory in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar

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Lucknow, Apr 09: Muzaffarnagar, one of 80 parliamentary constituencies in the Hindi heartland state has become one of the most talked about seats in the western region of the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh.

File photo of Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Ajit Singh

Rashtriya Lok Dal (RJD) leader Ajit Singh will take on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s sitting member of Parliament Sanjeev Balyan. Both Baliyan and Singh are jats, a community that has a strong presence not only in Muzaffarnagar but across western UP.

Ajit Singh is trying his luck to enter the LS for the sixth time. This time his political fate depends on its strategy to bring the Jat-Muslim community on its platform in Muzaffarnagar.

Interestingly, Baliyan has pitched himself as a local who is available to people seven days a week and Ajit Singh as an outsider.

Caste equation

Hit by 2013 riots, Jats are divided between Ajit Singh and Baliyan. While the younger generation is likely to vote for Baliyan, the elderly back Ajit Singh.

We can challenge BJP says grand alliance

According to local reports, there are approximately 16.5 lakh voters in Muzaffarnagar constituency. Muslims comprise about 5 lakh voters, Jatavs 2.5 lakh and Jats 1.5 lakh. The remaining 7 lakh voters belong to different Hindu castes including Other Backward Classes and non-Jatav Scheduled Caste groups, and are considered BJP supporters.

Several BJP supporters are also hoping that Jatavs the core voter base of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) could vote for their candidate as they did in 2014, during the Modi wave. They believe that Modi's popularity has strengthened not only among Jats but also among other castes following the February 26 Indian Air Force strikes in Balakot, Pakistan.

Hit by communal riots in 2013, the division in the Jat-Muslim votes in the seat had benefited the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha election.

2013 riots

In 2014, the BJP's most spectacular margins of victory in UP were in the west partly because of sharp polarisation in the wake of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in 2013. Six of the eight seats are in the sugar cane belt with a high proportion of Jats and Muslims. But this time there is no Modi wave, even though one finds the Prime Minister generally gets good approval ratings. But it remains a tough act for the BJP to outnumber the formidable caste arithmetic working against it.

Uttar Pradesh will go to polls in all the seven phases starting April 11. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.

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