Kairana constituency in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pardesh has virtually assumed the dimension of a key player in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Opposition parties have come together to defeat the ruling BJP, hoping to gain momentum ahead of the 2019 national election.
The by-election provides opposition parties a crucial chance to prove their unity, it also gives the BJP a chance to reassert its dominance in Western UP.
The battle for Kairana is as much a BJP versus united opposition battle as it is a battle between the ‘Singhs’ and ‘Hassans’.
Hukum Singh and Munawwar Hassan have remained locked in a see-saw tussle for Kairana, even after their deaths.
While they battled against each other for at least two decades, their political legacies have now been handed over to members of their respective clans, who are eager to appropriate the inheritance.
The Kairana Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after the death of sitting BJP MP Hukum Singh in February. The BJP has fielded Mriganka Singh, daughter of Hukum Singh whose death made the election necessary. She is fighting Rashtriya Lok Dal’s (RLD) Tabassum Hasan, who is supported by the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Hasan is the Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate and has the support of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress
Tabassum Hasan was with the SP until a month ago and switched to the RLD after SP chief Akhilesh Yadav agreed to make RLD the contender for Kairana. Prior to joining the SP, she was elected MP from Kairana in 2009 on a BSP ticket.
Tabassum Begum is the widow of Munawwar Hasan, who was MP from both Kairana and Muzaffarnagar seats in 1996 and 2004 before he died in a road accident in 2008.
While Munawwar, whose father Athar Hasan was also an MP, contested on an SP ticket, his wife Tabassum won in 2009 after his death as a BSP candidate. In 2014, BJP’s Hukum Singh won the Kairana Lok Sabha seat, defeating Tabassum’s son Nahid Hasan, then only 26, by 2.35 lakh votes even though he secured an impressive 3.29 lakh votes, in a highly polarised contest post the Muzaffarnagar riots.
However, BJP spokesperson Chandramohan said the RLD had become an irrelevant party and the legacy and development work of Hukum Singh would see his daughter through comfortably. “The RLD is not in a position to contest elections. All votes for development, oppressed classes, farmers and backwards will go to the BJP,” Mr. Chandramohan said.
The RLD had won the Kairana seat in 1999 and 2004. In 2014, under the Modi wave, the BJP had secured 5.65 lakh votes , which was more than the votes of the RLD, the BSP and the SP combined.
The reported exodus of Hindus from Kairana in 2016 has also emerged as a contentious issue.
“The area is adjacent to Panipat district in Haryana. The labourers (both Hindus and Muslims) from the area go to the neighbouring state to work in the industries there. They go in the morning and return in the evening,” Hasan said while rejecting the claims of any such exodus.
BJP candidate Mriganka Singh, on the other hand, said, “The exodus of Hindu families from Kairana has stopped now. But hundreds of Hindu families had fled from Kairana out of fear and harassment before the 2017 UP Assembly elections”. Apart from Kairana, bypoll to Noorpur assembly constituency in the state will also be held tomorrow.
The Kairana bypolls will be seen as a test for the Opposition unity, which was recently seen at the swearing-in ceremony of Janata Dal Secular’s HD Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru. Nearly 23 top opposition leaders were seen sharing the stage.