After four rounds, the balanced battle for UP could see an exciting end

It’s too early to judge a winner in such a tightly contested battle, but some clear points have emerged

It’s too early to judge a winner in such a tightly contested battle, but some clear points have emerged

Like a good cricket test match, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections appear to be heading to a thrilling end after four rounds. On the eve of the ballot for phase five, all three outcomes seem possible. When televising a test match, analysts like to divide a day into sessions. If we apply the analogy of cricket, the defender, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the competitor, the Samajwadi Party (SP), are on an equal footing, the latter having a slight advantage in terms of momentum. as the contest heads towards the decider. last three phases in the eastern part of the state.

It would be too early to judge a winner in such a contested election, where this journalist saw people living under the same roof divided between the alliances on which the BJP and the SP clash. Nonetheless, there are some clear takeaways and some important ifs and buts.

First, in an effort to highlight the bigger issues of nationalism, dynastic politics and appeasement, the BJP has lost track of the micromanagement it so cleverly implemented in the last election. Stray cattle are a real problem statewide, even bigger than the farm laws in terms of grassroots resonance, and the ruling party only realized it halfway through its campaign. In the run up to the elections, Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath focused solely on closing down illegal slaughterhouses; it was only after the third round that he began to say that he would ensure that homeless cattle did not damage farmers’ crops.

There is anti-incumbency against BJP MPs sitting in a significant number of constituencies and the BJP missed a trick by not cutting off tickets from non-performers. It was stopped in its tracks by a timely change of lower leaders from the Other Backward Class (OBC)/Most Backward Class (MBC) to the SP. Across all districts, the common grouse is that the BJP MP was not good enough to assert himself even at the local police station. Voters remembered the days of the SP-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) when a phone call was all it took to “get the job done”.

Observers said the drop in the voting percentage in urban areas is a reflection of this BJP voter disillusionment. In Aligarh, citing a criminal case, a central BJP supporter said a local BJP leader was languishing in jail because he “unnecessarily attacked a Muslim”. “During the reign of the SP, the party ensured the security of its cadres no matter what. This attitude seems good but harms the interests of the party,” he said.

Even its critics admit that the BJP has excelled in reducing crime, improving the ration distribution system and, most importantly, providing housing for the poor under Prime Minister Awas Yojana. But they add in the same vein that the BJP has diminished its gains by focusing largely on Hindutva – the Hindu-Muslim polarization and the Ram temple – issues that had lost their bite during the pandemic. By the time the “new material”, i.e. the hijab line and the judgment on the Ahmedabad explosion, gained traction, the fate of at least two phases had been decided.

Second, the new-found bonhomie between the Jats and the Muslims, and the consolidation of the Yadavs and the Muslims, has led to a “counter-integration” of the MBCs, especially in the west of the UP, in favor of the BJP. Observers said that just as Muslims who fight on a BSP ticket will not be able to move the community’s votes with them, OBC leaders who have moved to the SP will not be able to shake the fascination of the backward lower classes with the BJP. One of the examples is the seat of Khatauli at Muzaffarnagar.

This leads to another conclusion that security is a real issue for non-martial and non-Yadav OBCs, and it could hamper the prospects of the SP alliance. In some segments, we heard that the issue of security was even more important than that of development. The impact of some SP partners, such as the Mahaan Dal, has not lived up to its initial promises.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s admission on the importance of BSP amid the election indicates the crucial role that BSP leader Mayawati is playing in the election. Observers felt Mr Shah’s opening could be seen as a “thank you note” to Ms Mayawati for keeping a low profile during the first two rounds, and a cue to play him in the remaining rounds, where the Dalits seem to be mobilized. behind the SP alliance. Some reports from the west of the UP suggest that Dalit voters in villages with large Muslim populations have shifted to the BJP.

Third, BSP insiders don’t read too much into the exchange between Mr. Shah and Ms. Mayawati, and cling to the intuition of a stalled Assembly. The only difference is that they admit that the SP now has 10-15 seats ahead of the BJP. “Previously, I gave 170 each to SP and BJP. Now the SP seems to have 10-15 seats ahead,” a senior BSP official said.

A large part of the teachers, who play a big role in the electoral process, seem to support the SP alliance because of the party’s promise to restore the old pension scheme (OPS). The Rajasthan government’s decision to implement OPS has given them hope that the promise is achievable.

A former SP MP said he received a call from a local subdivision magistrate after years of inquiring about his welfare. In general, however, bureaucrats only attest to the state of mind they have in the midst of a kante ki takkar (close fight). A senior Indian Police Service officer stationed in Bundelkhand said it was indeed a close battle, but his hunch was that it would be a sweep this way or that.

SP supporters admit that the BJP has done well in parts of Bundelkhand and Awadh, but also note that these areas account for only around 100 seats and that Mr Yadav’s tours of Kanpur have drawn an outpouring of response unprecedented. “We know rationing and security need to be addressed, but the voice from the field is that the dose of welfare during the pandemic was far below what was needed,” said an SP insider who has worked with candidates in western and eastern UP.

He admitted that the lower OBCs were still mobilized with the BJP, but as the elections would move to the east of the state, “the Om Prakash Rajbhar factor” should work. “He is not a last minute entry and has been working against the BJP for quite some time,” the SP source added.

The Brahmin vote is going to be crucial in the eastern districts. Part of this influential bank of votes seems distressed by the behavior of the Chief Minister. A senior BSP leader said the BJP was suffering in this election because two influential castes, the Jats and the Brahmins, were swarming against it. “And MBCs vote by seat arithmetic. Unlike in the past, they are not mobilized behind a party,” the source said.

The BJP still believes it would be able to fill the vacuum created by the departure of some of the castes that voted for it in 2017 through the overall charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Adityanath, its social welfare programs and , of course , Hindutva. His supporters feel that BJP voters are silently voting for the party and that the noise created by the SP and its alliance partners only serves to unite the voter floating behind the ruling party. They note that the BJP might survive the defeat, but regional groups like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), BSP and even the SP would “disintegrate” if their MPs failed to taste power this time.

There is, however, the voter’s down-to-earth logic and perhaps a new pragmatism. Sarvesh Saini, a small-scale farmer from the gardening community, which poll experts say is still polarized towards the BJP, said: “It is always risky to pay the person working for you in full. You must keep at least one day’s payment on you so that the worker comes back the next day. The same is true for politicians. BJP did nothing wrong and my brother voted for the lotus [the BJP’s symbol] but I voted for the change. Let’s try the cycle [the SP’s symbol], this time. Akhilesh seems to have made amends.

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