Trends emerging out of the fourth phase polling have more or less confirmed as to which party would form the government in Uttar Pradesh. Till now, the elections have been held for 231 seats out of 403 seats of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly. Uttar Pradesh is India’s politically most important state with 80 Lok Sabha, 31 Rajya Sabha seats and 403 Assembly seats, besides a 100-member Legislative Council. With over 15 crore voters, this state is considered as the doorway to the power at the Centre.
The first two phases of UP Assembly elections-2022 were supposedly tough for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) owing to a year-long sit-in blockade at the borders of the National Capital. The unfortunate incident of October 3, 2021 in Tikunia of Lakhimpur Kheri, where eight people including four farmers were killed after being run over by a jeep belonging to Ajay Mishra Teni, the Union Minister of State for Home, put the party at a disadvantage. His son, Ashish Mishra, was later arrested on the charges of attempt to murder along with other accused.
Poll analysts were unanimous that Yogi Adityanath-led UP Government and BJP top leadership would have to deal with farm protests and death of farmers and the opposition will not let go of this opportunity to hammer the BJP-led government in UP and the Centre as well. Sensing an opportunity to pin down the Narendra Modi Government, the Opposition went to town with the issue since five states, including UP, were slated to hold assembly elections.
Farmer’s ire and the farm protests fizzled out after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the repealing of the three contentious farm laws. The government intent was amply manifested in the recently held Punjab Assembly elections. Instead of harping on the farm laws, the political parties chose to dole out freebie promises. Going by the trend, it was bound to meet the same fate in Western UP, where Jats dominate the social structure. BJP employed its Jat leaders such as union minister Sanjeev Baliyan and MPs Satyapal Singh and Parvesh to mollify Jats and it worked.
As of now, BJP leadership is upbeat that it has managed to weather the storm as its rainbow of caste has worked and it has got a good share of votes. Even conservative assessment by the party, based on the feedback of its booth workers, indicates a gain of 75 to 80 out of 113 seats in the crucial first two phases. BJP poll strategists are cock a hoop over the outcome of phase-three and four polling. BJP had won 100 out of 118 seats in 2017 and party insiders are claiming a repeat in the results of phase-three and four polling that took place on February 19 and 23, respectively.
On the other hand, the former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party claims to have made a dent in the citadel of BJP by scoring heavily in the first two phases, where his party has aligned with Jayant Chaudhary-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
However, the poll watchers of Western UP are of the opinion that by fielding Muslim candidates on Jat dominated seats, SP-RLD combine failed to read the sentiments on the ground. The festering wounds of the 2013 riots have not healed yet, as a majority of Jats living in the villages feel that they did not get justice during the Akhilesh Yadav regime. They feel that the then powerful minister Azam Khan had prevailed over then CM Akhilesh Yadav and culprits were let off. This is an emotional issue and BJP helped to wean away Jats in their favour by ensuring better law and order situation through stained actions against hardened criminals such as Muqeem Lala, Furqan, and Kairana MLA Nahid Hassan.
The second phase was touted to be tough for the BJP as 55 seats that went to polls on February 14 have a sizeable number of Muslim voters. Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had fielded 23 Muslim candidates, SP-RLD combine gave tickets to 18 Muslims, Congress fielded 21 Muslim candidates while Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) fielded 15 Muslim candidates. In all, 77 Muslim candidates were in the fray for 55 seats. BJP had won 38 seats out of 55 seats in the last elections. SP-RLD claimed to have won the first two rounds. BJP is claiming to have won the mandate again in the first two phases based on the ground report of its booth workers.
BJP leadership is confident of repeating its 2017 performance in phase-3 and 4 polls, this time as well. BJP had won 100 seats out of 113 in phase-3 and 4 then.
Now all eyes are on the remaining 5th, 6th, and 7th phases where 171 assembly seats are up for grabs, spanning 30 districts. Sensing a positive atmosphere, BJP has pressed all its resources to seal the final outcome on March 10, 2022. “Poorvanchal has been a strong base of the BJP since 2014, 2019 Lok Sabha elections, and 2017 UP Assembly elections. BJP’s top leadership led by the Prime Minister will be addressing rallies as the last hurrah to win the mother of all polls called UP assembly election -2022”, said a psephologist on the condition of anonymity.
BJP is banking upon improved law and order situation, delivery of ration to the poor since the outbreak of the pandemic, houses for the poor under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), round the clock power supply in the urban areas, and 20 to 22 hours of power in the rural belt. Yogi Aditynath Government’s performance on building expressways, widening, and further improvement of the state highways and work under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY).
SP and BSP are trying to take the voters down memory lane about their models of governance. Political analysts feel that the Yogi Adityanath led government has managed to create a formidable block of labharthis (beneficiaries) and that is hard to beat.
There are 14.40 crore voters in UP including, 7.79 crore males and 6.61 crore females. BJP has set its sight on the women voters’ block by ensuring uninterrupted ration, toilets, and cooking gas. Women are considered ‘silent voters’ who cast their votes on the basis of beneficiary schemes that help them to run the households. Prime Minister Modi, BJP president JP Nadda, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, and other top BJP leaders mention benefits provided to the women by the ‘Double Engine Sarkar’. BJP’s poll managers have added impetus by reaching out to the women and telling them what more could be done for them once BJP wins the 2022 UP elections.
Though the opposition is trying to rake up the issue of ‘stray cattle’ to pin BJP down, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement about a concrete plan to deal with this menace has taken the wind out from the opposition’s sails.
UP Assembly elections-2022 and its final outcome will go down as ‘watershed result’ in the annals of Indian electoral democracy if the rainbow of all sections of the society vote for good governance cutting across caste and religious lines. We shall know it on March 10, 2022.