All eyes are already set on the outcome of Uttar Pradesh Assembly election as it will decide the course of the 2019 general election. The UP Assembly will complete its tenure after 9 months from now, in the last week of May 2017. But aggressive media campaign by the Samajwadi Party (SP) government of the state about its achievements is an indication that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav wants to advance the polls by few months and they could be held anytime from the end of December to mid-January next year.
Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah thinks that Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Congress are not almost non-existent in UP and his party has to virtually contend only with SP. If BSP which won 80 and Congress which got 28 seats in 2012 election are non-existent political forces for Shah in UP and BJP, which was victorious on only 47 seats is now in a position to form government in the state, then let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Despite trying to paint a picture of unprecedented development in UP, Samajwadi Party has already lost the battle of perception. The electorate no longer sees Mulayam Singh Yadav or his family members as leaders of all sections of the society. Deteriorating law and order, stories of rampant corruption, and blatant display of power-hunger by Mulayam’s family members will be the reasons for SP ouster early next year.
A few months back the BSP was perceived to have gained significant ground. But its leader Mayawati is fast losing her shine. A number of her trusted lieutenants have left the party and other key functionaries are seemingly on the way out. Her Dalit vote base now seems undecided. It will become increasingly difficult for her to keep it intact in the days to come. She faces a similar predicament with members of the religious minority.
The upper castes have already lost their faith in Mayawati. Given the circumstances, Maywati's chances aren't as good as they were a few months back.
The BJP believes in the strategy of creating hype before any election. After Narendra Modi’s victory in 2014, the party believes that hype is the remedy for all its shortcomings. Its strategists are not ready to learn any lessons from the chastening defeats in Delhi and Bihar, where this tactic boomeranged. Encouraged by the party's performance in UP during the general elections, Amit Shah feels that his party can ascend to power in the state next year. But he must realise that even if he moves heaven and earth and double the BJP tally of 2012 assembly polls his party cannot touch three digits. The polarisation on which BJP plans to thrive is a double-edged weapon. It is going to harm the BJP’s chances in UP more than benefitting it.
The Congress has the brightest chances of gaining this time because of the reason that for the first time in last so many years there is no party that is perceived as reaching the magic figure of 202. It has been either SP or BSP in past elections with BJP and Congress on the fringe. After a long time the Congress has made its presence felt strongly in UP and people see it as a party without which no government could be formed. This feeling among the electorate will improve chances for the Congress and even if it wins one Assembly seat in each parliamentary constituency the tally can touch the figure of 80. It would be a tremendous jump from its present strength of 28. If it happens, it will turn the national tide in favour of the Congress.
Congress has announced a plan of massive road show by its Vice President Rahul Gandhi that is to begin from Deoria in east and crossing from 42 districts of the state before reaching Gautam Budhh Nagar in the west. If polls in UP are scheduled for December-January, Rahul’s campaign might prove a master stroke. But if they are held in April next year, the impact of his exercise might fissile out. Rahul’s road shows were a great hit in February 2012 also, but when it came to translating his sweat into seats, the party organisation failed miserably. I can only hope that his marathon efforts will not be allowed to go waste this time.
The dreams of occupying the highest seat of national power after two and a half years from now is giving sleepless nights to regional satraps. The states where BJP and its allies are in power send 240 members in Lok Sabha. Congress and allies have 84 parliamentary seats in the states. With 219 parliamentary constituencies in the states ruled by “others” are more than enough to inject the required ambition in Mamata Banerjee, Jayalalitha, and Nitish Kumar for 2019. Therefore, UP election results are going to be a major turning point. Every turning point is not reached by luck. To choose to be successful, one must know what it takes to be there. Rahul Gandhi has shown the zeal to take on the battle of UP vigorously. His efforts in past few months have rejuvenated his party in the state. Party organisation is now well placed in every part of UP. But more will depend on who are nominated as candidates and how much influence fly-by-night operators will have. Any outsourcing of electoral faces would be counter-productive to Rahul Gandhi’s sincere tug of war in rescuing his party.
(The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India. Views expressed are strictly personal.)