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Why victory of a Muslim woman in Kairana by-poll is a defeat of BJP’s communal, patriarchal politics

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New Delhi, June 1: In every election, one face or a personality emerges as a "hero". In the case of the recent Lok Sabha and Assembly by-polls held in 11 states and the results of which were announced on Thursday, the country got a new "champion", Begum Tabassum Hasan, who gave a deadly blow to the might of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its home turf Uttar Pradesh by winning the Kairana Lok Sabha by-poll.

Prior to the by-polls held in four Lok Sabha and 10 Assembly seats where the opposition parties emerged victorious, in the Karnataka Assembly elections held in May, it's HD Kumaraswamy, the 'chosen one' from the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance, who was crowned with the chief ministerial post. Four years ago, then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi like a "gladiator" crushed the Congress regime and became the Prime Minister.

Begum Tabassum Hasan

The victory of 47-year-old Hasan, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate, backed by the Congress, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), from Kairana, known to be the saffron party's bastion, not only further consolidated the Opposition's unity ahead of the 2019 General Elections, but gave hope to all those who still strongly believe in secular and liberal ethos of the country.

Experts are calling the decision to field Hasan, the soft-spoken politician from Kairana in Western Uttar Pradesh, where politics is all about caste, community and religion, a masterstroke by Opposition leaders SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and RLD leader Jayant Chaudhury.

The two young politicians' decision to stand strongly behind Hasan, who had first won her Lok Sabha election from Kairana as a BSP candidate in 2009, is seen as a message against communal, divisive and patriarchal politics, commonly associated with the BJP.

With her win, Hasan, whose late husband Munawwar Hasan was also a former Member of Parliament (MP), became the first Muslim MP from Uttar Pradesh since 2014. The politically important Uttar Pradesh has a total of 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Out of the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh, where fear of Muslim backlash looms large post the coming to power of the BJP at the Centre in 2014 and in the state in 2017, a woman to represent the Muslim population of the state in the lower house of Parliament is a matter of great pride for Hasan and her political mentors like Yadav and Chaudhury, who although are younger to her, guided her like "big brothers" in the hotly-contested by-poll.

Hasan, who had won the most talked about seat in the recent by-polls, not only defeated her nearest rival, BJP's Mriganka Singh (again a woman), by over 55,000 votes, but has actually given a jolt to the winning combination of the BJP--PM Modi, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath and BJP president Amit Shah.

All the three big leaders are considered as the star campaigners of the saffron party. Adityanath had extensively campaigned for Singh, whose father and BJP politician late Hukum Singh had previously won the Kairana Lok Sabha seat in 2014. Hukum Singh died in February this year which resulted in the by-poll.

Adityanath had also camped in the constituency for several days before the elections. In fact, just a day before the by-poll early this week, Modi during the inauguration of first phase of Delhi-Meerut Expressway, just a few kilometers away from Kairana, attacked the Opposition unity, indirectly asking voters to vote for the BJP candidate against Hasan.

While loss of 11 out of 14 seats in the by-polls augurs bad for the BJP, it is Kairana catastrophe that the BJP won't be able to forget easily especially months after it lost Uttar Pradesh's two more important Lok Sabha constituencies Gorakhpur and Phulpur, again because of the coming together of the SP and the BSP.

Election in a complicated seat like Kairana is never easy to understand, even for well-experienced political analyst, where caste and religion play a deadly combination.

In Kairana around 5.5 lakh voters are Muslims, 3 lakh voters are Hindus and 1.5 lakh voters are Jats. It is the coming together of the Jats (the RLD is mostly a Jat party) and the Muslims (Hasan who represents the community) that helped the Opposition to win the communally sensitive seat in Western Uttar Pradesh. Hasan got 4.81 lakh votes while her BJP rival got 4.36 lakh.

In Western Uttar Pradesh, communal tensions had broken out on several occasions in the past. The most horrific in the recent past was the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

"This is a vote for the Opposition unity," RLD leader and former Lok Sabha member Chaudhary, who relentlessly campaigned for Hasan, told The Indian Express.

"It definitely indicates healing of the social strain. People (Jats and Muslims) have voted together. The proof lies in the pudding of victory," added Chaudhary, the son of veteran politician and RLD supremo Ajit Singh.

SP president Yadav during a press meet on Thursday said, "I thank the people from the bottom of my heart that they came out in large numbers in blistering heat, through the day, to cast their vote. They had made it a point to bear whatever the circumstances to come out just to teach a lesson to the BJP. I also thank all other political leaders who came together and stood together to ensure that we win."

After Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the win in Kairana vindicates the stand of the Opposition to stay united against the BJP ahead of the all-important 2019 General Elections. More importantly, Kairana by-poll result is a victory of secular and liberal ideals of the country where women empowerment is not merely about slogans like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, but giving the baton of power to women for social change.

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