The crucial UP elections are viewed as a matter of prestige for all stakeholders. For the ruling party it is for consolidation and survival and for the opposition this is a battle aimed at inflicting a psychological blow to BJP in general and Prime Minister Modi in particular.
Even neighboring countries are eagerly watching the developments in UP waiting for a setback for the ruling party.
Now the question is who will emerge as the front-runner in UP elections? Since post mandal era, power seesawed among SP, BSP, and BJP relegating Congress to the sidelines. In UP, like never before caste and community honor become important in the wake of issues like atrocities against Dalits, acts of cow vigilante and uniform civil code issues etc.
There is a palpable unity being witnessed among the lower rung of society waiting to vent their anger during assembly elections.
The forward castes in UP that constitute to 25 percent of the electorate are mostly with BJP and other part waiting for the shape of things to come.
At this crucial stage, let us dig deep into potential factors, feelings, and key issues that can work in favor or disfavor of one party.
Varun Gandhi Factor
Elections in the State will carry a lot of weight when campaign is centered around a local personality. Because this has not happened in Bihar, verdict came as a blow to BJP as united opposition successfully led the campaign in Bihar under a popular leader with a track record of good administration. As a result BJP lost the election to a united opposition.
In UP, most of the tall leaders who led the party earlier are busy in Delhi. A tall leader and former chief minister Mr. Kalyan Singh is in Rajasthan as Governor. Other tall leaders like former chief minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, former State BJP chief Mr. Kalraj Mishra are busy with their ministerial portfolios in Delhi.
In their absence, a leader who extended his outreach is Mr. Varun Gandhi, who has been sulking for not being projected as BJP’s chief ministerial candidate. He claims to have 21% popularity in UP as chief minister’s choice.
Now the question is what will happen if he is not projected as chief minister of UP. Varun has excellent grassroots connection and considerable sway among the youth. Although his mother Smt. Menaka Gandhi who is also a minister in centre, gave a petition to promote Varun as chief minister of UP was not accepted by the party high command. Varun has excellent connect with Gandhi family also.
If he becomes the chief minister, he will become a threat to the prime minster at a later stage. Because of this reason, BJP may not promote Varun as chief minister of UP even if the party gets majority on its own. On the contrary, there are chances that the high command may clip Varun’s wings as a result he and his key supporters may be sidelined. This may affect the winning chances of BJP in UP.
Akhilesh Yadav Factor
Although the present incumbent has a wide appeal cutting across party lines owing to his dynamism and appeal among the youth, severe infighting in Samajwadi Party may hurt the chances of SP in UP. SP thrived on Muslim, Yadav combine. This time it is not sure the party may get large share of Muslim votes as they find common cause with BSP thanks to controversy over beef eating because both Dalits and Muslims were victims of the cow vigilante.
Another question before the electorate is, even if they vote back Akhilesh to power, will he be allowed to rule with full discretionary power as his uncle Mr. Shivpal Yadav and his like may play spoilsport? This factor may turn off a section of voters from voting SP back to power.
Rahul Gandhi Factor
He knows all the nook and corner of UP. Today, the Congress scion is strategically backed by election strategist Mr. Prashant Kishore. But in my view the winning chances of Congress appears to be dim. The party can only make headway, if it makes seat adjustments with SP or BSP in certain pockets of influence. In the 2012 UP assembly elections, Rahul tilled the UP electorate.
People who were convinced of several issues raised by Rahul ultimately voted SP to power, which turned out to be a strange phenomenon called ‘one sows and another reaps’. I think this time also the Congress leader will sow, disseminate information against the ruling party, but not to help itself, but mobilizing public opinion against the ruling party at the center, which will be benefited by established regional parties like SP or BSP ultimately.
Ajit Singh Factor
The Chotta Chowdhury was a major loser in 2014 parliamentary elections as his core supporters the Jat community switched sides to BJP during the communal violence between the two communities. The Jats who played a crucial role in adding more Lok Sabha seats to BJP kitty, are a disappointed lot as they haven’t received their due after their riots in neighboring State Haryana for reservations.
The growing uncertainty in the farming sector coupled with losing appeal of landholding as a social status or revenue generator may prompt the community to stand behind Ajit Singh this time to assert for their rights. It all depends on how Mr. Ajith Singh makes seat adjustments team up with. It has to be remembered that Chotta Chowdhury is an undisputed leader among the Jat community still calling the shots in Western UP.
After the Prime Minister’s surgical strike on black money, nation’s polity is witnessing an interesting phenomenon. Although the strike was aimed at the black money hoarders, the ones who were really hit was the poor and the middle and lower middle classes that include blue collar workers, pensioners, unorganized sectors like small landlords, traders, fishermen, farmers, daily wage earners, those who drawing less than 25k etc.
The government is richer with over 16 lacs crores. But the question is whether this cash earned is being percolated down to the disadvantaged sections.
The huge unorganized sectors which form the backbone of UP economy are going to cast their votes with vengeance. Their lives were made miserable by the absence of cash, loss of cash, loss of business, loss of working days, loss of face etc., which will be reflected in the voting.
If the government does not urgent steps like arresting price rise or pulses, rice, other commodities, petrol etc., this is going to be the scenario. The trading community which formed the backbone of BJP in the earlier elections is likely to ditch the party owing to the huge economic loss due to the surgical strike on black money.
The farm community which supported the BJP in 2014 LS elections is likely to vote out BJP as the farmers have apprehensions about a cashless society. The freedom which they enjoyed in selling farm products, keeping the income as cash without paying much tax is under threat. Convincing them about cashless transactions that is fraught with the risk of their income being transparent to government may not be welcome by the community.
Battle of UP is going to be a fight between the haves and the have nots.
The haves being the government and have nots the different communities who are suddenly affected by loss of money and opportunities. It is obvious that have nots will become a powerful block and support alliances that go against BJP where there is a likelihood of huge masses casting votes making non BJP parties are winners in the elections.
The Dalits who partly voted for BJP in 2014 elections will be solidly behind BSP due to host of issues like cow vigilante, atrocities against them in various parts of the country.
The honor issue that Dalits are not cleaners of upper caste will work against BJP this time.
The threat of their eating habits are being threatened by cow vigilante will unite Dalits and Muslims like never before. Look at the power of caste clout. Dalits comprise more than 21% in UP whereas Muslims comprise 18% of the population.
The looming threat of ‘Uniform Civil Code’ will prompt the Muslims to vote very strategically this time. They can make victory in 143 of 403 assembly seats in UP.
We can be assured that Thakurs that comprise nearly 8% of the population will vote for BJP. So may be part of Brahmins who are 14% of the electorate. BJP can be assured of part of OBCs who are loyal to BJP since mandir controversy from former chief minister Kalyan Singh’s time. Part of urban voters also will vote for BJP. But that alone will fetch the required numbers.
It is also likely that most of Yadavs comprising 23% will vote for SP. But this time, SP cannot be assured of massive Muslim support as the large number of the community will opt for Mayawati. This is a scenario alarming for BJP as there are chances that BSP emerging the top slot and SP occupying No 2 position.
It is at this point, Maya comes to the center stage. She can gather large number of Dalits and Muslims this time as they have common cause against the BJP. Then comes Dalit honor, cow vigilante etc. Besides this is the general feeling of have nots supporting her where there is a chance of winnability. It is at this stage, the gravitational force in war began to work as Brahmins will smell BSP victory and prefer to support it for sake of power as in 2006. Yadavs are not darlings to Brahmins, so are Thakurs who call shot in BJP. That is why exactly I can boldly predict there will be a Mayajaal in UP elections with absolute majority for BSP where SP coming to second position.
PM Modi Factor
Bihar elections ended bitter for BJP as the party didn’t project tall local leaders like Mr. Shatruhan Sinha or Mr. Sushil Kumar Modi as chief minister. Although BJP had earlier plans to project Mr. Rajnath Singh’s sons as local leaders instead of Varun Gandhi, Prime Minister Modi will be the star campaigner as UP has lot of prestige attached to it.
BJP may attract many company executives, middle class people or the erstwhile supporters of the party with vast party machinery. But the huge turnout may not be translated into victory because there is a massive opposition force marching against him like Birnam woods like in Shakespearean drama Macbeth.
Battle of UP is as prestigious as ‘Battle of Stalingrad 1942’.
If UP falls into opposition BJP will be encircled from three directions Bihar, UP, and Delhi. This will not be good for the party wanting to implement many political, economic, and defence reforms. After the massive defeat of Stalingrad, Adolf Hitler stated, “War God went to their side”. Will the UP elections be same for Prime Minister Modi is what political observers are eagerly watching?