Uttar Pradesh Assembly election: All signs point to February polls in major battleground

Will Uttar Pradesh witness Assembly polls in February? Probably, yes.

There are three unambiguous pointers that make you feel that elections are round the corner in Uttar Pradesh: First, the Election Commission (EC) of India has cancelled the examination date sheet for Class 10 and 12 rather abruptly.

The EC doesn’t want the UP Secondary Education Board to conduct examinations from 16 February to 20 March. The Board has now been directed by the Commission to reschedule the dates in consultations with the state’s Chief Election Officer. Does that make things clearer?

 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election: All signs point to February polls in major battleground

Several unambiguous pointers give the feeling that elections are round the corner in Uttar Pradesh. AFP

Second, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is now a man in a hurry. Drawing inspiration from Jayalalitha's 'Amma salt' campaign in Tamil Nadu, Akhilesh has hastened the launch of the subsidised sale of ‘samajwadi namak’ in UP.

According to Samajwadi Namak Vitaran Yojna, this salt (fortified with iron and iodine) would be made available to BPL (below poverty line) and antodaya card holders at three rupees per kg, while those above the poverty line (APL) would get it for six rupees per kg.

And third, in his bid to further flummox political adversaries, the Chief Minister and his cabinet rushed to approve the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations, with effect from as early as 17 January, 2017.

About 24 lakh state employees and pensioners would stand to gain from this move. Their feel-good factor apart, all incumbent governments want state employees to be on their side for another reason: They are employed for election duty.

Obviously, the Chief Minister knows much more about the probable election dates than we do. Little wonder then that, while announcing the pre-election bonanza to state employees like a bolt from the blue, he spoke his mind last Tuesday: "It’s a pro-people measure. We shall form the next government on our own… And if we are able to strike an alliance with like-minded parties, we will win at least 300 of the total 403 seats."

Continuing in the same vein, Akhilesh said further: “We all want the menace of black money to take a beating, but demonetisation without adequate preparation by the Centre has put people in all kinds of trouble. The common man, particularly farmers, is in distress. All those who are standing in queues outside banks shall soon line up to teach the BJP a lesson."

The Chief Minister’s apparent preparedness and body language apart, there are two more pointers which indicate that the ensuing Assembly elections in five states – and not just UP – will be held sooner than later: One, Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi too, like Akhilesh, seems to be in a race against the clock. And two, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is busy behind the scenes, trying to build bridges between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP).

To understand all this better, listen carefully to what Gandhi has been saying of late — aggressively, in a no-holds-barred mould. He said that there will be an earthquake if he is allowed to speak on demonetisation on the floor of Lok Sabha. He also claims that he has explosive information on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘personal corruption’.

“And read my lips…the prime minister is personally terrified of the information I have, we have. It is personal corruption of the PM that we have detailed information on,” Gandhi had said.

But Gandhi stops there without elaborating on things. Posturing for elections? Maybe, yes. It’s rather significant that the Congress heir-apparent had ensured that at least 15 leaders of different opposition parties stood by his side, while he was making these statements to media at the Parliament House premises.

Having failed to spell out things on the floor of the Parliament, he would now hit the streets, along with his supporters, in different parts of the country, even more so in poll-bound states. Already, he has collected detailed distress petitions from more than two-and-a-half crore UP and Punjab farmers.

According to the latest grapevine in the corridors of power in Lucknow, an alliance between the SP and the Congress is already on the cards. Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal and Mukhtar Ansari’s Qaumi Ekta Dal would also join this larger alliance.

Akhilesh’s tilt towards Gandhi is well known. And nobody should be surprised if he finally succeeds in clinching the SP-Congress tie-up formally. SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav would, according to Akhilesh, take the final call on the issue of alliances.

BSP chief Mayawati too knows that elections would be held anytime now. Perhaps, that can explain why she has been addressing press conferences and issuing statements almost daily recently.

Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 14:47:00 IST