Here are the top election battles to watch in Phase 1
Billed as a head-to-head battle between the BJP-led alliances and the Samajwadi Party, Uttar Pradesh’s election is being held in 7 phases – February 10, February 14, February 20, February 23, February 27, March 3 and March 7.
There are nearly 615 candidates vying for the 58 constituencies that will go to the polls on Thursday, February 10. In the 2017 elections, the BJP won 53 of the aforementioned 58 seats spread across 11 western UP districts. As this is a Jat-dominated region, RLD is seen as a key player in this phase.
Here are the main competitions:
Noida: Pankaj Singh (BJP) vs. Sunil Choudhary (SP) vs. Pankhuri Pathak (Congress)
Noida is seen as a prestigious seat for the BJP as defense minister and the son of former UP CM Rajnath Singh, Pankaj Singh, is seeking re-election from here. This seat falls under the district of Gautam Buddha Nagar. In the 2017 election, Singh defeated SP’s Sunil Choudhary by a margin of 1,04,016 votes.
While SP lined up Choudhary again, BSP and AAP ticketed Kripa Ram Sharma and Pankaj Avana respectively. This time there is another strong opponent in Congress, Pankhuri Pathak, who was a former spokesman for the SP.
Kairana: Nahid Hasan (SP) vs. Mriganka Singh (BJP)
This constituency falls under Kairana Lok Sabha segment and is part of Shamli district. While BJP veteran Hukum Singh won that seat from 1996, he was snatched away by SP’s Nahid Hasan in 2014 after the resigned former post in the Lok Sabha was elected.
Also in the 2017 elections, Hasan defeated the daughter of late BJP leader Mriganka Singh by 21,162 votes. Kairana has been the subject of intense discussion after the BJP often alleged the exodus of Hindus from here during the tenure of the Samajwadi party government.
Additionally, SP was criticized for renaming Nahid Hasan as he faced multiple criminal cases related to fraud and extortion. On January 15, Hasan was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police in a case registered under the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act and remanded in custody by the court MP/ MLA. BJP’s Mriganka Singh will face off against the incarcerated leader again while BSP’s Rajendra and Congress’ Akhlak are the other key contenders.
Thana Bhawan: Suresh Kumar (BJP) vs. Ashraf Ali (RLD)
After winning Thana Bhawan twice in a row, UP Minister Suresh Kumar is seeking a third term as an MP amid sugarcane growers’ troubles over pending dues. He is currently Minister of Sugar Cane and Sugar Development in the government led by Yogi Adityanath. He garnered 16,817 votes against his closest challenger, BSP’s Abdul Waris Khan, in previous elections.
On this occasion, the SP RLD ally fielded Ashraf Ali who lost to Kumar by a narrow margin of 265 votes in the 2012 polls. Ali is the former chairman of Jalalabad City Council. On the other hand, Congress gave a ticket to Satyam Saini while the BSP trusted Zaheer Malik.
Agra Rural: Babi Rani Maurya (BJP) vs. Mahesh Kumar (RLD)
This seat gained immense significance with the BJP fielding former Uttarakhand Governor Babi Rani Maurya from here. After serving as mayor of Agra from 1995 to 2000, Baby Rani Maurya narrowly lost to his BSP opponent from the seat of Etmadpur in the 2007 assembly elections. On August 26, 2018, she was sworn in as Governor of Uttarakhand, becoming the state’s second female governor after Margaret Alva.
In an unexpected development, Maurya resigned from her post on September 8, 2021 and was appointed as the BJP Vice President by party chairman JP Nadda 12 days later. In 2017, BJP’s Hemlata Diwakar comfortably won Agra Rural. The other candidates are Upendra Singh from Congress, Kiran Prabha Keshari from BSP and Mahesh Kumar from RLD.
Muzaffarnagar: Kapil Dev Aggarwal (BJP) vs. Saurabh (RLD)
With BJP leaders raking in the Muzaffarnagar riots during the election campaign, this constituency has become a test of whether farmers are willing to trust the SP-RLD despite anger over farm laws. While BJP’s Kapil Dev Aggarwal, who is the UP Minister for Vocational Training and Skills Development, has held the seat since 2015, he won by narrow margins.
For example, he defeated Gaurav Swarup Bansal of the SP by 10,704 votes in the previous elections. This time, RLD nominated Saurabh while Congress nominated Subodh Sharma from this seat.
Mathura: Shrikant Sharma (BJP) vs. Pradeep Mathur (Congress)
This constituency falls under the Mathura Lok Sabha segment and is part of the Mathura district. As speculation swirled that UP MP Keshav Prasad Maurya was eyeing that seat, the BJP gave the ticket to the State Minister for Energy and Additional Power Sources, Shrikant Sharma.
The latter beat Pradeep Mathura of Congress by a staggering margin of 1,01,161 votes in the last assembly elections. Mathur, who held the seat from 2002 to 2017, was again nominated by the Congress party. On the other hand, SP fielded former MP for Sadabad, Devendra Agrawal.
Sardhana: Sangeet Som (BJP) vs Atul Pradhan (SP)
For this election, the BJP once again relied on Muzaffarnagar riots accused Sangeet Som. He was arrested on September 20, 2013, for allegedly uploading a fake video that allegedly played a role in sparking communal tensions. Som won by 2012 as well as 2017. On the other hand, Atul Pradhan is the SP candidate. This is considered an interesting contest due to the impact of farmer unrest and the perception of anti-incumbency.