Winds of change could be blowing in Uttar Pradesh. Ahead of the third phase of polling in this most populous and politically crucial Hindi heartland state, there are signs on the ground that Samajwadi Party-Congress coalition, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav’s pre-poll catchphrase “UP ko ye saath pasand hai” is not striking the desired cord among the numbers of voters required to catapult them to power.
That catch phrase in any case has been lifted from Salman Khan-starrer Sultan song 'Baby ko bass pasand hai'. Though the core social constituents of the coalition — the Yadavas and broad sections of Muslims — may like the tune, the majority could still come out with the verdict that “baby didn’t like the bass” for a variety of reasons. They may say: "UP ko kuch aur hi pasand hai."
It’s true that there are no obvious signs of anti-incumbency against Akhilesh Yadav but the endorsement sentiments to bring the incumbent back to power is clearly missing.
An excessive reliance of the SP-Congress coalition to woo Muslims has given rise to latent Hindutva sentiments across the state. The strategists perhaps erred in calculating the Muslims vote but they are not the only ones who vote. Mayawati too has erred on the same count. Scratch a bit and Hindutva sentiments of non-Yadav and non-Jatav community would come out to the fore. The situation may not be that of 2014 but this factor is certainly there on the ground and that could significantly tilt the balance for BJP.
The polling percentage so far, with exception of Noida, has been very good. That is a clear indicator that voters in large numbers from all communities are coming out to vote.
After talking to people drawn from various strata of society and also of various castes in various parts of the state, Firstpost assessed that there is a clear edge to the BJP. Except for some heavily Muslim-populated constituencies in Western UP, in all other places, it is the BJP, which all parties and candidates are fighting against. That’s a huge change from 2012 assembly elections.
BJP’s consistent efforts to woo non-Yadav Other Backward Castes (OBCs) is working in UP elections. The party’s hammering that Akhilesh Yadav or SP government meant welfare of one caste (Yadav) and one particular community (Muslims) has hit right cords among people.
If you talk to people in Ghaziabad, Kannauj, Kairana, Bagpat, Raebareli, Amethi, Amroha, Shamli or any other place, someone would start an argument that in all appointments, including police or public service commission and in all important postings including that of SO (station Officers) and such posts of importance in police and administration, Yadavs have been a favoured lot. Firstpost can’t verify this but whether right or wrong, that’s what is public perception and during elections, it’s not the facts, or lies or half-truths which matter. What matters is public perception around an issue or around a leader.
Take Rakesh Kashyap, a worker at gud kohlu in Bagpat, Sohan Lal, Sukesh Kushwaha in Kannauj, Rampal Rana in Samli, Lal Bahadur Singh in Raebareli, Banwari Gupta in Ghazibad, Lokesh Mishra in Moradabad. They all talked about undue favours to “Yadavs only” in Akhilesh’s regime.
While BJP does not have a chief ministerial face to counter Akhilesh, that handicap is still not so much of a hindering factor, given the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to have a very high popularity rating.
His sincerity and the surgical strike are talked about to claim that he means business and should thus be given time. There is also an argument that Mulayam, Mayawati and Akhilesh by rotation have been given 15 years; so why not try BJP – a combination of same-party government at the Centre and in the state?
Whatever Modi’s critics may say, demonetisation is not an issue on the ground, which is influencing the voting pattern. Those opposed to demonetisation and claiming that this would spell doom for Modi are drawn from those who in any case wouldn’t have voted for Modi. Those supportive of BJP in these elections claim that demonetisation was a good move to eliminate corruption.
Travelling through various regions of Uttar Pradesh, one finds a huge change in people’s perception than what seen in 2012 assembly elections. Five years ago, there were very few who would talk about BJP. It was only hardcore supporters of the party would used to make weak arguments or it was the influence of individual candidates in constituencies which made electorate of that constituency talk about the party and its leader.
The ongoing election of 2017 marks a perceptible change. BJP’s presence is visible everywhere. Its supporters are spread everywhere, vocal or silent. The slogan “Abki Bar BJP sarkar” may not be for these elections there but people are actually talking in those terms.
In Dimple Yadav’s parliamentary constituency, for instance, when a heated argument was going on in a group of youngsters about their respective preference for SP and the BJP, a person who appeared to be from a marginalised section of society told Firstpost: “Iss baar yahan hawa BJP ka hi hai, uski hi sarkar banana chahiye”. This was not an isolated example.
An elderly Congress leader in Raebareli was snubbed at Naresh Sweets while having coffee by two of his friends from Pratapgarh, saying whatever he might say against Modi, there was a need to support Modi both at the Centre and in the state.
One is not sure if it is the chaiwala’s brew or something in the air that made the Congress leader concede that Modi was still popular and people in some areas would still be voting for him in Raebereli-Amethi region but he thought Rahulji was learning fast. “What about Akhileshji?” his friend questioned. The Congress leader said, "I can't say anything about him, he is leader of another party.”
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Updated Date: Feb 19, 2017 10:31:35 IST