The state assembly election in Uttar Pradesh is possibly the most watched political event of the year. Initially, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut seemed all set to make a complete sweep across the state, and then the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) decided to up the ante and tied up with the Congress. Dipping into the Muslim vote bank of the state may have been BSP’s game plan, but till about a few weeks ago Mayawati, the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo was ready to make a comeback.
An expert at playing her caste card to the hilt, Mayawati, the “Behanji” was touted to be a major contender. But will she be successful in gaining the majority of the 403 assembly seats up for grabs? The prospect seems to be a rather daunting one.
Cat On The Wall
In 2007, after a long spell of unstable and chaotic political coalitions, Mayawati and the BSP finally succeeded in gaining a clear majority at the state legislative assembly with 206 votes. The power, position and clout that this victory brought could not see her through the 2012 elections, though. BSP managed to muster only 80 votes. The 2014 general elections drew naught with BSP failing to bag a single Lok Sabha seat.
The past three years have witnessed BJP’s persistent attempts to make inroads into UP politics, to gain the confidence of the Dalits and the Muslims apart from the urban Hindus. The ruling SP, riddled by strife and polarised between the ageing leader Mulayam Singh and his son, the young and dynamic Akhilesh Yadav, has not managed to instil much confidence either.
Yet somewhere, the perception is that SP and its freebie culture, Akhilesh’s personal stature, and memories of the catastrophic religious clashes from the 1990s may egg voters to vote against both the BJP and BSP. Mayawati is the proverbial cat on the wall. If it comes to forming a coalition, she may not hesitate to join hands with the BJP and occupy the CM’s office.
Mayawati has failed, and failed spectacularly to capitalise on the advantage that she held till about a few months ago. In fact, even PM Modi had said that she was the rival that BJP needed to watch out for. Rural Dalits were firmly pitched in her favour and she had started to make overtures to gain Muslim confidence. This was the right time to swoop in and aggressively pitch the shortcomings of the two other rival parties (discounting Congress). Mayawati failed to gain news bytes and bask in the limelight. SP stole the moment and announced its tie up with the INC.
Who Is The BJP CM Candidate?
BJP’s greatest failing in the run up to the UP state assembly elections 2017 could be the party’s failure to announce a chief ministerial candidate. Deliberately not announcing a CM candidate and fighting the elections merely on the strength of the PM’s propaganda seems outright foolhardy. In a state like UP where important issues need to be addressed, the electorate expects to know the person and the personality of its leader. To stand a chance against heavyweights like Mayawati and Mulayam Singh, one needs a strong presence.
First Among Equals
Now by no means are we suggesting that SP is free from its share of blunders. The infrastructure development, poverty alleviation measures and unemployment compensation – all of its 2012 election promises remain largely unfulfilled. Fielding candidates with ongoing rape and murder cases against them does certainly not add to the party’s image either. Gayatri Prajapati and Arun Verma may well turn the average female voter off.
Splitting Uttar Pradesh
Another issue that Mayawati has now pitched, in a last minute ditch effort to woo voters before the fifth phase of election, is splitting UP into four new states – Purvanchal, Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Awadh. While unequal development is certainly an issue in the state, there has been no major demand for statehood from any of the four regions. The SP, too, has remained largely silent over the issue. Stoking up latent embers in the hope to win votes may be a strategy that could backfire for Mayawati.