It may be too early for pre-poll surveys since elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are still some months away. But from the opinion polls conducted by a couple of media outlets recently it was clear that the incumbent parties in both Punjab and UP are doing pretty badly. This also seems to reflect the general opinion in political circles.
While in Punjab the Akali-BJP combine, according to one survey, is set to lose badly, dropping to third place behind the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, it is in UP that the survey has thrown up a rather surprising result. Contrary to the general belief that Mayawati’s BSP is set to come back, the poll predicts a badly hung Assembly, with, surprisingly, BJP, and not BSP, emerging with the maximum number of seats. However, no party would be anywhere near the half-way mark.
Notably, a large part of the survey was conducted before the surgical strikes. Analysts believe following the 29 September strikes against terrorists across the Line of Control in Kashmir, there will be a further jump in the BJP vote.
Also, given the numbers in Punjab, the ruling Akail-BJP combine has an uphill task making up the shortfall by polling day. In any case, the BJP is a junior partner in the state and will expect the Badals to pull off a miracle to ensure that they at least return a decent tally in the polls due early next year.
However, the stakes for the BJP are much higher in UP. The party can still make it, provided it plays its cards well. To begin with, the BJP leadership is still mulling whether or not to go in the polls with a pre- declared chief ministerial candidate. This can work both ways, with the voters of the caste to which the CM candidate belongs consolidating behind the party, but also those belonging to other castes getting less enthusiastic about it. In Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh the BJP has its most well-known face in UP, but no decision has been taken to project him thus far.
Both the BSP and the SP in this regard have a clear advantage. Mayawati is not only the solitary leader of the party, but remains its lone chief ministerial candidate. Till a couple of days ago, it was taken for granted that the outgoing Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav would be the automatic choice of the SP for chief ministership. But the SP Supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav has muddied the picture by publicly nixing the assumption about Yadav being the party’s CM candidate.
In fact, a word or two ought to be said not only about the state of the SP but about the state of mind of its super boss as well. Of late, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s often contradictory and erratic behaviour would seem to suggest that there is something wrong with him. Instead of putting a tight lid on the public feud between his son and brother, Shivpal Yadav, instead of firmly spelling out the succession plan, he has sought to play one faction against the other, much to the delight of the BSP and others keen to see the end of the unruly Yadav raj. As a result, even the hardcore Yadav supporters of the party are confused.
The BJP, surprisingly, has quietly worked at the grassroots to try and retain a good part of the support that was reflected in its tally of 71 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections. Of course, it cannot win over 300 Assembly seats it had as per the May 2014 poll, but its concentration on upper and middle castes, including Brahmins, Thakurs and Banias, seems to be yielding results. The poll survey in question revealed that it had more or less consolidated its grip on these constituencies, though Mayawati had left it with a meager 9% of the Dalit vote. In earlier times, the BJP used to get a higher percentage of Balmiki votes, while Mayawati attracted a solid phalanx of Jatav voters.
As for the Congress, well, the survey had terrible news. Despite those khaat sabhas, and nearly a month-long padyatra through the dust and grime of heartland UP, Rahul Gandhi was projected to win for his party a mere nine Assembly seats. This is cruel. The voter should at least give him some slack. Poor fellow, the prince born with a silver spoon in his mouth, footing it in 45-plus degree heat to solicit voters for the first time in his life deserves better. At 46, the Congress’ heir apparent might find it hard to survive the huge blow to his ambition to occupy the New Delhi gaddi if UP rejects him so very heartlessly.
Maybe that is why we hear that sister Priyanka Vadra is set to end years of speculation and plunge headlong into the rough and tumble of electoral politics later this month at a function in Allahabad. It will be poetic justice that the political journey of the Nehru-Gandhi khaandan, which had begun in Allahabad exactly a century ago, ends there as well. Why do we say this? Because there is precious little that Robert Vadra’s wife can do to change the fortunes of the Grand Old Party. Whoever wins UP, it is finito for the Congress party.
LETTING THE SIDE DOWN
Whatever has happened to Punjabis? They seem to be letting all of us down. Not long ago, they could be rightly proud of maximum consumption of liquor per capita in the country. No longer, though. Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have beaten Punjab hollow. Consumption of alcohol, including desi, beer and Indian made foreign liquor, shows that Punjabis no longer love their pauyas and adhiyas, having clearly switched to illicit intoxicants such as chemical drugs, opium, charas, etc. That switch is reflected in poor revenue collections from alcohol.
As per latest figures, Tamil Nadu topped with nearly Rs 30,000 crore from levies on booze, while Maharashtra netted third-highest at Rs 18,000 crore. And Punjab had to be content with a measly Rs 5,000 crore from alcohol-related duties. In fact, the neighbouring Haryana with over Rs 19,000 crore in collections from the sin tax was the second biggest consumer of booze in the country. Quite clearly, the underground drug racket in Punjab has not only taken a toll on the health of Punjabis, but has also damaged the health of the state’s finances. Time to go legit with nasha, Punjabis, isn’t it?
IS HE NUTS?
Retired Supreme Court judge Markendey Katju is incorrigible. At regular intervals he posts astounding messages on social media which, though they succeed in attracting notice, often cause people to question his mental balance. Yes, mental balance. Like the other day he tweeted that in his younger days he was in “love” with Jayalalithaa. Immediately a plethora of unprintable abuse was directed at him by some very angry fans of the ailing Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. Instead of expressing regret, Katju now blamed Tamilians for not getting the joke. (What joke, you may well ask?)
Earlier he had caused a storm on social media by suggesting that Pakistan can take Kashmir provided it also agrees to take Bihar. But after angry reaction to his Jayalalithaa post, he said, he had come to the painful conclusion that Tamilians are no better than Biharis—surely that would rub further salt on the wounds of a lot of Tamilians, wouldn’t it?