Battle of Fiefdoms
An interesting side story in the Uttar Pradesh election is the battle of the fiefdoms—for all the high-profile players have also individual stakes here, ensuring that their constituencies do well. Much has been made of the Gandhi family losing their hold over the family bastions of Amethi-Rae Bareli in the 2012 Assembly polls where the Congress won only two of the 10 seats. This time round, it’s not any easier, specially with the SP-Congress alliance malfunctioning in Amethi. Sceptics also point to the fact that since Priyanka Vadra did not campaign beyond one day in Rae Bareli, the Gandhi family is not too confident of improving this tally. But what should give the Congress some cheer is that BJP sources admit that they are not too confident about Varanasi either. Of the eight Assembly seats, as many as five come in the PM’s Lok Sabha constituency. In 2012, the BJP won three of these. Now, it has to improve this score to live up to its VIP MP. The party’s big guns are camping in Varanasi, with as many as 16 Union ministers visiting the area, not to mention a three-day campaign by PM Modi himself. Even Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is not too confident of his home turf Saifai for that is where his estanged uncle Shivpal Yadav has his stronghold. So, whether they win the state or not, the battle of prestige lies in retaining their own little fiefdoms.
BJP’s CM Face for U.P.
The BJP has gone into the elections without a CM face, and while Rajnath Singh still remains the most popular candidate for the job—he has been working hard addressing over 120 rallies—he is not too keen on going back to the state. Which means Modi will have to groom a new local talent. While there are many aspirants, the one who seems to have made it to the shortlist is Union Minister Manoj Sinha. Little is known about the low profile Sinha. A quiet worker, he is expected to fit the Devendra Fadnavis mould of delivery-oriented governance, rather than the Manohar Lal Khattar model of rhetoric dominated delivery. Of course, all this will come into play if the BJP lives up to the on-the-record pronouncements of its spokespersons and wins the state.
Smriti Irani’s media ban
Campaigning in Varanasi for women and the weavers’ votes, Textile Minister Smriti Irani may have charmed the women, but she certainly angered the local media when she forbade them from covering one of her meetings. The local journos, not used to this attitude, especially in the time of elections, were not amused. But her claim that she was responsible for highlighting the case against SP candidate from Amethi Gayatri Prajapati, certainly got her some claps from the women in an election where law and order is a huge issue.