UP prepares for a photo-finish

UP prepares for a photo-finish

Photo Courtesy @ABPLive.com

Photo Courtesy @ABPLive.com

Landing in Lucknow after nearly a month one finds the chill has receded. Whether it is due to the rising political heat one cannot say.

But, certainly the election atmosphere is now palpable as soon as one comes out of the airport. The line of SUVs with party flags and juniors in white (now linen not Khadi outfits) waiting with bouquets to receive leaders from Delhi signal the arrival of the poll season in full swing.

However, if one expected the winter fog to have cleared after the dust settled over the Samajwadi Parivar saga, it is early days yet.

For one, people seem to be still confused by the mixed messages emanating from the Yadav household. Though the underlying logic of their tie-up with Congress is understood, there is surprise at the whopping 105 seats given away to a party that had little electoral prospect fighting on its own.

While the urban elite are being circumspect in their predictions and hedging their bets, the commoners are more cautious and reticent than what one saw in the previous visits.

There is a surreal silence in the Mayawati’s ranks, which many find almost ominous. But, with just over two weeks to go before the first round of polling, people will have to make up their minds soon, albeit in phases.

First, let us talk of the Congress conundrum. The simple theory is it was the insurance policy Akhilesh Yadav had purchased in advance that he could not renege.

Prashant Kishor, if credit has to be given to him in the absence of any other name, had successfully sold to Akhilesh the need for an alliance to secure the Muslim votes in the event of his having to go solo. Also, in case of a split, he could not have counted on the ground support of Samajwadi Party workers, who were to a large extent controlled by Shivpal Yadav.

However, the explanation for Akhilesh’s generosity even after he checkmated his father and uncle (and thereby, hopefully, secured their Muslim voter base) is more complex.

The first assumption is, unlike his father who has been notorious for going back on deals, the younger Yadav plays to a longer gameplan. Therefore, he would not like to earn the ‘Mr Unreliable’ tag so early in his career.

The second possibility is that his internal assessment indicates the trust factor of Muslims on him is relatively low and, therefore, there is likelihood of their moving towards the BSP. Still the question remains, why 105? Could it be mere arithmetic of the constituency-wise “winability” analytics presented by his backroom boys and Prashant Kishor team?

The alliance with Congress is undoubtedly a big gamble for Akhilesh which as of now appears to be a “win-win” bargain for the Gandhis. Whether they are able to cash upon it will depend on Priyanka’s charisma – as by all accounts this election is being positioned as her ‘coming out party’ before the big draw of 2019.

The upbeat mood among BJP supporters and some district level supporters one had seen even a month ago is distinctly subdued though many of them do still put up a brave front. Between conversations one reads, several factors that they may have contributed to this dampened spirit.

Many of the lower level functionaries one met had expected either a patch up between the father and son or an alliance between Akhilesh and Congress. But, they had not quite bargained for both to happen. The high of ‘surgical strikes’ in November, when the SP was in disarray, has dissipated with the protracted after-effects of demonetisation.

Selection of candidates, ignoring old loyalists and opting for rejects of other parties is certainly impacting morale to some extent. Finally, post the Akhilesh surge, the absence of a clear Chief Minister face for the BJP will hurt the party. How far Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s over-arching brand can neutralise the shining image of a young, educated and progressive son of the State one has to wait till March 11 to see.

A friend reported that at a large gathering of his company’s sales network from all over UP, the mere mention of Akhilesh’ name drew huge applause. Therefore, there is no denying he is now a “star” in his own rights.

Amidst all this the BSP may play the spoiler. The BJP’s frenetic efforts at getting more Brahmin candidates into the fray is to consolidate the upper caste vote knowing fully well that the minorities will not come with them. The BJP may also be worried about Mayawati being able to wean away some of their core constituency apart from a chunk of Mulayam’s Muslim following

Without crystal gazing, as on date a hung Assembly with Akhilesh and Congress as the largest alliance with either BJP or BSP at the second place looks a distinct possibility. Under both the scenarios, that is whether BSP is second or third, it is unlikely they will allow the BJP to come to power.

As on date, only one premise can be asserted with certainty — everywhere it is going to BJP versus the Rest till 2019.

Article first published in @ABPLive click here o read original article



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