Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Who will Win the Dalit Capital of Agra?

Agra turns into a flashpoint for the election battle between the BJP, the BSP and the SP, all of which are counting on support from important voter groups, including Dalits and Muslims.
Representational Image
Representational Image

Agra/New Delhi: On May 7, the Agra Lok Sabha constituency — also referred to as the Dalit capital of Uttar Pradesh — will cast its ballot in the third phase of the 2024 general elections. The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded its sitting MP Satyapal Singh Baghel to take on Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate Suresh Chandra Kardam and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) nominee Pooja Amrohi. The SP and the BSP seem confident about winning the key seat, but the BJP is seeking to register victory again for the fourth time.

Since independence, this politically crucial seat had been a bastion of the Congress for many years. But in this Braj region constituency, the political tide reversed during the Ram Mandir agitation in the 1990s, and the BJP gained ground.

In 1999 and 2004, the SP wagered on Bollywood star Raj Babbar, who registered a thumping victory twice. The BJP came second.

The people of Agra have made sure that the BJP wins and widens its margin of victory every year since 2009. What is noticeable here is the emergence of the BJP in the Dalit capital, which is home to the iconic Taj Mahal.

SP Singh Baghel, the Union minister of state for health, is running for the Agra Lok Sabha constituency (urban) once more. Even though the poll campaign in the city has not yet reached its zenith, Baghel is confident of his victory. In a conversation with The Mooknayak, he asserted that his main goal is to widen his victory margin.

Since the “Centre’s welfare schemes reached every household and the law and order situation has improved — ensuring a sense of safety and security” together with “development initiatives”, he believes that the “Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi)-Yogi (Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath)” factor will ensure an easy win for him.

Though the celebrations of Dali icon Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar’s birth day are still ongoing in Agra, BSP’s Amrohi, who also has to deal with the narrative that she is an “outsider”, is doing everything in her power to make sure that Dalit votes remains united in her favour.

The daughter of Congressman Satya Behen, she expressed optimism that the current political atmosphere will tip the scales in favor of the BSP on the seat.

Suresh Chandra Kardam, who has a business of footwear, emphasises that this is a battle to preserve the Constitution rather than merely an election.

Claiming to have support of every segment of the society, he is also targeting the BSP’s core Jatav voter base and appears confident that Muslims would support him in entirety.

Why Dalits and Muslims Hold the Key

Data from 2019 indicates that the Agra Lok Sabha seat had almost 19 lakh voters. With an estimated 2.5 to 3 lakh votes each, Dalits and Muslims make up the two largest voting blocs in the city.

The Punjabi and Vaishya communities constitute the second-most important voting group here, after the Brahmin community.

The BSP and the SP have both fielded candidates from the Jatav community, which gives the BJP and its nominee Baghel confidence. The saffron party is hoping that the Mayawati-led party will also eat into Muslim community’s votes, even though the Dalit votes are expected to split three ways.

The BSP or the SP’s considerable voter mobilisation among the Muslim and Dalit communities could pose a threat to the BJP.

Voters from the Muslim community whom The Mooknayak spoke to declared that they would support Kardam, the Opposition INDIA alliance candidate. They alleged the BJP governments, both in the Centre and the state, have posed them an “existential threat”. The CAA poll plank of the BJP was rejected by them.

Conversely, Hindu voters, particularly “upper” caste electorates, consistently bring up the Ram Temple.

Voters from the Vaishya community claimed the Modi-Yogi combination keeps the BJP at the top of their political choice. They said the saffron party has fulfilled almost all its promises: construction of a grand Ram Temple, abrogation of Article 370 and “improvement” in the law-and-order situation in the state.

However, it’s not all positive news for the BJP in Agra. The farmers in this “aloo belt” (potato growing region) of Uttar Pradesh contend the BJP has “failed” to fulfill its pledge to establish potato processing units here. Even if they largely support the BJP, their rage is visible.

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