Up Runs On Poll-Metre
The first phase of polling in the suspense filled Uttar Pradesh assembly elections where 55 constituencies went to the polls recorded a 20 per cent increase in voter turnout as compared to the last assembly polls. Despite the heavy rains in the morning, there was visible enthusiasm as 64 per cent of the voters turned up to cast their votes.
Even as 55 assembly constituencies were going to the polls, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi who were holding election meetings elsewhere, were at pains to point out that the Congress was not interested in supporting any party to form the government. On the issue of President’s rule in the state, in the event that no party could form the government, there were varying voices from within the Congress with some leaders opposing the move while others said they were in favour of it.
A senior functionary in the AICC made it clear that the message to the voters was clear: give them enough seats to form the government or else the state would be in for a spell of President’s rule as the Congress would not be interested in forming a coalition with any party, which in effect translated into strengthening the hands of that party and ceding more political space to them.
In a detailed assessment exercise conducted by the Congress party after the first phase of polling was over, it looked like the Congress was set to make gains but it was the BSP which was holding onto its seats losing just a couple of seats in the first round but keeping its Dalit vote base intact and at the same time getting the support of a good chunk of Brahmin and Muslim vote also.
According to the internal assessment of the party, the Congress could increase its tally from the three seats it had in this region last time to 11 seats while the BJP could make an increase of only one seat from the four it had last time to five this time. Mayawati’s BSP which had 30 in this phase last time could drop only two seats and retain 28 while the Samajwadi Party which had 18 last time could drop to 10 seats.
The party has assessed that a great deal of damage is being done by the Peace Party which while not winning seats appears to be cutting a lot of votes and damaging both the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.
While the Dalits have stood firm behind Mayawati with estimates showing that she may be getting up to 92 per cent of the Dalit vote in the first phase, all the other parties are sharing the remainder of the 8 per cent which is left.
Interestingly, this phase shows that the Brahmins have also backed her with 69 per cent voting in her favour, the Congress getting only 6 per cent, the Samajwadi Party 5 per cent and the BJP 20 per cent of the Brahmin vote.
The Rajputs are divided evenly with the Congress getting 18 per cent, the BSP 26 per cent, the SP 22 per cent, the BSP 30 per cent of the vote.
As far as the crucial Muslim votes are concerned, the Congress is getting only 32 per cent of their vote, the BSP 26 per cent, the SP 29 per cent and 13 per cent going to others including the Peace Party.
Another important vote in this area is that of the Kurmis and while the Congress was banking on the Kurmi-Muslim combination to see them through, only 18 per cent of the Kurmi vote appears to be siding with the Congress party. The BSP is getting 32 per cent, the SP 5 per cent, the BJP 40 per cent and the JD (U) 5 per cent.
The OBC vote has also gone with the BSP predominantly. The Congress will get only 7 per cent, the BSP 48 per cent, the SP 19 per cent, the BJP 27 per cent and 9 per cent to the others.
The Yadav vote has predictably gone with the SP. The Congress is getting a mere 5 per cent, the BSP 9 per cent, the SP 74 per cent and the BJP 10 per cent.
As far as the votes of other castes like the Bhumiars, Kayasthas are concerned, the Congress is getting 36 per cent, the BSP 20 per cent, the SP 9 per cent, the BJP 30 per cent and 5 per cent for the others.
Congress leaders say the party should have done better in this phase of polling as a large part of its strategy centred around the Kurmi-Muslim vote but this does not appear to have played out according to the script. The Beni Verma-Punia infighting, the fact that Congress leaders were all ranged against Beni Verma, the fact that despite the huge amount of hard work put out by Rahul Gandhi, the Congress campaigning was not aggressive nor did party candidates use the lavish amount of money sent to them by the Centre. Unlike Mayawati who has perfected her booth management, the Congress booth management was poor and ineffective.
Senior Congress leaders who have been interacting closely with Rahul Gandhi assert that he is serious when he says that in the post-poll scenario, the Congress will not align with either the Samajwadi Party or the BSP to form the government in Uttar Pradesh.
The Rahul camp is at pains to dispel the ongoing speculation that the Congress and the SP will together form the government in UP. They say this is being systematically spread by the Samajwadi Party in order to chase the upper caste vote away from the Congress and towards the BJP. Fed up with the BSP and known to be allergic to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s goonda politics, the upper caste has been looking at throwing its weight behind either the Congress or the BJP.
But with Uttar Pradesh full of serious speculation that the SP and the Congress may come together, the upper caste may get the kind of nightmares it has been keen to avoid. For the SP, a growth in the political electoral graph of the BJP would mean sure polarisation where the Muslims would then naturally gravitate towards the Samajwadi Party to stop the BJP in its tracks from advancing in Uttar Pradesh.
It is interesting that the media has also become a willing tool in the hands of political parties in spreading the unqualified message that the Samajwadi Party is growing by leaps and bounds in Uttar Pradesh where electioneering for the first phase ended this evening. This propaganda has served the purpose of probably shifting undecided Muslism onto the SP bandwagon.
The same media has been at pains to put out reports that the Congress simply does not “exist” in Uttar Pradesh. This has led to a rethink amongst sections of the Muslims that if the Congress is not in a winning position then why waste the vote, which could by default benefit the BJP.
With psychological warfare in over drive in the caste and communal soaked politics of Uttar Pradesh, the experts say that the existing equations have been turned upside down by the aggressive and stubborn campaigning of Rahul Gandhi who has been travelling through the state and has made it clear that he will neither quit UP nor leave the people even if his party does not win. He has made it clear that his passion is the revival and development of Uttar Pradesh which has been suffering for 22 years at the hands of the BJP, the SP and the BSP.
The 3G effect is now becoming visible in Uttar Pradesh: the campaigns of the three Gandhis, Sonia, Priyanka and Rahul have created a new buzz for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Out of the 3, Priyanka has limited herself to the 10 assembly seats of Amethi and Rae Bareilly. But unlike other times when her visits were quiet and not so well screened, this time she is vocal and articulate before the media. She has a lot to say about her brother Rahul and on his passion for bringing change into UP. She says he is the star and not her and is clear that he is the leader and that she is going to bat for him.
Between the two of them the brother and sister have made their presence felt in the politics of UP. Priyanka’s message for change has been carried all over UP by the television channels and the newspapers. Her purpose of campaigning and pitching in for Rahul has been served in the few days of her campaign in these two constituencies. Interestingly, everyday she is interacting with the media, making statements like “Rahul is not obsessed by becoming PM” implying that leaders of other parties are obsessed by posts and positions and constantly hankering after them. She says: “Rahul is obsessed by bringing development to Uttar Pradesh”, meaning that others have only focused on their own development and not that of the state.
If Rahul means what he says about not aligning with any political party post poll, and if there is a classic hung assembly in Uttar Pradesh on March 6 when the results are out, Congressmen say there is every likelihood of President’s rule in the state and the state in suspended animation. If no one is able to form the government, as has happened in the past in UP, senior leaders say it opens up a range of possibilities for the Congress in the state since the state would then be governed by the Governor who is a nominee of the Congress government at the Centre.
The Governor can let loose a raft of welfare measures in the state and give the people a taste of what could happen if the Congress were to come to power in the state, said a senior Congress leader.
With all indications pointing to a hung assembly, and the BJP also having made it clear that they will not go with the BSP in forming the government, the post-poll scenario of UP could be as interesting as the pre-poll buzz which has confused the politics of UP after the serious entry of Rahul Gandhi in the dusty bylanes of Uttar Pradesh.
By Renu Mittal