UP to witness a tough war that decides Modi's fate

UP to witness a tough war that decides Modi
Highlights

  • Will Modi magic work again in this election is a question now
  • The SP-BSP combine changed the electoral dynamics in State
  • BJP facing double anti-incumbency (against Modi and CM Adityanath)
  • Despite disastrous performance in 2014, Cong hopes to win 15 seats

SP-BSP alliance giving a tough fight to BJP which had a dream run in the biggest state in 2014 with a tally of 71 seats out of 80,

Lucknow: In India's politics, Uttar Pradesh always holds the centre-stage.

The fact that all the elected prime ministers barring Gujarat's Morarji Desai, Telugu bidda P V Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda from Karnataka are from UP goes on to buttress the importance of the country's biggest state in Delhi durbar.

In electoral arithmetic too, the State holds a sway as it sends 80 MPs (15 per cent of the total) to the 543-member Lok Sabha.

In the 2014 General Election too, UP played a key role in BJP's record feat of securing majority in the Lok Sabha – the first political party to reach the milestone in last three decades.

The State handed Narendra Modi and BJP the party he represented as prime ministerial candidate, 71 seats of 80, making the Gujarati strongman the strongest Prime Minister India had seen after Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

No surprise that Modi chose Varanasi, the India's spiritual centre located in UP, as his MP seat and won with handsome margin in 2014.

But the key question five years down the line is whether UP voters will show similar faith in the BJP and Modi. Will Modi magic be at work one again in this election?

The answer to this question holds key to whether the saffron party and its mercurial mascot Modi retains power at the Centre or not.

"The alliance between SP and BSP has changed the electoral dynamics in the State.

It is going to be a tough call to make this time around as unlike the multi-cornered contest last time, the main fight in 2019 is between the alliance and the BJP," says Ajeet Varma, a techie working with Infosys, and resident of Lucknow.

He however feels that UP people have developed a tendency to vote one-way.

"This tendency reflected in 2012 when SP won the Assembly elections, in 2014 when the BJP notched up a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha polls and in 2017 when the saffron party continued its dream run in the Assembly polls," he explains.

Varma expects a clear winner this time too and says the victor, either the BJP or alliance, will walk away with over 50 seats.

But the BJP seems to be confident that it would repeat 2014 performance. "The Modi government has taken up several pro-poor measures like constructing free houses, toilets and giving free LPG cylinders.

In UP alone, more than 1.5 crore toilets have been constructed. Farmers received direct benefit under Kisan Samman Yojana.

Farmers, the poor and youth are fully backing Modi. We will get not less than 60 seats," Alok Awasthi, spokesperson of UP unit of the BJP, told The Hans India.

But it's not going to be a cakewalk for the saffron party given the fact that Samajwadi Party (SP) led by Akilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati set aside their decades-old rivalry and joined hands to checkmate the BJP.

In 2014, the BJP won 71 seats out of 80 seats with 42.30 per cent vote share and its ally Apna Dal won two seats with one per cent votes.

SP received 22.2 per cent votes but won only five seats while its current ally BSP drew blank despite getting 19.6 per cent votes. The Congress got just 7.5 per cent votes, but could retain its traditional strongholds of Amethi and Raebareli.

The SP-BSP combine is hopeful of big gains this time as the alliance feels that its combined vote share, which stood at 41.8 per cent in 2014, will go beyond the BJP as the saffron party is facing double anti-incumbency (against Narendra Modi at the Centre and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in UP).

Observers here say the BSP and SP leaders, supporters and workers fought with each other at the ground level for several years and so the vote transfer between the two parties may not be that easy as it appears.

The BJP is banking on this aspect and also on the presence of the Congress which turns the electoral battle into a three-way contest.

Despite disastrous performance in 2014, the Congress is also exuding confidence. "We are contesting in 70 seats while the remaining went to our allies.

We will win 15-20 seats easily. There are ample chances of splitting UP seats equally among the Congress, BJP, SP and BSP. Each party will get 20 seats," claimed Satish Azmani, general secretary (Organisational Affairs), UP Congress Committee.

A former Congress MLA (two times) from Nighasan in Lakimpur Kheri district of UP, Azmani reasoned that as people were electing Prime Minister this time, people would vote for the Congress to make Rahul Gandhi as PM.

"It's a fact that we don't have our MLAs in many parliamentary constituencies. But that doesn't prevent us from winning MP seats," he told The Hans India at sprawling UPCC headquarters, which looked more like a warehouse of campaign material with bundles of posters and pamphlets strewn around, blocking the entrance and beyond.

His claims look more like bravado as a senior party leader admitted that it would be nothing short of disaster for the party in UP this time too. "Our candidates are totally demoralised.

For the Congress, there is nothing to cheer about in this State," he told this newspaper, asking not to be quoted. He however predicted that BJP's tally would slip below 30 as the SP-BSP alliance was giving a tough time for the saffron brigade.

However, a section of the poor is not so enthused about the elections. "For us, it doesn't matter who wins, as we have to work for our livelihood every day," says Satrosh, a rickshaw puller.

Sadly, Lucknow, the capital of UP that was and is home to many PMs, presents a painful picture with presence of a so many rickshaw pullers who ferry thousands of passengers day in and day out.

It's a long way ahead for the people like Satrosh to enjoy achche din. It is seven-phase election in UP with the last phase scheduled for May 19. The fourth phase concluded on Monday.

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