Poll lines become clear in battle for Uttar Pradesh
The electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh is now taking shape. After the alliance between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal, it became clear that the SP, with at least five partners, will face the alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a direct fight. Will Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) win or lose in this direct fight?
Let’s talk about Akhilesh Yadav first. Six months ago, if you had asked someone from the UP, the answer would have been that Yadav should fight at the grassroots. Had the former chief minister been inactive? No, he had met disgruntled National Democratic Alliance partners for months. Efforts have also been made to keep meetings private. He was waiting for the right moment.
He had already forged links with the influential Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj party of Om Prakash Rajbhar in the eastern UP; Janawadi Party (socialist) of Dr Sanjay Singh and Mahan Dal, which has influence in western UP and Rohilkhand. He also negotiated seats in Jatland in the west of the UP with Jayant Chaudhary. Speculation is rife after Yadav’s meetings with AAP’s Sanjay Singh, Jansatta Dal’s Raghuraj Pratap Singh (Democrat) and Apna Dal’s Krishna Patel (Kamerawadi). Will they join the alliance?
In 2017, Yadav was fighting to save his chair. Due to the dissatisfaction of his uncle Shivpal Yadav, the party seemed to disintegrate. In such a difficult time, the SP-Congress alliance was formed. However, this has proven to be counterproductive. The number of seats and the share of votes of the PS rose from 224 and 29.13% in 2012 to 47 and 21.82% in 2017. The Congress count went from 28 to seven.
Yadav learned from these bitter experiences that party workers and voters do not like rapprochements with national parties or the likes of the BSP which had opposed the SP in the past. That is why, this time, it has made alliances with smaller or sub-regional parties. However, one cannot expect loyalty from such parties. Often times, the larger party has to sacrifice its seats. This experience can turn out to be suicidal if the PS does not obtain the majority. This is what happened with the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar. SP strategists probably think “we’ll cross this bridge when the time comes.” But will it succeed?
For an answer, we must look at the strategy of the BJP. As expected, the BJP relies entirely on the name of Narendra Modi and the work of Yogi Adityanath. This is why the PM has visited UP five times in the past two months. Many programs are scheduled before the code of conduct comes into force. For this, special attention was paid to regional interests, religion, development, women, Dalits, backward and advanced classes, etc. The BJP has assigned regional responsibilities to three pillars: National President JP Nadda, Interior Minister Amit Shah and Defense. Minister Rajnath Singh. In addition, the Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan and the former Minister of Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh have made numerous tours in UP.
This is done to establish direct communication with party workers and to respond to their grievances. Ticket distribution can also be done according to the requirements of the area. The BJP knows that whatever work the government does, anti-incumbents may have arisen. Strategists also know that all other opposition parties only have one bankable face. They want to counter this with an army of bigwigs.
For the first time in decades, Mayawati seems removed from the main electoral battle. People like Chandrashekhar Azad have started to erode the traditional BSP vote bank. In such a situation, will the BSP be able to attract Brahmin voices? The Brahmins have traditionally been with the BJP or Congress, then Yadav is giving tickets to the Brahmins in large numbers this time around. Many see the 2022 election as existential for the BJP or the SP, but in reality the BSP is fighting for its very existence.
The same is true of Congress. His voice bank has gone down. The workers are old. There is no leader at the regional level who has universal acceptability. Priyanka Gandhi tries to impress the 5-6% of floating voters, who have the potential to influence every election, with the slogan “Ladki hoon, boy Sakti hoon”. His best effort is to capture as much of the BJP’s vote bank as possible. Priyanka knows that women and young voters are Modi’s greatest strength. She is betting on them by promising 40% tickets to women. Looks like she’s leading the battle of 2024 now.
Whether Priyanka succeeds or fails, the political significance of the UP will remain the same. The election that will take place here in 2022 will prove to be the one that will decide the future of the country.
Shashi Shekhar is Editor-in-Chief, Hindustan. The opinions expressed are personal.
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