UP: Last two phases in limelight

Upendra Prasad

After the five phases of voting, campaigning in Uttar Pradesh assembly election has become more intense and murkier. Bahujan Samaj Party, the main opposition in UP Assembly is now openly asking Muslim voters to vote for its candidates. Earlier Mayawati used the word ‘minority’ for Muslims, but now she has freed herself from any hesitation. The ruling Samajwadi Party has now roped in Lalu Yadav to campaign for its alliance candidates after initial hesitation by Akhilesh to invite the charismatic leader from Bihar for addressing election meetings.
BJP leaders have turned more desperate in their campaign and the Prime Minister is addressing more and more rallies now. As per the original planning Modi was expected to address around 14 rallies in Uttar Pradesh, but now a new schedule for PM ‘s rallies has been prepared and he is devoting more time in campaigning now.
Even the tone of Narendra Modi has changed. Initially small time leaders like Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj were given the task of flaming communal sentiments by their speeches, now Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself has taken this responsibility and has started raising the issues like Kabristan- Shmashan and Id- Diwali. Initially Prime Minister was trying to woo Yadavas invoking the relation between Dwarika and Mathura, now he has started talking against Yadavas to woo non- Yadav OBCs by claiming that during Akhilesh rule only Yadavas are getting government jobs.
Obviously, leaders of political parties are reading the writings on the walls in more pragmatic way and leaving nothing to chance and are trying their best to garner more support and votes during the rest two phases of voting.
When voting for the 5th phase was taking place, Prime Minister was talking of the possibility of a hung Assembly. Just one day ago, Amit Shah was claiming that his party would get over 300 seats. Prime Minister was also echoing this claim in his earlier election meetings. That is why one is amazed to see the change of assessment of Prime Minister and its public announcement. According to some media reports, the assessment of BJP is that in the first four phases of voting, they may get around 75 seats out of 262. Earlier it was expecting to get 175 out of them. The new internal assessment has made BJP leaders nervous and now they are wishing a hung Assembly to gain power by entering into alliance or through President rule in case of non formation of any Government.
BJP was expecting a lot in first two phases of voting, which took place in Western Uttar Pradesh and Ruhelkhand. There is sizable population of Muslims in these regions, which makes polarisation on communal line easy for BJP. It yields good electoral harvest for it, but no such communal polarisation took place there because the core support base of BJP was demoralised to the demonetisation. Retailers and small businessmen form the main opinion makers for the BJP and they prepare the grounds for such polarisations. Now they are a divided lot. Some have turned towards Akhilesh; some have become inactive, while some are still with the party. In totality, BJP has lost much and those who have seen voting from very close quarters say that during the first two phases, main contestants were SP- Congress alliance and BSP of Mayawati. In Jat dominated regions, even Rashtriya Lok Dal of Ajit Singh was doing well relegating BJP candidates at third or fourth place.
BJP could not compensate its loss in the third and fourth phases, because the region which witnessed voting of these two phases is traditional stronghold of Samajwadi Party. BJP must have improved his performance because of internal family feuds of Mulayam Singh Yadav, if we take into account its performance in 2012 election, but the improvement seems to be marginal.
Mayawati’s election meetings are attracting huge crowds and they mostly consist of Dalit. But her meetings are very dull. She reads from a written text and the audience listens to her silently. Anyway, Mayawati seems to have consolidated her Dalit base, which was being wooed by BJP and RSS in a big way by worshiping Ambedkar and dining with them. In its effort to win the Dalit support Modi government has renamed an UPI app as BHIM app. Winning away non Jatav Dalit from Mayawati was crucial for BJP to win UP elections, but the crowd seen in Mayawati rally suggests that BJP has failed in its effort. This has pushed BJP to depend more and more on communal polarisation. This is the main reason why Narendra Modi has joined the ranks of Yogi Adityanath and Sakshi Maharaj to raise communal issues.
On the other hand, Mayawati is now crucially dependent on Muslim support to win election, because Dalit base alone cannot ensure the win of her candidates. In the past a big chunk of non Yadav OBCs used to vote for Mayawati because of their antipathy of both Yadavas and upper castes. Now Mayawati has mended her relations with upper castes and has started ignoring OBCs. That is why; they have almost deserted her. Hence she needs full support of Muslims to return to power and she is vouching publicly that Muslims must vote for her to defeat BJP, but her problem is her past. She had formed her government in Uttar Pradesh with the support of BJP not only once, but thrice. That is why Muslims are apprehensive that she may join hands with BJP once again, if Assembly is hung. Modi’s talk of hung Assembly has further increased the woes of Mayawati, who may be finding it difficult to ensure the Muslim votes to her candidates.  (IPA)

Monday, 6 March, 2017