Political activity in Uttar Pradesh has touched a crescendo even though the state is still months away from the Assembly elections. The political situation, however, has become so complicated that if polls are held today, there is likely to be a hung Assembly with no winners and only losers.
Contrary to the general perception that has been fuelled by some pre-poll surveys, no party, at present, is in a position to form the next government on its own.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which was being termed as a frontrunner for the next Assembly elections till about a month ago, has lost considerable ground with the exit of its senior leaders, charges of corruption and now the obnoxious slogans that the party workers chanted against the women in the family of expelled BJP leader Dayashankar Singh.
Dalits, considered to be the main vote base of the BSP, are still upset with Mayawati over the continuing dominance of upper caste leaders, particularly Brahmins in the party.
“Since the time of the late Kanshi Ram, every Dalit government employee has been making financial contribution to the Bahujan Samaj movement, but we are disappointed that our notes (money) and votes are actually benefitting upper castes instead of Dalits. Why should a Dalit now support the BSP?”asked Ramesh Gautam, a retired government employee, and questioned the re-nomination of BSP MP Satish Chandra Mishra to the Rajya Sabha.
Moreover, Mayawati’s refusal to reach out to Dalits on a personal level is also damaging the party, particularly at a time when other politicians are closely interacting with members of the community. The BSP is also unable to enlist the support of Muslims who feel that the party may finally end up in an alliance with the BJP. “Muslims, who constitute about 20% of the population, are upset with the Samajwadi Party, but cannot trust the BSP because it has formed government thrice with the BJP. If the BSP enters into an alliance with the Congress, we can support this secular formation but on its own, the BSP remains untrustworthy,” said Mohd Khaliq, a small-time businessman in Muzaffarnagar.
The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, is facing a high degree of anti-incumbency factor, with the deteriorating law and order situation and the increasing power crisis as additional factors. Factionalism and infighting within the party is a major cause for concern and internal sabotage during elections cannot be ruled out. To add to its OBC vote bank, the Samajwadi Party has now brought in former Union minister Beni Prasad Varma, who could have influenced the 8.5% Kurmi votes within the OBCs, but the BJP has outsmarted the SP by appointing Anupriya Patel as Union minister. Anupriya Patel heads the Apna Dal, which is a Kurmi-based outfit and her elevation is bound to bring the community closer to the BJP.
The Samajwadi Party government’s failure to ensure reservation to Muslims and jobs for the youth and also the promise of releasing innocent youth booked on terror charges, has led to a further erosion in the Muslim support base. It is this that made the SP face defeat in two Assembly byelections in Muzaffarnagar and Deoband in February this year, even though both the constituencies have a sizeable Muslim population.
The BJP too, in its present situation, may not able to emerge as a front runner in the Assembly polls. A lacklustre leadership at the state level, factionalism among cadres, sulking veterans and absence of direction in the campaign have left partymen demoralised.
“It is too early to make an assessment. The situation will change in the next few months and the BJP will emerge as a leading force,” said UP BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak.
The Congress, meanwhile, could emerge as the proverbial “dark horse” if it plays its cards well. The appointment of Ghulam Nabi Azad as in-charge, Raj Babbar as UPCC chief and Sheila Dikshit as chief ministerial candidate has lifted the party out of the realms of despair, but the Congress still has a long way to go. The upper caste vote that includes about 32% votes (Brahmins, Thakurs, and others) in Uttar Pradesh is up for grabs and if the Congress can take advantage of the situation, it may emerge as a kingmaker, though not the king in 2017.