UP Polls 2022: What Could Work In Whose Favour?

8 Mar, 2022 10:49 IST|Sakshi Post
UP Polls 2022

By Ratan Manilal

Polling for all the seven phases of Uttar Pradesh Assembly election has come to an end and the wait for the counting day begins. In more than a month of campaigning marked by charges, counter-allegations, promises and rhetoric, political parties have put in everything at their disposal into the contest. The major election issues includedprice rise, cases of violence against women, covid-19 crisis, unemployment, unresponsive government machinery, polarisation, favouritism andstray cattle menace. However, here is an attempt to look at issues that were not exactly part of the campaign but will have a decisive impact on the verdict. These range from caste, community, region, bureaucracy, demography, policing to government schemes. While a guess on the numbers will still not be advisable, but a trend can definitely be seen through all this.

CM face: The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to have chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, as the party’s face for the campaign. His image of being a tough administrator and a hardliner Hindu leader, appeals to a section of society. It is believed that the party might think of an alternative in case it needs the support of another party (most probably the Bahujan Samaj Party) in forming the government. For the Samajwadi party (SP), former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav is portrayed as its chief ministerial candidate, regardless of its main ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and its leader Jayant Choudhary. Akhilesh’s popularity among the youth is a factor in his favour.

For the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Mayawaticould be the obvious choice, but it is to be remembered that she had in 2019 appointed her brother Anand Kumar as the party's national vice president and her nephew Akash Anand as the national coordinator. Akash Anand is tipped to be her political heir and she could seek a role for him in case her party’s support is sought in forming a government.

The Congress, despite an aggressive campaign led by party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, had refrained from naming anyone as the would-be chief minister.

Community:The Muslim community all over India had risen against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in late 2019 and in UP, the Yogi government had adopted a tough stance against the agitation by seizing the property of those in the forefront of the protests and putting up posters in public places with the photographs and addresses of such people. Members of the community had resented this and later the court also found administrative flaws in the order. It is believed that the community has largely voted against the BJP on this issue. Also, most Muslims have a perception of BJP being anti-Muslim.

However, there are reports that women of the community might have voted in BJP’s favour because of the law against triple talaq and also because of the benefits received during the corona crisis.

Interestingly, the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen(AIMIM) of Asaduddin Owaisi from Hyderabad, had campaigned across Muslim-dominated districts in UP, seeking the community’s support. It was a dilemma in some districts where Muslim candidates were put up by AIMIM, SP and BSP as well, especially in western UP. However, in past elections also AIMIM has tried to seek the community’s support but to no avail. Owaisi blames Akhilesh Yadav and the SP for his failure, since SP is said to be the first choice of the community.

Caste: Caste influences elections in every state and UP is no exception. The large-scale desertion of the BJP by the members of the OBC indicated that sections of the communityhad found it uncomfortable to continue with the BJP for different reasons. At the same time, the Yadavs, a strong group within the OBC, had started visualising a revival of the SP under Akhilesh’s leadership and the eventual emergence of the SP as the main challenger against the BJP. Thus, Yadavs and some OBCs may have supported the SP.

At the same time, there are indications that some non-Yadav OBCs are still strongly with the BJP as is evident from the support the party enjoys in certain parts of the state. A division of the OBCs’ support is certain to have taken place. So is the case with Dalits, since a large section is known to be with BJP even as Mayawati and her BSP continue to have the unflinching loyalty of an equally large section.

The changing preferences of the Brahmin group has also been much discussed in the campaign. It is said that after the July 2020 killing in a police encounter of a gangster of Kanpur, who was a Brahmin, had made the community move away from the BJP, and some even termedYogi as “anti-Brahmin.” However, the fact that many Brahmins were among those policemen killed by the gangster, was contrary to this perception. Also, efforts to woo the Brahmins were made by the SP, BSP and the Congress too, even as no noteworthy Brahmin leaders quit the BJP.

Govt schemes: The Yogi government has been running several schemes, including the Centrally-sponsored ones, for the benefit of the weaker sections of the society. In addition, free foodgrains are being provided to the underprivileged sections ever since the advent of the Covid-19 crisis, to be continued till the coming Holi. This has created a clear class of beneficiaries who are inclined to vote for the BJP in urban as well as rural areas. There are reports to this effect from Bundelkhand area as well. Schemes like free LPG cylinder, pension to farmers, the elderly, allowance for school uniforms – all transferred in the beneficiaries’ account under the DBT (direct benefit transfer) system – are also said to have benefited a large number of people across districts. This might go in the BJP’s favour to some extent.

Law, order & crime control:There is a general feeling that maintenance of law and order has been under control and organised crime has been wrecked to a great extent by the Yogi administration. The campaign against criminal groups and the seizure and dismantling of property of such individuals has had a noticeable effect. There have not been many reports of criminals or gangsters prevailing over the police or overwhelming police stations, as used to happen in the state some years ago.

Allegations of caste preference keep cropping up every now and then, but the number of such instances is not as much as it used to be earlier. The introduction of the system of having Police Commissioner in Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi and Noida also seems to be working fine.

Bureaucracy:The bureaucracy is not supposed to align with any political party, whether in power or out of it. In Uttar Pradesh the officialdom is selective about it. While in the past, officers holding the Chief Secretary’s position have openly sided with the then ruling party, even participating in party functions. Recently, a former Chief Secretary was seen at the function to release SP manifesto, and he was among those who had prepared it. In the present government, officers have been wary of being considered too close to the ruling party – office-bearers of the ruling party have often complained about it too. Tales of members of the present-day bureaucracy reviving their contacts with the SP have been doing the rounds in Lucknow for some time now. Not only this, some officials are reported to be taking active interest in cleaning up and renovating buildings and parks having been launched by the previous SP government.

It can be said that the bureaucracy, at least, does not want to on the wrong side of the SP if it comes to power. Interestingly, complaints about inefficiency and non-cooperation of government employees and officials in districts have been reaching the state BJP office for several months now and many in the party feel that these could have made the BJP unpopular among the masses.

Region: The seven phases of polling in UP are marked on the basis of specific regions, starting from western UP. While the first phase is adjacent to Delhi and NCR, the second is in the north, third is southwest, fourth and fifth stretch from north to south, and sixth-seventh are eastern to south-eastern, bordering Bihar and some other states. There was a time when there used to be voting patterns for each district region, as people in these regions had distinct party preferences.

However, this time the pattern is nowhere to be seen. The BJP and the SP have been locked in tough contests all over the state. It is only the smaller parties having aligned with the two, having limited influence. As a result, it is the larger, wider appeal of the SP and BJP that seems to have mattered. If the BSP and the Congress do not come up with respectable numbers this time, then UP could well be on way to becoming a two-party state like Rajasthan, Gujarat etc.

Demography: Women appear to be the most favoured section wooed by parties. The Congress campaign led by Priyanka was especially women-centric as it started with the announcement of 40 per cent tickets to women candidates, and a slogan urging girls to fight for their rights. This was different from the campaigns by other parties that took more of a please-all approach, regardless of general promises of free electricity and loan waiver for farmers.

The SP, on the other hand, highlighted Akhilesh’s appeal as a “youth” leader and his alliance with Jayant Choudhary of RLD was portrayed much on the lines of the Rahul-Akhilesh “youthful duo” in the 2017 Assembly election.

The huge turnout at roadshows, public meetings, raising issues that are relevant or not, are all part of electioneering in India. More than these, it is the undercurrents that matter.

Also Read: UP Polls 2022: Signals From The First Round


Ratan Manilal - Political Analyst, associated with Peoples Pulse, a Hyderabad-based Research Organisation. He can be reached at peoplespulse.hyd@gmail.com

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