The so-called “Hindu exodus” from Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh, which had grabbed headlines, is a non-issue in the electoral battle here.
The real issue here is the widespread unemployment with candidates of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Samajwadi Party also fighting to secure their family turf.
In June last year, Kairana’s BJP MP Hukum Singh claimed that 346 Hindu families had fled due to the building communal tensions.
The electorate in the constituency, in Shamli district, rejects the charge.
“Migration from villages and smaller towns to cities is an issue of national concern but if someone says that only Hindus are migrating from Kairana, I can’t believe. I know even many Muslim families which have migrated from Muzaffarnagar to Kairana after the 2013 riots,” Sanjeev Malik (33), a school teacher, told IANS.
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“There might be one or two families who would have migrated from here but not due to the alleged threats and extortion by criminal elements belonging to a particular community as claimed by Hukum Singh,” he added.
But Nirmal Singh, a Gurjar, contradicts him.
“Hindus here are in minority and they (Muslim) take advantage of it. Hindu families here feel insecure due to the criminal elements and left for safer places,” Singh said.
The BJP has pitted Hukum Singh’s daughter Mriganka Singh from the seat while the SP has fielded Nahid Hasan, son of former MP late Munawar Hasan, who died in a road accident.
Kairana will vote in the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh election on February 11.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has fielded Diwakar Kashyap while Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has pitted M. Massiullah.
Singh represented Kairana in the state assembly seven times before he moved to the Lok Sabha in 2014. In the by-poll, Nahid Hasan won by defeating Hukum Singh’s nephew Anil Chauhan.
After BJP gave ticket to Mriganka, Chauhan joined the Rashtriya Loka Dal (RLD) to make the contest triangular.
Md. Rasheed (22), a college student, told IANS: “Migration is not an election issue. Political parties brought up this issue for electoral benefits but it’s not going to help them. Unfortunately no one talks of unemployment, education and health related issues.”
Hukum Singh, however, told IANS that law and order was an election issue and migration was related to it.
“Security of people is an issue and I stand for them,” Singh said, claiming that even a substantial numbers of Muslims would vote for his daughter.
“They need jobs. Lack of employment has made the youths drug addict. I am fighting for their cause. They see hope in me,” he added.
Mriganka Singh told IANS: “I am a daughter of Kairana. A lot of work needs to be done as the aspiration of people increases by time.”
Haji Mehraj (38), a mobile engineer, said: “Despite all the problems, people of Kairana will vote on religious lines. Hindus will vote for Mriganka Singh while Muslims will vote for Nahid Hasan.
“Ultimately, the electoral battle here is to save the dynasty,” Mehraj said, referring the dominant Singh and Hasan families.
Meharban Ansari, who runs a betel shop at Chowk Bazar area, told IANS that the main fight will be between Hasan and Singh families but he can’t say who will have the last laugh.
“RLD’s Chauhan is leaving no stone unturned to defeat her sister Mriganka Singh. He will fetch some Jat and Gurjar votes. BSP’s Kashyap will get Dalit and Kashyap votes. This equation can hurt the BJP. Even Muslim votes will be divided but to a lesser extant,” Ansari said.
Kairana has around three lakh voters, with Muslims being in majority (around 43 per cent). The rest includes Gurjars (11 per cent), Jats (10), Kashyaps (11) Dalits (12) and Brahmins and others (3 per cent).
The Hasan and Singh families have dominated politics in the region for three decades.
Before joining politics, Hukum Singh took voluntary retirement from the Army as a Captain.
In 1974, he won his first election on Congress ticket. But he was defeated in 1977. He won the assembly elections of 1980 and 1985. After being defeated in three consecutive elections, Singh joined the BJP and won four elections continuously between 1996 and 2012.
In 2012, Singh defeated Munawar Hasan’s brother Haji Anwar Hasan. Rivalry between the Hasan and Singh families is known to everyone in the area.
In 1996, Munnawar Hasan won the Lok Sabha election from Kairana. He has a unique records in his name.
In a very short span of time he became members of all the four houses –Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, Uttar Pradesh Assembly and Uttar Pradesh Council.
His father Akhtar Hasan represented Kairana in Parliament in 1984. After the death of Munawar Hasan, his son Nahid Hasan is carrying forward the political legacy of the family.