Elections are always interesting. But, this time it’s more. Guess why? There’s no money in hand, thanks to demonetisation. The Samajwadi party feud is making UP elections even eye-catching, just like Dangal. Who’s going to claim victory is for the time to decide. For now, it’s a messy equation of parties, alliances, horse trading, luring, cash flow, everything. The Election Commission is to announce election schedule in a few days from now. There’s lot work that needs to be done before the model election code is pressed into action. The last decade UP have never seen any coalition forming government. People have been giving clear single-party verdict. Will that continue this time? Who’s who in the arena of poll bound UP? Surely, this time around, UP elections are going to play a pivotal role. But, what’s important is to understand the strengths and weakness of the existing parties.
Samajwadi Party (SP)
The 4 mainstream parties of UP are SP, BSP, BJP and INC. However with the family feud within SP, the general public opinion is said to be shifting to the next best available alternative political party. The core problem of SP is multiple-power centres. Akhilesh Yadav, a young leader, current CM, enjoys vast support from urban, youth and advanced sectors. Mulayam Singh, the supremo, enjoys support of the vast cadre. Shivpal Yadav, the no.2 of party is in frequent tussle with Akhilesh Yadav, for not entertaining his requests. As the grapevine goes, this drama is being played out by Mulayam Singh Yadav to build a brand image for his son, Akhilesh. Even recent decision to expel Akhilesh from party for 6 years and subsequent show of strength by Akhilesh, and immediate peace within the party allegedly conveys the same message. Akhilesh Yadav’s idea of keeping Amar Singh away from party is to build a public perception that he is against any corporate-political nexus. He refrained from reacting vociferously against demonetisation only to have good relations with New Delhi. There is an on-going tussle regarding party symbol, the cycle. Akhilesh camp claims 90% of the legislators are in his favour and boasts symbol doesn’t matter to him anymore. This is for the Election Committee to decide. The development agenda, on which Akhilesh has rose to power, is far from being fulfilled. However, this young CM has more-or-less had an overall control over the administration without any corruption charges. Thus, the earlier the family disputes are settled the brighter the future for SP. SP is currently keeping all the cards close to it’s chest and not openly talking anything about coalition with congress. Who’s aligned with whom is a definite post-election scenario. Keep an eye on this.
Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP)
Mayawati has been in the opposition for quite a long time now. She had earlier banked upon the Dalit-Brahmin community for votes and was fairly successful. But today’s political dynamics and caste equations are not what they were 5 years ago. Since the SP is completely focussed on the Yadav community, the non-yadav, muslims, OBC, Dalits and brahmins play a major role in UP elections. Having said that, the BSP over the last few years has been trying to garner support from the Muslim community. Thus their support base has shifted from Dalit-Brahmin to Dalit-Muslim. Expulsion of senior Brahmin leader from the party has dented it’s pro-Brahmin image, who constitute a major political constituency. The last time when Mayawati became CM of UP, she grossed a vote share of 29%. But this seems to have eroded now. The recent investigation about Rs.100cr deposits in 2 BSP accounts(one, including her brother’s), no concrete support base, cash crunch, and a clear lacking of development vision may dampen her chances of coming back to power. What’s in for the Didi of UP, is for elections to decide.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Perhaps the only party which is trying to make inroads into UP politics in BJP. The Prime Minister’s electoral pitch in Lucknow attended by lakhs of people is a clear indication of who’s winning UP election, claims BJP. BJP is banking heavily on development agenda. Defection of Rita Bahuguna Joshi from congress has given a major boost. With 70 MPs in their kitty from UP, BJP is trying to take existing government schemes to large sections of society. BJP is desperate to change it’s earlier image of being a pro-elite party. They now want to build a strong support base of OBC, upper-caste and middle-income families. OBC’s constitute about 40% of UP population, which by figure itself is a significant number. Demonetisation has hit the sugarcane, potato and other small industries of UP, but nevertheless people are not visibly angry on BJP or Modi. Amit shah, the brain behind BJP phenomenal victory in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has been camping in UP for quite a long time now. Modi’s jibe at Mulayam and Akhilesh Yadav criticising their family-first approach, one-liners against Rahul Gandhi saying “Son has not yet taken considerable command”, and evidence-based attack on Mayawati over alleged deposits in BSP bank accounts has significantly impacted public mood. Demonetisation is a key factor for BJP in UP. However, it’s victory in 3 civic body elections post November 8th announcement, has given boost to BJP. Recent launch of BHIM mobile app which enables payments through mobile, is also aimed at pulling Dalit community (BHIM, as the name suggests, reflects Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the drafting chief Indian constitution as well as a great economist). They have strategically kept silent over their CM candidate, because announcement of any candidate would halt their success journey. With clean image at centre, visible flow of investments into country and other factors in their favour, BJP is on a high for this elections.
Indian National Congress (INC)
Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi & Congress party have their political lives deeply attached to UP. Rae Bareily and Amethi have been congress bastions for long. But that barely impacts the party’s political career today. One of he main reasons is lack of effective leadership. Rahul Gandhi’s industrious efforts to attack various parties at various platforms in various ways have not yet fructified. Installing Sheila Deekshit as CM candidate is being considered as an outsider attempt to control the state. Constant tussle between political strategist Prashanth Kishore also has hogged the limelight. Calls for Priyanka Gandhi to enter mainstream politics have been kept at a distance. Ineffective claims over their pro-poor image also has dented their credibility in UP. Defection Rita Bahuguna Joshi was a major setback for congress. She was the senior most and also probable CM candidate. Political Analysts and pundits strongly quote congress cannot win it all alone. They have to look for partners, and they are.
The Election Commission has announced the dates, UP is all set for a 4-way Dangal. Let the fight begin!