Uttar Pradesh: Will it be a Hung Assembly?The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance in Uttar Pradesh is hoping to corner 35 to 37% of the votes and emerge victorious in the ensuing state elections. It hopes to grab the traditional vote banks of Mulayam Singh Yadav along with a sizeable chunk of the Muslim votes. Additionally, it hopes to win over some percentage of the upper caste votes on the back of supposed disenchantment of the trading classes over demonetization.
By Sunil Garodia
If we look back at the last two elections fought in Uttar Pradesh, we find that in 2012 assembly elections, Samajwadi Party (SP) got 29.15% votes with a swing of 3.72% in its favour. It won 224 seats, which was a huge 127 seats increase from its last tally. The Congress, on the other hand, won 11.63% votes with a swing of 3.03% in its favour. It won 28 seats, up 6 seats from its last tally. The BJP got only 15% of the votes, going down by 1.97%. It won just 47 seats, which was 4 seats down from last time. The biggest loser in 2012 was BSP, which lost 4.52% of the votes to get only 25.91% and lost 126 seats from last elections to stand at only 80 seats.
But the whole equation was changed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in the wake of the Modi mania that swept the nation and some adroit vote management by Amit Shah. The BJP got an amazing 42.30% votes to win 71 seats, which was swing of 24.80% in its favour. The SP, which was the ruling party, lost heavily and got only 22.20% votes, down by 1.06%. In terms of seats, the SP only managed to retain the seats held by the Yadav clan and all its other candidates were swept away. The biggest loser was the Congress. It got just 7.5% votes, down 10.75% and only Sonia and Rahul Gandhi managed to retain their seats.
While it true that people vote differently in Lok Sabha and assembly elections and somehow favour national parties for the former and regional parties for the latter, it is also true that circumstances have changed a lot since 2012. The SP is not the united force it was then. Apart from fighting anti-incumbency in the wake of a pedestrian tenure by Akhilesh Yadav, the party is also fighting to recover from a huge loss of reputation due to the recent washing of family dirty linen in public. People are aware that the supposed patch-up between the father and son duo is just because of the elections and if the party loses, further family drama can be expected to be played out. Muslims are a confused lot. First the Imam of Jama Masjid in Delhi, a one-time staunch supporter of Mulayam, categorically stated that the SP had betrayed the community and asked them not to vote for it. Then, Mulayam himself said that the Muslims were against the SP due to the policies of Akhilesh. Can the community be faulted for ditching the party this time when the party itself admits that they followed policies which went against them? The Congress in UP is a spent force. Neither Raj Babbar nor Sheila Dikshit can reverse the fortunes. Despite Prashant Kishore, Priyanka Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, the party is expected to fare worse than the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The only thing going for the alliance is the visible lack of unity in the state BJP. Infighting over tickets and no clear leadership shows that despite the importance of these elections, the famed Amit Shah magic is somehow missing this time. Uttar Pradesh 2017 should have been taken up as a make or break elections by the BJP. But its attitude till now is almost cavalier. If the party is thinking that the sweep of 2014 will repeat itself, then it is sadly mistaken. The 2014 euphoria of change and growth is nowhere to be seen. Instead, people have begun asking questions. Things have not exactly panned out the way PM Modi had projected during the 2014 campaign. If the BJP does not get its act together fast, it is going to handover the state to the SP-Congress alliance on a platter, if the resurgent BSP is not able to make it a hung assembly. Mod is expected to swing some votes in his inimitable style when he hits the roads (some 70 rallies featuring him are planned). Also, the BJP is banking on the budget, which without being UP-specific, is expected to give enough doles to wipe away the demonetization troubles and convert voters. If it is a populist budget, BJP can hope to surge ahead. But that is a big if and as things stand now, UP is giving out all signals of having a tough election where a hung assembly is quite a possibility. With each party or alliance having its pocket of influence and no visible wave, any result is possible.