The UP (Uttar Pradesh for the specially gifted) legislative assembly elections are due since the last 5-year term since 2007 is almost over, and the democracy that our country is, we must dutifully carry out the impending circus, with appropriate diligence nevertheless.
But, then, what’s the big deal? Isn’t it just like any other state legislative assembly election? Why make a big deal out of it to begin with?
If and when we dig deeper, we’d realize it is a big damn deal! We are talking about Uttar Pradesh here. Even after its bifurcation into Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, UP continues to be the largest state in terms of both population and landmass. Its 403 constituencies make it the single largest battlefield, home to many political heavyweights from the Nehru-Gandhi family, and has given India 8 prime ministers until now.
Then it’s no wonder that it is often said that, “Dilli ki gaddi ka rasta, UP se hokar jaata hai.” And yet, corruption and political chicaning has made it, probably, the most under-achieving state in India.
And this is precisely why we Whackk! folk are interested in the UP legislative assembly elections.
Pointless trivia: UP’s population is as much as Brazil, whereas its landmass is one-fifth the size of Brazil.
It’s a four-way battle really; other participating parties don’t really make much of a dent. Making it simple, let’s just analyze what the major players bring to the platter (Not that we see anything out of the ordinary):
With the kind of power the Congress wields nationally, it’s strange how the Congress has never managed to win a major election or appropriate an office in UP. It’s been consistently thwarted by the three other parties which have ruled the roost as far as it concerns UP. One of the reasons why the Congress has been feeling confident this time around is because they picked up 21 of the 80 available seats in the General Elections in 2009. Even though that translates to, roughly, 150 seats in the legislative assembly elections, that figure still seems far-fetched from the Congress perspective.
Also, with Sonia Gandhi reducing her party activity and Priyanka Gandhi never really a front-runner, the onus, which has always been, is on Rahul Gandhi. With his protests in the Bundelkhand region about the Land Acquisition garnering the required the response, attacking the BSP and the SP, and trying to win back the Muslim and the OBC votes in the state, Congress with their ever ‘secular’ agenda, and a more unbiased national perspective may make a sizeable dent.
Number of seats in the last election: 22
STAR News-Nielsen opinion poll (This stat is a poll undertaken by the Star News-Nielson group to predict the results): 68
BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party)
The ‘Hindutva’ brandishing pseudo-nationalist party (Even if this article is supposed to be unbiased, the only-Hindutva agenda never truly makes sense in India with its multi-religion population, hence, pseudo-nationalist.) has never made a serious impact on the UP elections, just like the Congress. In state elections, it’s usually the regional parties that rule the roost.
The Bhartiya Janata Party had a meteoric rise in the early 1990's as the other national-level party than the monarch-like Congress, but there fall was equally fast. Kalyan Singh, who was leader of BJP and also UP CM in 1990's, is now not even in the party. BJP heavyweights from UP like Kalraj Mishra, Lalji Tandon, Murli Manohar Joshi and Atal Behari Vajpayee have all been either sidelined by the party or now play a role at the center.
As a result, they don’t really have a heavyweight in the state who can give them any real hope of winning it. So, the only thing they will do is run with, the now hackneyed, Ram Temple agenda and Brahmin-biased vote-bank politics. Strangely enough, Mayawati ‘stole’ the vote going against conventional casteist logic to form an unusual Brahmin-Dalit alliance, which means, even the Brahmin vote-bank strategy is going to be a long shot.
Number of seats in the last election: 51
STAR News-Nielsen opinion poll: 65
SP (Samajwadi Party)
The ‘Pehelwaan’ Mulayam Singh Yadav – led Samajwadi Party is the only serious threat to the ruling party. Even though, political heavyweight Amar Singh is no longer in the party, the combined might and popularity of the father-son duo of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav may be enough for the SP to romp home.
Constantly attacking Mayawati for ruling the state like her personal fiefdom, and for ‘not being in touch with the needs of the common man’, the SP has emerged as the single largest threat to Mayawati’s rule. They are busy announcing various waivers and schemes for the youth and the farmers which has been one of the major unresolved issues of Mayawati’s reign.
On the other hand, the crime rate in UP was much higher when the SP was in power, and that’s one of the reasons why the Mayawati-led BSP finished ahead of the SP. Of course, no party will leave a chance to point at the lawlessness that typifies an SP-led government, and yet, the SP is one of the front runners to win this election.
Number of seats in the last election: 97
STAR News-Nielsen opinion poll: 132
BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party)
The Mayawati-led BSP won the election by a landslide 206 seats last time around. Since then, her reign seems to be nothing short of power-drunk unrestrained revelry. Although she has worked to improve the infrastructure in the state and has addressed a few issues, but the Land acquisition bill issue, her constant public and immodest display of power, and her metaphorical ‘ivory tower’ presence, which maybe opposition-created or true, has dented her chances this time around to quite an extent.
As a part of her campaign, all the BSP is doing is listing out the work they’ve done in their tenure, which, going by the state UP is in, wouldn’t be a long one. Apart from this, the BSP will always have the Dalit votes (so hate caste-based politics) and if the Dalit-Brahmin axis which helped her last time around sticks on, she might well be on her way to another 5-year tenure.
Being perceived as a no-nonsense task master, having brought numerous MPs and MLAs to the book, even if they’ve been from her party also makes her a massive crowd-pleaser, though those acts may only be that, and nothing of any major substance, the current anti-corruption wave might as well be her double-edged sword.
Number of seats in the last election: 206
STAR News-Nielsen opinion poll: 117
It still seems like it is Mayawati versus The Rest. The experts though, are already suggesting a hung parliament with Maywati’s opposition emerging in leaps and bounds. But, hung parliaments and other such things are dodgy affairs, considering that, in such events political parties are strange bedfellows, a new coalition may be on its way to the power that will come with might Uttar Pradesh.
How it’s going to pan out for Uttar Pradesh though, is anybody’s guess.
P.S. What kind of a wrestler is called ‘Mulayam’.