Despite the assertions made in our editorial, titled, “Riding the cycle”, the contest for Uttar Pradesh remains wide open between the grand alliance, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains relatively popular with the electorate, and the BJP has built-up a complex caste coalition of upper castes and non-Yadav OBCs largely based on a heady cocktail of development and Hindutva. Reports indicate that the party have already hit their stride on the campaign trail, breaking into new voting constituencies. They have already released a list of 149 candidates.
Not so fast
Some observers contend that the election is for the BJP’s to lose, considering the impressive gains it made in the state during the Lok Sabha polls of 2014. Many have touted the upcoming series of Assembly elections in five states as an unofficial referendum on the BJP government at the Centre. They contend that the only way the BJP will lose in UP is if a significant section of the electorate that voted for them in 2014 dumps them for another party. Has demonetisation wrecked or improved the BJP’s chances?
One school of thought believes that the party has been relatively successful in highlighting class differences through Modi’s demonetisation narrative. Allied with the promise of ‘vikaas’ (development), something which the Prime Minister has alluded to on numerous occasions, this could work in the BJP’s favour. Another school of thought believes that large sections of the electorate have been adversely affected by the currency exchange measure. It has devastated the livelihoods of millions of migrant workers and small farmers, and the disaffected may use the polling booth to express their wrath. However, in recent days, other problems have emerged within the BJP camp.
The party may lose the support of two major OBC leaders in the state, besides alienating the party’s most recognisable face in the state, Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath. There are allegations that BJP president Amit Shah has not taken them into confidence in the selection of candidates for elections. His high-handedness has apparently left them miffed. Another editorial will discuss Mayawati’s place in the current electoral set-up and how her party may fare.