The number game in UP
Raising the political temperature on a chilly Wednesday afternoon (28th December 2016), Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav in Lucknow, announced 325 names of candidates who would contest from the party for the upcoming Assembly elections in 2017. In a clear indication, the list had the stamp of Samajwadi Party’s state President Shivpal Singh Yadav, lovingly known as ‘chachaji’. After a series of an all-consultative and continuous meetings over the week, the list was drawn up and the final announcement made by Netaji himself in his quintessentially candid demeanor.
According to sources, even if there were talks on an alliance between the SP-Congress and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), these murmurs fizzled out soon. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav claimed that they would win 300 seats if they could stitch together an alliance. On December 13, regarding the possibility of an alliance with the Congress he had said, “Though samajwadis are going to form a majority government in the state, but if alliance takes place, it will win over 300 (of the 403) seats. The final decision in this regard will be taken by party national president (Mulayam Singh Yadav).”
Soon after, during the press briefing held on December 28 at the party office in Lucknow, SP Chief and Akhilesh’s father cleared the air on a possible alliance. “The Samajwadi Party is not forming an alliance with anyone," said Mulyam Singh Yadav. But even now 78 tickets need to be given out by SP, would that be to Akhilesh loyalists or a possible alliance partner, needs to be seen.
The constant fixation of mainstream media over war within the Yadav clan is blown out of proportion as it was only after several rounds of parlays that this list was drawn with the final nod of the Party chief himself. There has been endless speculation about a pre-poll alliance along similar lines as Bihar’s Mahagathbandhan, consolidated prior to the 2015 Assembly elections in Bihar. But Uttar Pradesh is a totally different political terrain with completely different issues. What might have worked for Bihar doesn’t necessarily apply to Uttar Pradesh.
Itis crucial to note that for every single political party in fray for the UP elections, the nearly 20 per cent Muslim vote-bank in the state is of prime significance. Although Muslims are traditionally perceived to be loyal to Mulla Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party, this time things seem fluid. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has, this time, openly being wooing Muslims, to vote for her. An interesting combination of her traditional dalit vote-bank with Muslims would be an ideal combination for her to swing the wave in her favour. But the big question is: are the UP Muslims actually going to vote for her?
Then comes in the issue of demonetisation, forced on the nation since the evening of November 8, which the Bharatiya Janta Party believes will be its ticket to victory in Uttar Pradesh. One can’t actually say how this card played out to churn political sentiment in the state will really work? Politics is so dynamic that this move is being viewed in two ways. Firstly, that it has caused havoc across the country, torturing the poor, farmers, and the aam aadmi who is standing in ATM lines to draw their hard earned money. While the second view (as endorsed by Bharatiya Janta Party) says that everyone has been brought on an equal platform and this move will end black money. Whether this has been the Prime Minister’s successful ‘surgical strike’ on black money or just another means to implement his dictatorial measures, 2017 Uttar Pradesh results will reflect the sentiment clearly.
The next big thing expected in Uttar Pradesh is the colossal announcement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make on January 2, 2017, to woo the state’s electorate. According to sources, a rural housing scheme for the poor (with a special focus on Uttar Pradesh) might be announced on this day. Letus recap to the Bihar elections wherein the PM in August had announced Rs 1.25 lakh crore special package for the state to woo the voters. We all know where that lead.
Interestingly, the wait now is for Election Commission of India to announce the election dates. As per sources, after Modi’s mega rally on January 2, the dates will be announced. A news report indicated - 7-phase polls likely in Uttar Pradesh: Election Commission to announce dates on January 4.
The Modi wave during the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 had ensured that the Bharatiya Janta Party won 71 Lok Sabha seats (out of 80) in Uttar Pradesh.But this time will there be a wave at all? It needs to be seen if BJP will recreate its 2014 magic in Uttar Pradesh. I still remember a senior leader from Congress following Bharatiya Janta Party’s (read Modi) victory in 2014 had said, “Modi was able to sell a dream to the people of India. A dream that promised development and positive change in the country. Every other political party was clueless as to what happened and how he managed to pull it off.” Whether Modi will be able to and sell dreams to the electorate in Uttar Pradesh, will be seen in 2017 election results.
An interesting slogan overheard at a party office in Lucknow – ‘Indira gayi thi Nasbandi main, Aur Modi jayega Notebandi main’. Let’s see, what the outcome is after the implementation of ‘notebandi’ in Uttar Pradesh and whether Bharatiya Janta Party is able to resurrect itself in the state.
(Tania Ameer is a Communications Consultant and former Special Correspondent with Millennium Post. Views expressed are personal.)