- BJP had secured 42.3 per cent of the total vote share in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh, which helped them to win 71 seats of the total 80.If this is translated to the Legislative Assembly seats, it could account for more than 300 seats, which means that BJP could afford to lose 10 per cent of the vote share and still form the government, given the triangular contest that the state has witnessed in 2017.
- The top leadership of BJP has ensured that the election of the BJP government in Lucknow is pursued as the party’s mission. BJP President Amit Shah, a proven poll strategist, wants to prove the critic’s wrong with the setbacks in Bihar and Delhi. As a part of the strategy, he has deployed a dozen Union Ministers to different parts of UP to ensure that both the development and caste agenda of the party reach out to the public. The appointment of an OBC candidate to the state leadership and alliance with the Rajbhar community and Apna Dal could play a major role in the outcome this time.
- Mayawati is facing the toughest challenge in her political career. She and her party have not been in power for the last ten years. If she loses again, it may dent her future prospects. Her current tactic of stitching Muslim- Dalit voters will decide the outcome of the UP elections. By fielding more than 100 Muslim candidates, she has alienated a section of her loyalists, including the Maha Dalits. But, it will be interesting to see whether the silent majority of Dalits chose her, while they went to the polling booth. If the Maha Dalits have not switched their allegiance to other parties, she could be a formidable force to reckon with, even if she has not reached the halfway mark.
- Mayawati is the worst affected by demonetisation. While Modi and Akhilesh had the advantage of being in power, Mayawati did not. In case of hung assembly, she can be an important figure. Modi did not criticise her in the early phases of campaigning, but attacked her in the later stages. This could have been a plot by the BJP camp, understanding Mayawati’s dependence on Muslim votes.
- The traditional vote bank of SP in Muslims may split between SP and BSP this time. This could favour BJP. The attempts by both the parties to woo Muslim voters might have consolidated Hindu votes in favour of BJP.
- Jats in western UP had voted for BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, following the communal riots in Muzzafarnagar. Jat farmers are the most aggrieved section in UP,due to the demonetisation drive. Moreover, the Jat agitation in the neighbouring states may have influenced their decision to keep BJP at bay. The Jat community repents the loss suffered by the son and grandson of their tallest leader, Choudhari Charan Singh. This time they may not want to repeat the mistake and may have voted for RLD.
- Jats are also worried about their estranged relationship with Muslims, their erstwhile comrades. They fear that Muslim voters will support Akhilesh government in Lucknow. In that scenario, at least a small portion of the Jat community would like to continue their support to BJP.
- Modi is facing a stiff challenge from a youth icon for the first time. Akhilesh has been popular among the youth for some time. Whether Modi’s popularity has helped BJP to woo new and young voters could determine the prospects of both the parties in a large way.
- Modi is perceived as a strong leader. Many voters think that he delivers what he promises. This would help him considerably along with the strong undercurrent that the same party that rules the Centre should rule the state.
- The Modi government has ensured that the Centre’s welfare programmes reached out to the targeted beneficiaries. The ministers and regional party leaders were deputed to ensure the delivery mechanisms,be it Ujjwala or railway infrastructure. These schemes helped BJP to make inroads into rural areas, thus swaying women and migrant populations in the party’s favour.
- The process of candidate selection was a smooth road for the BJP leadership. Amit Shah ensured that almost all the ministers and party leaders got their share in seat allocations by assuring them the seats they had nominated. Otherwise, at the local level, there was some protest against ticket distribution. But, it looks like Shah had done his homework.
- The alliance with Congress may have dented the chances of SP. The traditional voters of SP (Yadavs) consider Congress as their archenemy, so the alliance may keep a section of Yadav voters away from SP this time.The SP members, who did not get party tickets,due to the allocation of 106 seats to Congress, might have rebelled while casting votes. Rahul Gandhi’s pet project of grooming the candidates has also resulted in many rebels, as they did not get a ticket in the 106 seats allotted for the party. The staunch loyalists of Mulayam would not have voted for Akhilesh. Though Akhilesh tried a Modi style campaign, which could be a result of lack of prominent leaders in his camp, his success depends on how strong the party machinery is on ground. The charge sheet against one of his Ministers also dented his image, whereas the induction of Ansari into the BSP fold did not help Mayawati on her fight for clean politics.
- BJP has tried its best to consolidate Hindu votes and has not fielded a single Muslim candidate.
- The lack of bank branches and ATMs in rural UP may have been a boon for BJP, because demonetisation had not had a negative impact on the rural community. The Modi government, taking advantage of being in power, had made an effort to supply money to the rural areas in order to overcome the fiscal stress of December and January (as per media reports).
- Bundelkhand and western UP may see an upsurge of votes casted for BSP. But ‘Modi wave’ in other parts of UP and division of votes between SP and BSP would benefit BJP.
To conclude, BJP might finish first in the race to form a government in UP, India’s most politically charged state.
D Dhanuraj is Chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research, KochiAnupama Gosh is an intern with CPPR
Views expressed by the authors are personal and does not reflect that of CPPR