All election projections in Uttar Pradesh have back to square one. Nobody can say, for sure, who is going to win. The BJP is full of enthusiasm, because the party has no dearth of resources; it entered into fray with an army of campaigners. However, even in the first phase Ajit Singh made life difficult for them. Akhilesh Yadav, after forging an alliance with Rahul Gandhi at the beginning of election process, put his case of returning to power strongly, and the thrust he has given to his campaign initially has not died down. Mayawati’s party is the third contender. Mayawati takes the field with a strong Dalit–Muslim social alliance and wish to regain power by means of this alliance. Her chances however are bright. But what is the truth?
Let’s look into Akhilesh–Rahul Gandhi alliance first. Even though everything looks fine with the alliance, it appears that both the parties are not putting up a concerted fight. Congress’s votes, instead of going to the Samajwadi Party candidates, inclined more and more towards the BJP. Akhilesh Yadav has his own set of challenges: the first one is from his own ranks and files that, after having denied party ticket, are in the fray. The second challenge is Mulayam Singh Yadav’s supporters, who are not contesting elections though, but they do not appear supporting Akhilesh Yadav wholeheartedly either. Be that as it may, a large section of youth is firmly standing behind Akhilesh Yadav. A common perception is that Akhilesh–Rahul alliance can become an alliance of fulfilling the expectations of youth.
However, the biggest concern of Akhilesh Yadav is a new emerging trend that may go against him. Yadav, the most powerful caste amongst the OBC, is solidly behind him, but except them, no support is forthcoming for him from other backward castes, such as Kurmi, Koiri and Lodh. An impression has gained ground amongst other section of the backward castes that Akhilesh Yadav just wants to share power with Yadavs, and does not want other sections of the OBC to take onboard with him. Small and marginal backward castes, including Pal, Saini, Kumhar, who forge a bigger group together, have drifted away from the Samajwadi Party and joined ranks with the BJP. Interestingly, the BJP has not made extra effort for this. When Mulayam Singh used to make election strategy, he did not give more seats to other sections of the backward castes, but he gave the impression that the backward caste leaders of his party were the most important leaders of the state. Consequently, along with Yadavs, other backward castes appeared to be standing with Mulayam Singh. This time around Akhilesh Yadav made a mistake and he simply gives an impression of being a leader of Yadavs only. Perhaps he has to bear the brunt of this mistake because other sections of OBC have drifted towards the BJP.
The second partner of the alliance, the Congress party, is successful in organizing rallies with the help of its troop of workers but the star campaigner, banking on whom party hoped to instill life in its activists and work out a winning strategy, is conspicuous by her absent from the elections. Priyanka Gandhi was slated to campaign in entire Uttar Pradesh, which filled the Congress workers with excitement and hope. But she leaked reports that now she will confine her campaigning just to Rae Bareli and Amethi. When she finally appeared during the campaign, party functionary thought that she may be there all along the elections, but by then three rounds of polling have already been concluded. She might have got some feedback that the Congress can get around 40 seats, and if she stepped in the campaign people might question that even after Priyanka Gandhi’s efforts Congress could not get 80-90 seats. Therefore she felt it appropriate to keep herself away from the campaign, though her confidant Prashant Kishor, also known as PK, believes Congress is expected to win around 70 seats.
Now some thought on Mayawati ji. She is campaigning across the state. In support of the Congress and Akhilesh Yadav, Lalu Prasad Yadav is holding public rallies. Akhilesh Yadav has successfully instilled the feeling in the minds of Muslims that if Mayawati try to come to power, she cannot do that without the help of the BJP. The same has been said by Lalu Yadav, which forced Mayawati ji to repeatedly issue statements that she will not join hands with the BJP to gain power. Her another predicament is that the alliance with extremely backward castes and Dalits appears to be broken in this election. She is working on the old strategy of putting herself ahead and trying to present herself as a leader of all sections. But perhaps in this election, this strategy may fall apart.
And finally, the BJP is contesting the election without a face. Party has adopted a Bihar-type strategy in Uttar Pradesh and contesting on Narendra Mod’s face. Modi attracts a large crowd in his public meetings. For the first time Narendra Modi has cleared that he is holding meeting as party’s leader. Before this no prime Minister has addressed so many public meetings in a state election. Similar to the strategy of Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi is trying to cover as much constituencies as possible, using the language typical of election. His language is being criticized across the country for lack of substance. Few of his speeches are tinged with communal color. His Shamshan and Qabristan statement did not go down well. However, being a Hindu the Prime Minister knows that Hindus believe if they have to attain salvation after death their last rites should be held on the bank of Ganga or Yamuna rivers. If they are cremated near a qabristan, then salvation become doubtful. For the sake of argument, if we consider his proposal of a side-by-side qabristan and shamshan, then a temple-mosque kind of dispute surfaced in every village. People were expecting the Prime Minister will present a new road map for the development of states including Uttar Pradesh, but he might have a different idea.
Backward castes’ inclination towards the BJP exemplified the idiom: back to square one. Like every other elections this elections too is not giving clear indication as to which party or what coalition arrangement will form government after 11 March. As far as I am concerned this situation is in the interest of democracy. If the results can be guessed, then what is the need of election? People have become so intelligent that they do not allow anybody to read their minds. So far, the survey agencies have let themselves to be used as political tools by political parties. When on 8 March the results of exit polls will out, this fact will be represented in them, but as of now most of the survey results have shown different results from the final ones. Interestingly, no survey agency has ever apologized for misleading or confusing people by their wayward results.
However, after the results of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur a new political process will begin in the country, in which a dialogue process will start amongst various parties. The parties, which will fail to obtain the desired results in these elections, will be coming together for 2019. BJP will get more rigid and sharp and try to emulate 2014, in 2019 as well.