UP Elections: Advantage BJPAs time for elections in UP near, the upheavals in the Samajwadi Party (SP) is queering the pitch. With Congress not getting any response from any party for its overtures for an electoral alliance, what was in any case going to be a four-cornered fight in most constituencies will now turn to five-cornered if the SP splits and Akhilesh fields his own candidates. On the other hand, if Congress ties up with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) post the bonhomie over demonetization, there would still be four-cornered fights. In such a scenario, the BJP is likely to gain big time.
By Sunil Garodia
With BSP, SP and the Congress all vying for the votes of the poor, the backward classes and the Muslims, these votes are going to split. If Amit Shah manages a coup with the Dalits, like he did in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, then the BJP is well placed to turn it into an advantage for itself. The short-lived talks of a Bihar-style Mahagathbandhan in UP receded in the face of king-sized egos of opposition leaders and local compulsions. This has also turned out well for the BJP.
The internal feud in the Samajwadi Party has reduced its stock considerably. Given Akhilesh Yadavs indifferent tenure, it was already facing a huge trust deficit among voters. The family war has made people think if it is good to place their destiny in the hands of leaders who run the party like family run corporations. With Mulayams second wife making a pitch for her son Prateek and his wife, this family feud shows no sign of ending. Even a united SP was not assured of retaining even its traditional bastions. Split, it faces a near rout.
Despite the state being the place from where both Sonia and Rahul fight Lok Sabha elections, the Congress stands nowhere in the UP equation. Hence, the partys desperation to forge an alliance with either the SP or the BSP. It wants to ride on the coattails of regional parties to win some seats and retain the myth of its fast fading all-India presence. Frankly speaking, the Congress does not have local leaders who can bring it even a few seats. Shiela Dikshit, the probable CM face of the party, is named in the Sahara-Birla diaries. Its UP unit has long fallen into the trap of just maintaining appearances and that was one of the main reasons for the partys failures. The appointment of Raj Babbar as chief of the UP unit showed that the party was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Elections cannot be won by such tactics.
BSP is slowly emerging as the party that can give the BJP tough contest. Although Mayawatis previous tenures as chief minister had given criminals a free run in UP, the lack of alternatives might force backward classes and Muslims to rally behind her to keep the BJP out. If Mayawati can play her cards right, she can trump Amit Shahs strategy. But with the over Rs 100 crore deposit of old currency notes in bank account post demonetization coming to the fore, the party has to explain a lot. It remains to be seen how people accept that.
As for the BJP, though Amit Shah is concentrating hard on UP, there are several local permutations and combinations of caste and religious identity that he has to contend with. In the end, it will all boil down to how Shah manages to tackle these on a seat-to-seat basis. The biggest drawback for the BJP is its insistence on not naming the chief ministerial candidate. The delay is causing it dear. Prime Minister Modi will do his bit by campaigning extensively in the state. But ultimately, the voters need a local face with whom they can connect. The BJP must realize this and name its candidate at the earliest.