A year ahead of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the fate of almost all major political players in the state remains uncertain. Only the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) enjoys somewhat of an advantage over the others for the time being, but not because of its own strengths, but because the anti-BJP vote in the state is divided.
The Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the proposed Grand Alliance comprising JDU, RJD, RLD, Apna Dal and Peace Party, the AIMIM and the Congress, are all making a bid for the so-called secular votes in the state and, in the bargain, are actually eating into each other’s pie.
The SP, which has been trying to cultivate a pro-Hindu image and save its Yadav vote bank from turning into Hindus first, is losing out on Muslim support as the recent byelections to three Assembly segments proved. The SP lost two of the three seats it held. The party faced a revolt in the ranks during the panchayat elections and is now facing internal sabotage in the ongoing elections to the UP Legislative Council through the local bodies. However, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is making a conscious effort to placate Muslims and win back their confidence. The BSP, on the other hand, is trying to prevent Dalits from moving to the BJP like they did in the last Lok Sabha elections, but Mayawati’s inability to discard the Brahmin leaders in her party is a major stumbling block. The party has also been trying to reach out to Muslims, but has not met with much success except in parts of western UP.
The proposed Grand Alliance is using its success story in Bihar to woo Muslims, but the parties in the alliance lack a vote base in Uttar Pradesh.
Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has recently made its debut in the state and is unlikely to make much impact, except, perhaps, partially cutting into the Muslim votes of other parties — a “vote katua” in local parlance.
The Congress remains a non-starter at the moment and is yet undecided about its campaign focus. All these parties are apparently relying heavily on Muslim votes to take a definite lead in the polls and it is here that the BJP gets an advantage because its majority vote remains untargeted. The BJP, meanwhile, is concentrating on strengthening its Hindu vote bank, while the Central government tries to broad base its policies in order to strike a balance on the social, political and economic fronts.