UP Elections 2017 at a glance: What's at stake and who's in fray in India's most populous state

Firstpost sifted through the political pandemonium playing out in UP elections, and brought together all that you need to know to track the humongous polling exercise.

Ananya Srivastava February 07, 2017 17:53:56 IST

Uttar Pradesh is called the king-maker state and it's not for nothing. The northern Indian state, with over 14,12,53,172 voters, sends the largest number of Members of Parliament to the Rajya Sabha, where both the ruling party and the Opposition vie to stake control.

Take for example, the current arrangement in both the Houses. The Modi government, enjoying a brute majority in Lok Sabha, has presented a curious and unprecedented tug-of-war between the ruling party and the Opposition. While the BJP-led NDA government can pass any law as it pleases in the Lower House, key legislation often get stuck in the Upper House — where the Congress enjoys a majority — due to Parliament logjams and political bickering. While for the BJP, UP polls will be one chance to wrest free the Rajya Sabha from the controls of the Opposition, ensuring that BJP's strength is limited in Rajya Sabha is the only respite Congress can hope for until the next Lok Sabha Elections.

The state elections also arguably set the precursor to the the 2019 Lok Sabha election as UP was crucial in BJP's cleansweep in 2014 Lok Sabha elections — the saffron party's one-third parliamentarians come from the state that sends 80 MPs to the Lower House. Besides this, with the 2017 Presidential Election is in the offing, UP's strength will also play up in selecting the Constitutional head of the state.

Thus, it is only natural that all eyes remain on the intense political drama unfolding in the state in these high-stake elections, due to start from 11 February. So Firstpost sifted through the political pandemonium playing out in UP, and brought together all that you need to know to track the humongous polling exercise.

When does Uttar Pradesh go to polls?

The giant state elects its legislative assembly in seven phases. The Election Commission, for the sake of logistics, divides the state into even segments and conducts polling on different dates. The first set of constituencies go to poll on 11 February, while the last set wraps up the polling process in five states of India on 8 March. The results for all the five states are due on 11 March. Here is a breakdown on which part of UP goes to poll when.

UP Elections 2017 at a glance Whats at stake and whos in fray in Indias most populous state

Poll Schedule At a Glance

Phase 1 - Total 73 constituencies, including a larger chunk of the politically important, western Uttar Pradesh will go to polls on 11 February. Key constituencies include communally sensitive constituencies of Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Dadri and Meerut, apart from Ghaziabad, Noida, Agra etc.

Phase 2 - Voters from 67 constituencies, in what is known as the Rohilkhand region, will choose their representatives on 15 February. Important constituencies include, Saharanpur, Moradabad, Pilibhit, Bareily, Kheri etc.

Phase 3 - This phase constitutes of some of the most interesting electoral combats with state's political heavyweights like Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Brajesh Pathak, contesting elections in this phase. Sixty nine constituencies falling around the Central Ganges planes in the state will go o polls on  19 February. The key constituencies to look out for will be Kanpur, Unnao, Allahabad, Phulpur, apart from the state's capital Lucknow.

Phase 4 - Fifty three constituencies in and around Bundelkhand, arguably the state's most underdeveloped region, goes to poll in this phase on 23 February. Important constituencies to track in this phase include Jhansi, Mahoba, Lalitpur, etc.

Phase 5 - Voters from 52 constituencies will cast the ballot on 27 February. Constituencies like Basti, Ambedkar Nagar,  Bahraich, and Amethi will go to polls in this phase.

Phase 6 - Total 49 constituencies will vote on 4 March in this phase. Key constituencies in this phase include Padrauna, Mubarakpur, Mau etc, with many stalwarts and turncourts entering the fray.

Phase 7 - The last phase of polling will be held on 8 March for 40 constituencies in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, or what is colloquially known as Purvanchal. Key constituencies in this phase would include Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Jaunpur, Sonbhadra etc

UP Elections 2017 at a glance Whats at stake and whos in fray in Indias most populous state

Uttar Prdesh goes to poll in seven phases. Image Credit: Election Commission of India

Who is in the fray and what is at stake?

The political scene in the state has been dominated by regional players (SP, BSP, RLD etc) since the 1990's and the so called national parties (BJP and Congress) have been pushed to the sidelines. If at all BJP and Congress managed to stake claim at the throne of UP it was by cobbling up an alliance with the regional parties.

But in Lok Sabha elections 2014, the people of the state voted overwhelmingly in support of the BJP. The saffron party would like to repeat the winning streak for obvious reasons, as it will pave a smooth path for the party in Delhi. However, the current ruling party in state, Samajwadi Party, has barely emerged from a succession war and it is Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's only opportunity to prove his mettle as a leader, after he overthrew his father from the party's helm. The Bahujan Samaj Party, meanwhile, has been working silently on the ground to regain control on the state by engineering a politically potent but unpredictable amalgamation of two communities, Dalits and Muslims. However, each party has its own Achilles heel to deal with; the nail biting competition can swing any way.

Bharatiya Janata Party - The ruling party at the Centre is leaving no stones unturned in repeating its sweep in the Assembly Elections. However, the Prime Minister's move to demonetise higher value currency notes in November is still fresh in the voters' minds, which caused much distress to the common man. Although, Modi and Amit Shah have sought to portray it as a major move to weed out black money, it remains to be sen whether or not the cash strapped sugarcane farmer from western UP or a small trader from Purvanchal, or farm labourers reeling under continuous spells of drought in Bundelkhand buy that narrative. If anything, Shah himself has conceded that the election results in the five states will be the people's mandate on demonetisation.

Samajwadi Party - The Yadav Pari-'war'  has been grabbing headlines since October last year, when the Yadav scion and UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav finally decided to move out of the shadows of his uncle and father. The high decibel family drama, totally comparable to your average Bollywood thriller, culminated into Akhilesh wresting control of the party out of the hands of Shivpal and Mulayam. That did two things for Akhilesh: One, he was able to shake away the 'three-and-a-half chief ministers' tag from his government and emerge as a decisive leader, two, he could have his say in the ticket distribution and in forging alliances ahead of the crucial polls. However, in that alone lies his strength and his weakness. The mandate in UP will not only be a clear reflection on his work of the past five years, but his latest stint to dethrone his father and ally with the Congress, apparently at the cost of  'Mualayam ke log' and the party workers who were expecting tickets on seats that were compromised to Congress.

Bahujan Samaj Party - BSP, that has traditionally claimed the unwavering loyalty of Dalit voters in the state was annihilated in the last assembly elections and Lok Sabha polls. However, BSP supremo Mayawati, known for her political astuteness can very well spring a surprise by combining Dalit and Muslim votes breaking away from SP in the wake of Mulayam's forced political exile. However, she too is treading troubled waters as corruption charges leveled against her brothers have revived the memory of allegations against her when she was the chief minister. Alleged splurging of public money, corruption, and a disproportionate asset case against her marred her tenure and contributed to the anti-incumbency factor that brought on the SP win.

Congress - With many poll pundits refusing to count Congress as a serious contender in the crucial polls, the Grand Old Party is perhaps the only party locked in a win-win deal. Rahul Gandhi, flanked by Akhilesh Yadav is drawing unprecedented crowds to his rallies, and the Congress has also forged a mint deal of over 100 seats in the alliance, which many believed it did not deserve. Whether or not the SP-Congress alliance make it to power, Rahul Gandhi will have a respectable exit when drapes are drawn on the election drama.

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