Why everyone says the route to Delhi is through Uttar Pradesh? Perhaps the state resembles the character of entire India in one state. In this state seeking Muslim votes is a secular activity, but seeking Hindu votes is called communal. It is in this state social justice is achieved through forging caste based alliances and coalitions.
When Dr. Mayawati M.D (Muslim-Dalit) had announced how much ‘quota’ she would be allocating to each caste and religion in the upcoming elections, she was simply following the trend set by Indian politics and main stream media. BSP allocated tickets to 97 Muslims, 87 Dalits, 106 OBCs, 66 Brahmins, 36 Thakurs and 11 Kayasthas. There are only 6% Yadavas in the state (to which her main opponent Mulayam Singh Yadav belongs to) and they may not be so effective in the elections. 18% Muslims coupled with 25% Dalits would make 43% of UP‘s electorate and she would be heavily depending on this combination to win the elections.
As such, she was confident about getting Dalit votes to BSP. But, that was history. 2014 saw the Dalit vote split and of all parties, BJP ate into it. So, even to become a respectable opposition, she needs support of another vote bank and who could fit the bill more than ‘Muslims’, one of the oldest vote banks in independent Indian politics?
Mayawati had tried by grouping together Brahmins and Dalits (And really it was a great political experiment, considering how much Dalits antagonise Brahmins). But she failed to fulfil her promises to any of these groups and so she was dumped by the voters in 2012. Her rule, though now credited to be better than the rule of Samajwadi Party, was not without controversies. Apart from the huge mammoths that have become permanent fixtures representing her legacy in times to come, she was close to the liquor mafia in the state and the NRHM scam had much tainted her image.
Like the cherry over the cream, her brother Anand Kumar has landed into the net of Income Tax with assets over 1300 crore rupees. Seems Mayawati really need all elephants to pull her out of this quagmire. Seems she would be pulling Muslims too with her.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party that was written off for the upcoming elections, mainly due to its failure on law and order account had got fresh lease to life, thanks to the ongoing feud within. Akhilesh not only failed in delivering proper governance to the state, but also was at receiving end in handling communal riots. The way Azam Khan hijacked powers of CM during the riots had dented the so called clean image of Akhilesh. On his part, one shall congratulate Akhilesh for reinventing his clean image, despite being the head of a much-tainted government in the recent years.
Though he could reinvent himself in time for the elections, he may be worrying about lost time in starting the rebellion. As it is, the young voters of Samajwadi party from urban areas are backing Akhilesh, but rural voters, especially old timers still back Mulayam Singh. On his part, Mulayam made it clear to Akhilesh, that the son has not yet become so much powerful, that he can force his father out of the party. Facing the uncertainty over the election symbol and much less time to prepare him and his supporters for the elections, he is now a confused man. All he needs to return to the power is just – a miracle!
Of course, he would be having an alliance with Congress. Whether SP would be fighting elections in one faction or two factions, Akhilesh would be combining his forces with those of Congress. It is not that the strength of Congress is considerable on its own, but it would add a few extra miles in the long journey.
Akhilesh might have really wished that patch-up with his father would fail so that he can keep all elements that have sullied his image away from him in the elections. Seems he failed, as Mulayam conceded in the internal feud. Akhilesh may go to polls with a victory over his father and promise voters in next term ‘development’ a plank, he used earlier. The wily Mulayam and his coterie would again cement their old positions, if SP returns to power.
Perhaps it is better for the state SP lose elections but win about a hundred and fifty seats by allying with Congress), it would establish Akhilesh as the new torch bearer for the state.Being the bigger partner, leading the coalition to victory is his responsibility. Maybe the Gandhi siblings would tour a little bit, but it was Akhilesh who is expected to toil hard.
On its part, BJP is still basking in the glory of surgical strikes and demonetisation. Narendra Modi was successful in projecting the act as a ‘class war’ between the poor and the rich. The only class being really hurt was the business community in the entire demonetisation fiasco. While the salaried class view the demonetisation as a revenge on those traders who never had to pay taxes, the perennial poor classes were simply smiling at the inconvenience others too had to face! After all, they face the ‘unavailability of money’ all the time.
As the effect of money in the coming elections is expected to be the minimum, most of the salaried and poor would be supporting BJP, though not as much as expected by the party. But, it is not only demonetisation that was helping the cause of BJP. The rage that was evoked in common Indian post Uri and the unprecedented tough stance by the BJP against Pakistan is still fresh in the minds of people.
There was a section of analysts that argue BJP’s vote share was way too high in 2014 elections it is difficult to make a dent, even if a larger coalition is formed by SP, Congress and RLD. However, that would be termed as being over confident, and after smarting from their Bihar fiasco, BJP was playing a calculated gamble in UP.
This time, BJP has presented a decent alternative to the Maya-Mulayam rule. Unlike in Bihar, where BJP has not projected local leaders and lost as they depended on Modi heavily, in UP, the effect of not declaring CM candidate is limited. Though it would certainly help BJP if it projects one viable face as CM, the fact remains it is too difficult for the party to select one person, without disrupting its election preparations. The advantage BJP enjoys in UP is even other parties don’t have a strong leader. Mulayam is now past his prime, as is evident from the rebellion by his own son. Neither Maya nor Akhilesh have good report card like Nitish could exhibit in Bihar elections. And, this was one of the factors that forced BJP to close its efforts to choose a CM candidate.
The prediction of Azam Khan that Muslim vote would be split between SP and BSP, or Muslim vote would transfer to BSP entirely is one remark that would affect the outcome of upcoming elections and the future of Muslims as well. Of course, the block voting by Muslims may affect the prospects of BJP. If Muslim vote moves to BSP totally, Akhilesh would be the most affected and his coalition may get 50 to 70 seats at the best.
If Muslim votes are split between SP and BSP, BSP may give a better fight to BJP. In such instance, all BJP can hope for is to get a simple majority.
Muslims shall see the day of light and realise that Manmohan Singh becoming Prime Minister for ten years has not in any way affected the life of ordinary Sikhs. Vote bank politics only help community leaders and not the community in general.
Being the biggest state of India, the development and growth of UP is very much imperative to the nation. It is crucial the state has a proper government that could uplift the living standards of the poor in the state, apart from driving overall growth.