Apathy and anger in the BJP bastion of Bareilly

Narendra Modi, Adityanath and the BJP’s Bareilly candidate, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, greet the crowd during a roadshow on 26 April. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

The commercial centre of Uttar Pradesh’s Rohilkhand region, Bareilly, has a rich history—and many names. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Panchala, which, according to the Mahabharata, was the home of Draupadi. It has been called Nath Nagari, because of its many Shiv temples, as well as Bareilly Sharif, in recognition of the dargah of the nineteenth-century Islamic scholar and poet Ahmed Raza Khan, popularly known as A’la Hazrat, who set up the Barelvi order to counter the spread of Wahhabism. Today, it is known for its bamboo furniture, which attracts worldwide demand.

Bareilly voted in the third phase of the 2024 general election, on 7 May. Turnout had been indifferent in the first two phases—Uttar Pradesh recorded 61.1 percent in the first phase and 55.2 percent in the second, both significantly lower than the national average. The constituency had a turnout of 57.9 percent, almost identical to the average for the ten UP seats voting in the phase.

In Bareilly, the Bharatiya Janata Party set aside its eight-term incumbent, Santosh Gangwar, a 75-year-old former union minister, and gave the ticket to another Kurmi, Chhatrapal Singh Gangwar, who won the Baheri assembly seat in 2017 but lost it five years later. The Samajwadi Party nominated Praveen Singh Aron, who had defeated Santosh Gangwar in 2009 on a Congress ticket. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s Chhotelal Gangwar, meanwhile, had his candidature cancelled because of an incomplete nomination form. According to the voters and politicians we spoke to in Bareilly, a few days before polling, there was a tough fight between the BJP and the SP. “Modi doesn’t have the influence he did in 2014 or 2019,” Santosh Shakya, the associate editor of Indus News TV, told us. “It’s a close battle here this time. People seem very aggressive about their issues.”