All Eyes on UP
The fifth phase of the legislative assembly elections is underway in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The importance of the assembly elections in one of the largest states of India need not be reiterated; we have read, heard and debated it all too often in the past few months. And now is the time for the people of UP to deliver their final verdict on the triangular contest between the Akhilesh- Mulayam-led SP (and its final hour ally, Congress), the Dalit champion Mayawati-led BSP, and a BJP desperate to sway the electorate in the state.
The Fifth Phase – High Stakes
A total of 11 districts go to poll today. These include: Ambedkar Nagar, Amethi, Bahraich, Balrampur, Basti, Gonda, Faizabad, Sant Kabir Nagar, Shravasti, Siddharth Nagar and Sultanpur. These 11 districts cover about 51 assembly seats, almost an eighth of the 403 seats for which polls are being held. (One Anglo-Indian MLA is nominated by the Governor of UP). 18 million voters wield a choice today. And the fates of 607 candidates hang in balance. The numbers are big and the stakes high.
It is precisely for this reason, that security measures have been beefed up in many parts of the state. One of the most sensitive areas of the state, the beautiful Terai region which forms the foothills of the Himalayas, is also set to vote today. In the interest of peace and free and fair elections, the security forces of the country carried out a flag march in this region yesterday.
Keeping Communal Differences Out Of Politics
Imagine Indian politics free from the clutches of religion, caste, reservation and such communal pitches? Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? The Election Commission attempted to achieve the impossible by making an appeal to the politicians of all parties to keep casteism and religion out of their speeches. The EC asked the parties to desist from fanning sparks of communal and religious differences ahead of today’s poll.
The initial phases of election in the state saw active campaigning and rallies driving a deeper wedge through the state’s communal and religious divide. We do, however, stop to appreciate the wonderful effort made by the EC – a first of sorts in the country.
Candidates And Controversies
The fifth phase of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh has been a brazen display of political might and of the influence of the rich and mighty. Of the 607 candidates fielded in these 51 constituencies, about 117 hold criminal records. According to a news report, the affidavits filed by the candidates reveal that some 23 BSP candidates, 21 BJP candidates, 17 SP candidates, 8 RLD candidates and 3 Congress candidates, apart from 19 Independents, have ongoing criminal cases against them.
Leading the pack, perhaps, is SP candidate Gayatri Prasad Prajapati who is fighting for a seat from Amethi. Prajapati became an MLA in 2012 and was the Minister of State for Irrigation in Akhilesh Yadav’s ministry. He later also gained the mining portfolio and became a Cabinet Minister. Apart from major corruption charges (for which he was sacked from the cabinet), Prajapati also has rape charges against him. And yet he managed to gain a ticket due to his proximity to Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family.
The other two candidates from Amethi are no less controversial. In what is now being called a “Rani Vs. Rani” showdown, Congress’s Amita Singh, wife of leading politician, Sanjay Singh, will go head to head with Sanjay’s now ex-wife and Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Garima Singh. We are all aware of how important Amethi is in India, but this is a new dimension of family politics that we may witness.
Ayodhya is another constituency up for elections and it remains to be seen if the voters consider voting on religious sentiments. The death of the Alapur SP candidate Chandrashekhar Kanauji forced the EC to postpone elections here till 9 March.
The fifth phase of elections in UP is, without doubt, the most dramatic one. By about 3 pm, some 49 percent voters in the constituencies had cast their votes. Now, we must wait and watch if the final hours coax great numbers to cast their mandate. Also, in a phase where 96 lakh women are set to vote, we should hope to see some twists and turns in the results.