SP-Congress, BSP battle it out with BJP in phase-II
The districts where polling will be held on Feb 15 are Moradabad, Sambhal, Bareilly, Amroha, Pilibhit, Kheri, Shahjahanpur and Badaun.
This phase is important for BJP too as the party would like to repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha election performance in this belt. BSP has a strong presence in Saharanpur and Bijnor districts that have 15 Assembly constituencies.
SP had won 34 of these 67 seats in 2012 while BSP was the winner in 18 constituencies. BJP won 12 and Congress three seats.
Like the first phase that covered western UP, the second phase too has a sizable Muslim population and the community-which has given clear indications that it will vote for whichever candidate is in a position to defeat the BJP in an Assembly constituency- will play a determinant in who wins a seat.
BJP is banking on the upper caste, vaishya and EBC votes this time. The non-Jatav Dalits in these seats are supporting the BJP along with backward castes like Saini, Pal and Kashyap.
Saharanpur, Bijnor and Rampur are more polarised than the other constituencies. The other districts where polling will be held on February 15 are Moradabad, Sambhal, Bareilly, Amroha, Pilibhit, Kheri, Shahjahanpur and Badaun.
In Saharanpur, Congress leader Imran Masood has reportedly had a say in distribution of the Congress and SP tickets. Popular among the locals for being accessible whenever they are in distress, Masood has won a lot of goodwill.
Locals maintain that BJP is putting up a good fight in most seats. The polls in Bijnor had got polarised due to the violence that took place on September 16, 2016 in Pedha village. Three Muslims were killed in the clash. BJP has fielded Suchi Chaudhary, wife of a RSS worker who is among the 27 people jailed in the case.
Deoband is also one of the constituencies that go to polls in the second phase. SP candidate Maavia Ali, the sitting MLA, is a strong candidate.
Prominent leaders in the fray in the second phase include former union minister and Rahul Gandhi’s close associate Jitin Prasada, who is the Congress candidate from Tilhar seat in Shahjahanpur.
SP leader Azam Khan’s son Abdullah is the candidate from Suar seat in Rampur. Samajwadi Party has traditionally been strong in Moradabad, Sambhal, Amroha and Badaun.