Lakhimpur Kheri votes today in shadow of farm violence : The Tribune India

UP Assembly polls: GROUND REPORT

Lakhimpur Kheri votes today in shadow of farm violence

BJP won all 8 seats in 2017 | Area dominated by Sikhs

Lakhimpur Kheri votes today in shadow of farm violence

Police stop SP supporters from stepping on helipad as party president Akhilesh Yadav leaves in a helicopter from Meja village in Prayagraj. PTI



Tribune News Service

Vibha Sharma

Lakhimpur Kheri/Nighasan, February 22

In the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP had swept all eight constituencies in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri district that shot to limelight in October last year following the mowing down of four farmers under an SUV during a protest against the central farm laws.

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Lakhimpur incident shook the country. It impacted polls in Punjab and Uttarakhand and is a major issue in UP, especially Terai. Four farmers being mowed down is too horrific a scene to be forgotten. Satnam Singh, BKU Leader

With the “Tikunia massacre” (place where violence took place) still fresh on the minds of voters, the question is whether the BJP would be able to repeat its feat.

Largely rural with sugarcane and wheat farms interspersed between some mustard fields, the district also has urban pockets and congested townships that complain of expected problems.

BJP’s main rival Samajwadi Party (SP) is expecting substantial changes in the voting pattern, hoping to gain from the anti-farm laws violence that had also left two BJP workers, a driver and a journalist dead.

Satnam Singh, BKU district president, claims Tikunia would weigh on the minds of people when they cast their vote tomorrow. “It’s an incident that shook the country. It impacted polls in Punjab and Uttarakhand and emerged as a major issue in UP, especially Terai. Four farmers being mowed down under an SUV is too horrific a scene to be forgotten,” he maintains.

Gurmeet Singh Randhawa of the Bharatiya Sikh Sangathan avers that farmers irrespective of their region, religion, caste and political affiliation have united against the “gruesome killings”. “It’s not the question of being a Sikh, Hindu or Muslim. Such incidents can’t be forgotten. They get embedded on your mind and soul, as have Partition and 1984 anti-Sikh riots,” he adds, endorsing the SP. Randhawa belongs to Banbir, the same village as of Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni whose son Ashish is an accused in the case. Jagtar Singh Dhillon from Maricha village claims that even if people decide to vote on the basis of religion, the BJP “will lose six of the eight seats” in the district. “People are angry and it’s obvious they will vote for a party that can defeat the BJP,” he says, dismissing others in the race.

While Sikhs have a substantial presence in the region, others such as OBCs, Brahmins, Muslims and SCs cannot be totally ignored. Analysts claim the BJP “continues to enjoy substantial support”, the only difference being its supporters are not as vocal as that of the SP. While some tentatively say phool (lotus), others say “mixed” or dekhenge (will see)” when asked about their poll mood.

“They (SP) have been out of power for five years, so their cadres and supporters are making more noise,” says a BJP supporter who runs a diagnostic centre at Lakhimpur Kheri. The district has two parliamentary constituencies — Kheri and Dhaurahra —and eight Assembly seats —Mohammadi, Gola Gokarannath, Kasta, Lakhimpur, Srinagar, Nighasan, Dhaurahra and Palia Kalan. Tikunia in Nighasan is an hour’s drive from Lakhimpur Kheri.

Union Minister Mishra, a prominent Brahmin face, represents Kheri. The bail to his son is believed to be aimed at soothing his supporters, mostly Brahmins, who are believed to be upset with ‘Thakurvaad’ of CM Yogi Adityanath.

Incidentally, Randhawa says people have not seen much of either Ajay Mishra or his son during the campaigning. “They may be doing it quietly but nothing openly as this would have made the situation worse for the BJP,” he maintains. It’s not as if the BJP is not aware of the undercurrent. While repeal of the three farm laws was aimed at taking care of the prevailing sentiment, the leadership is making all efforts to polarise with charges against the SP and the Congress and slogans like “Jo Ram ko layenge, unko hi hum layenge”.

Analysts say the death of farmers in an agitation over agrarian issues is always an emotive issue. The death of farmers agitating for loan waiver and higher crop remuneration on June 6, 2017, in police firing in Mandsaur is believed to be one of the reasons for CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan losing MP in 2018.

#lakhimpur kheri #Sikhs

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