By Gyan Pathak
Political parties in Utter Pradesh are trying to position themselves in the most advantageous way they can imagine. Except the Congress, all three major parties – the BJP, the SP, and the BSP – are working on their old agenda of communalism and casteism. Congress has been making leads for the past few months not only by campaigning aggressively, but also setting a new political agenda. A direct fight between the BJP and the SP has been visualized for months now, but the Congress seems to have entered the political chakravyuh laid out by the BJP and SP.
It is a significant change since the last 2017 assembly election when the Congress scored very poorly and could acquire only the fourth position. Even the latest poll surveys have discounted the party of any consequence in the state politics and predicted considerable loss of the party’s vote share, a situation that has been changing fast in favour of the Congress, thanks to the aggressive campaigns led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Rahul Gandhi.
The quantification of the effect on the ground is still a tough task; however, we can have some clues from the ABP-CVoter surveys of September and October. The September survey had projected that the Congress was expected to get 5.1 per cent of votes as against 6.3 per cent in 2017. However, within a month the situation changed and the October survey predicted its gain to increase to 5.6 per cent. The half per cent gain, that too within a month, is not a small bargain. Almost one month has passed since then and the Congress campaign has become even more aggressive and restarted setting the political agenda in the state after over three decades. Congress was last in power in the state in 1989 and thereafter political agenda in the states was being set by the three other political parties – the BJP, the SP, and the BSP – in different phases.
Violence in Uttar Pradesh against minorities and farmers has now become political issues. The agitating farmers’ cause against the anti-farmer farm laws of the Modi government at the Centre was already an issue impacting the length and breadth of Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Western Uttar Pradesh. Congress has not only been successful in grabbing attention of the people of the state, but also has hit headlines by announcing 40 per cent political reservation for women in party tickets in the coming assembly elections, promising free smartphones and e-schooters to girls, full farm loan waiver, 20 lakh government jobs for youth, which is the biggest of all promises so far, electricity bill for farmers to be halved plus no electricity bills to be levied for the pandemic period, Rs 25,000 assistance to Covid-affected families, and MSP of Rs2,500 per quintal for rice and Rs 400 per quintal for sugarcane.
Though Congress has thus regained the agenda setting status since it had started a downhill political journey since 1989 and had lost its power to do so, it has an uphill task ahead to make the party a chief opponent of the ruling BJP led by Yogi Adityanath. In the last three decades the Congress had been reduced to junior partners of the BSP and SP, but despite efforts of Grand Alliance, all of them are most likely to contest separately on their own. In this scenario Congress can rely on only its reenergized rank and file hope to capitalize on the loss of the BJP and the BSP.
The political surveys have already predicted a fall in share of votes of the BSP. ABP-CVoter had found in its October survey a fall from 22.2 per cent in 2017 to 14.7 per cent, ie a 7.5 per cent slump for the party, which is even one per cent more than the September prediction. The political prospect of the BSP does not seem encouraging, but it must be noted that its vote bank among certain people is still intact. Dalits, Brahmins, and Muslims were its vote bank when it ruled the state, but Brahmins, by and large have deserted the party, and Muslims vote its candidates only on the seats where a BSP candidate is stronger. Mayawati is trying her best to restore her party’s lost ground but her success in this regard is highly uncertain.
Akhilesh Yadav-led SP’s prospect seems to be brighter. The ABP-CVoter survey of October said that SP is likely to get 32.4 per cent of votes as against only 23.6 per cent it got in 2017. It was 8.8 per cent of gain, a 2.2 per cent gain within a month from its September survey. It was a great jump. However, there is every possibility of his falling into the trap of the BJP’s communal politics. For example, he has just taken the name of Md. Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and put him on par with freedom fighters and other founding fathers of India. Such statements could effect a communal polarization on religious ground that BJP has been most willing to do. It may offset his efforts of social engineering and may lose even his considerable OBC vote bank. If it happens, it may benefit the BJP the most, and only fewer numbers of votes may shift to the Congress and the BSP.
Yogi Adityanath has just asked in a bid to lay the trap, “Will you apologise for firing at Ram Bhaktas in Ayodhya?” It was a direct attack on SP. The BJP leaders are leaving no stones unturned to make political polarization on communal or religious ground. Even then their political fortune seems to be dwindling on account of misrule, violence, and leaving the common people just on the mercy of god. The ABP-CVoter survey had predicted in its October edition that the BJP may be able to grab 41.3 per cent of votes as against 41.4 per cent in 2017.
This loss would translate into loss of 76 to 67 seats out of 325 NDA had secured in 2017. If we compare it to the September survey results, the BJP has a reason to be worried. The September Survey had predicted that BJP was most likely to gain 41.8 per cent of votes. The fall within a month was of 0.5 per cent, which shows the downhill journey of the party. One month has since passed, and much water had flowed down the Gomati.
Lucknow is thus witnessing a rapid change in political fortunes of the parties, and the months ahead may bring more surprises. (IPA Service)