UP Election 2017: What’s driving Narendra Modi and his rivals desperate ahead of the final phase?

Is there something about the Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh that is missing the eye?

The hint of desperation all around is hard to miss. Mega road shows, all the top guns of parties into heavy firing, thousands of party workers out on the streets and the shrillness of it all — the intensity out there before the last round of polling is rather unusual. When did you last see a prime minister doing back-to-back road shows and full time campaigning for an Assembly election?

The answer could be more in the fact that no party sees a clear trend so far than the fact that it's the last leg and all of them want to give it their best shot. Six phases of election are over and all the parties have played their hand. Strategies — fair and foul — have been tried out. The BJP has tried hard at polarisation, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance has flaunted its development card and the BSP has taken on both for making false claims, yet the buzz on the ground indicates no favourite.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to his supporters in Varanasi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to his supporters in Varanasi. PTI

A section of the media in Delhi may have discovered a 'wave' in favour of the BJP and declared it the winner already, but the party itself is unsure. The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance may be counting on the youthful appeal of Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, the possibility of Muslim votes staying consolidated behind it and the persuasive force of the Kaam Bolta Hai slogan, but in reality it's unclear whether all these ideas are going to pay off. The BSP has put its faith more in booth-level mobilisation than grand talk and expects to sail through with a chunk of Muslim votes combining with its core Dalit base. Many ifs remain for it too. No party thus can afford to rest easy till voting for the last set of 40 seats is over.

The desperation around is self-explanatory. That tells us why Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be visiting the relatives of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri or temples or Gadwaghat Ashram — a place of reverence for the Yadav community, besides getting involved in electioneering for three continuous days. He has been the commander-in-chief of his party’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh, virtually a one-man army with all other leaders from the state relegated to irrelevance. If the party does not win, the blame lies squarely with him.

But there could be more to his involvement. His personal prestige is at stake in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency he represents in the Lok Sabha. A loss in more than a couple of the eight Assembly segments here would be a blow to his reputation and it will have a spin-off effect on the build-up to the 2019 General Election. He won’t be perceived to be the same leader for whom people voted with enthusiasm in 2014 if he goes back with a bloodied nose. The aura around him would take a hit.

If this was not trouble enough, his party faces the problem of dissidence in several seats and at this point he does not have much to show in terms of the development he promised his constituency three years ago. If his flurry of activity betrays desperation, he cannot help it.

The situation is desperate indeed.

This is a test he has to clear with distinction, mere pass marks won’t do. A Bihar repeat would be politically disastrous for him. So he is giving it his all. It does not matter if it looks odd for a prime minister to be slogging it out in this fashion.

Coming back to whether something misses the eye in the election so far, there certainly is. In the last few elections we have been noticing the winner receiving a massive mandate and others experiencing a big dip. If there’s a wave, it announces itself in the results, not before that — even opinion/exit polls with fairly large sample sizes fail to detect the direction of the sub-surface current. The trend leaves no one feeling secure.


Published Date: Mar 07, 2017 07:31 am | Updated Date: Mar 07, 2017 07:31 am

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