Dr. J.S. Yadav
Five states -Punjab, Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh (UP) -are having state assembly elections in February-March 2022. Each state is unique and important in its own right. But Uttar Pradesh is special, as it has 403 assembly and 80 parliament seats. People say the route to Delhi Raj is via Uttar Pradesh. And it is for this reason the fierce electoral battle is going on for the state assembly. The results will be known on 10th March 2022. Some call these assembly elections as ‘semifinal’ to 2024 Parliament Elections. I say it is ‘final’. As such all those aspirants for Delhi Raj are doing their best to win especially in Uttar Pradesh; we are also focusing our analysis to UP alone here.
Many currents and undercurrents are blowing across the electoral landscape of U.P. The voters have many multi-layered considerations in their mind before they make their choice on the polling day. These include caste, subcaste, religion, region on the one hand. Proximity to the local leaders and loyalty to the party on the other. Economic benefits like reservation for admission in educational institutions and jobs. Promises and hopes built through policy statements and election manifestoes of different contesting parties. Strategies and actions to manipulate voters’ perception are important in electoral battles. As saying goes: ‘Perceptions are more real than reality’.
In March 2022 assembly elections in U.P. the tapestry of election scene is complex and any forecast of the outcome is fraught with danger. Still, to understand the complexities we discuss some trends. Some of these trends are like low hanging fruits and other are more difficult to discern.
The BJP and SP (Samajwadi Party) are the two main parties contesting for supremacy. Of course, there are many other parties in the field. Mention may be made of the grand-old Congress (All India Congress Party). Its General Secretary in charge of U.P. has made its presence felt through its bold and innovative campaign, “Ladki hun lad sakti hun” and announcing 40 per cent seats for the women candidates for the assembly elections. What will be result of the Congress gamble difficult to predict but certainly it has electrified the election scene in U.P.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Smt. Mayawati, though not very active or visible on media scene, is like to do well with its loyal voting base of SCs, especially of Jatavs.
The BJP being currently in power in U.P. for the last five years and at the Centre for the last seven and a half years (double engine ki sarkar) has advantage over its opponents in terms of having resources-both financial and manpower. The BJP fights elections seriously with full power and force at its command. In the current assembly elections in U.P. that are spread over seven phases, the Party has deployed the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Home Minister Amit Shah along with almost the entire Central cabinet and the State cabinet and most Chief Ministers of BJP ruled States and their cabinet colleagues. The RSS (Rashtriya Sawyam Sewaksewak Sangh) cadre also has spread to mobilize support in favor of BJP.
Above all, the BJP has advantage of having the Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the key campaigner. He is a great communicator and is master of the art and science of communication. He spins narratives that turn adversity into advantage and turns people’s perception into his/party favor. He weaves Hindu religion and nationalism into supernationalism. He promises sab ka vikash sab ka saath sab ka vishwas.
Moreover, the large number of parties and individuals contesting from each of the assembly seat is to the advantage of the ruling party (BJP) as the Opposition votes get split. But the parties opposing BJP question the achievements and the narratives of the double engine ki sarkar are making a sever dent on BJP’ credibility. With the loss of credibility, the great communicators’ efficacy in electoral battle declines multifold.
As such, the assembly elections in U.P. is not a cake walk for the BJP. Many factors have contributed to BJP’s difficulties. About 18-month long agitation of farmers at Delhi borders made a major difference. Alliance with Rashtriya Lok Dal and with a large number of smaller political parties and groupings has made SP a major political force in U.P. and a challenge to BJP.
Beside the challenge from the SP, the BJP may hurt itself by their internal struggle for supremacy and race for Delhi Raj. There are indications in the air that aspirations of Yogi Adityanath the Chief Minister of U.P. and Modi, the Prime Minister are at loggerhead. If that is true, the BJP may loose U.P. assembly elections.
Another threat to BJP regime is coming from the Congress party. Not with standing some prominent Congress man have joined the BJP recently, the campaign “Ladki hun lad sakti hun” has picked up. One should not be surprised if women voters become game changers as was the case in West Bengal. In that situation the Congress party may win 50 to 70 seats or at least 30 seats in U.P. In that scenario the Congress commitment to extend support to SP would checkmate the horse-trading efforts of the BJP in post poll hung Assembly; and Mr. Akhilesh Yadav as the new Chief Minister of U.P.