Parties in UP try hard to woo voters after low turnout in Phase 1

Political temperature in Uttar Pradesh is gradually running high with all the major stakeholders in national polity being busy securing their future from the state that accounts for largest number of seats in Lok Sabha, reports Mudit Mathur

Priyanka Gandhi’s Road show in Bijnor district of Uttar Pradesh faced frontal confrontation with hooting slogans chanting “Modi-Modi” by BJP supporters but Gandhi scion displayed unusual calm and patience by just smiling and showering flowers and garlands on them. The spontaneous reactionary gesture of “Gandhigiri” stunned and silenced them. Such approach to handle agitated masses were reminiscence of Indira Gandhi era when she pacified the agitated students of JNU who had shown her black flag and raised slogans before her to “go back” but after a function was over she went to students and solved their problems then and there.

Now her campaign entered into second phase of electioneering where in Fathepur Sikri her party’s stalwarts Raj Babbar is pitted in a triangular contest with BJP and BSP nominees. In this phase, UP will witness polling in Mathura, where film star Hema Malini is contesting again on the BJP ticket. Agra, Hatras, Bulanshahr, and Nagina are reserved constituencies for scheduled castes and Congress has pitched Prita Harit, Triloki Ram Diyankar, Bansilal Pahadiya and Omwati Devi Jatav are trying their luck on Congress ticket and Priyanka Rahul have planned to address public meetings in all these areas to regain its support base that was eroded with the rise of BSP. Massive Road shows are planned in the areas from 15th April in this belt. In Agra Prita Harit is posing tough battle for sitting BJP minister SP Singh Baghel, who entered into the saffron politics just on the eve of 2017 assembly elections.

The first phase of polling witnessed very low turnout of voters as compared to 2014 elections and just recorded 63.69 percent, which suggests that this time it was not a retaliatory polling despite best efforts of political leaders by delivering provocative speeches. In this phase, the fate of union ministers and former Army chief Gen VK Singh and Union Minister Mahesh Sharma have hung in balance.

The electioneering in the first phase of elections has taken much hype after big rally of prime minister Modi in Meerut. In this phase eight constituencies — Saharanpur, Meerut, Kairana, Muzzafarnagar, Bijnor, Bagpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddha Nagar (NOIDA) by and large peaceful polling concluded on 11th April, 2019. In this Jat-dominated area the prestige of Union ministers Mahesh Sharma and Satpal Singh, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant, Congress leader Imran Masood, Harendra Agrawal and former minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui is at stake. Rahul-Priyanka, Modi-Yogi and Akhilesh-Mayawati all the players have done extensive campaigning in the area but political analysts feel that the combination of SP-BSP headed for an edge over voters in first phase.

The election commission of India has taken cognizance of Yogi jibe of “Modiji ki Sena” and Mayawati’s communal remarks to woo Muslim support as violation of model code of conduct but spare them with just a warning.   

Political temperature in Uttar Pradesh is gradually running high with all the major stakeholders in national polity are busy in securing their future from this most crucial heartland state that accounted for largest numbers of seats in Lok Sabha in the 2014 elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014 by securing 71 seats out of 80 and crushed prospects of all his rivals, even his fellow aspirant colleagues, who were optimistic of their chance in event of a hung parliament. 

BJP continuing with its campaign thrust around avenging surgical air strikes in Balakot in wake of Pulwama attack killing 40 soldiers and successful launch of an anti-satellite weapon system (ASAT) by DRDO- “Mission Shakti”- achieving the ability to cripple enemy communications and reconnoiter systems severely during war, and blind the entire military of an enemy force. “The entire gamut behind it appears to be dodging the burning issues by trickery-tactics,” feels political analyst Sharat Pradhan who foresees gigantic gains for brand Modi behind such moves.

Launching blistering attack on Congress and SP-BSP-RLD alliance Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Meerut termed it as “Mahamilawat” and cornered them for questioning “Mission Shakti,” an anti-satellite weapon system that brought India among the elite space club of the world’s super powers.

Attacking dynastic politics and corruption among regional parties Modi said their popularity graph as hero is running high in Pakistan then here by asking evidence of air strikes. 

“Does this country need heroes of India or heroes of Pakistan? Do we need saboot (proof) or sapoot (good sons)? My country’s sapoot are my biggest saboot,” Modi said, referring to the row over the impact of Balakot strike on February 26, in retaliation against the Pulwama attack. He also cornered Mayawati for selling out state-owned sugar mills at throw away prices and non-payment of cane growers dues left behind Akhilesh Yadav to the tune of Rs35,000 crores that BJP government cleared after coming to power in the state. Touching the sentiments of cane grower belt, he highlighted how his government has sent pension to around two crores farmers in their respect.

Despite such pitching narratives, the hot battle for 2019 elections in Uttar Pradesh is not looking just a cakewalk for Modi this time, as he has to answer more questions than he fired salvos in last elections and thereafter. This time he has to face completely changed caste chemistry and political scenario in wake of alliance of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) and resurgent Congress Party proactive with new face of Priyanka Gandhi questioning him from the ground for his ambitious electoral promises, policies and achievements. The situation is heading for largely triangular contest baring a few tactically left seats for post electoral alliances. 

Congress party has rearmed it with a game changer sort of step on the lines of its successful previous loan waiver policy brought just ahead of 2009 general elections. The party chief Rahul Gandhi has come up with a new plank of populist measure of minimum income guarantee scheme. The scheme envisaged to cover nearly 25 crore poor people in the country who will get financial assistance of 72,000 per annum if the party is voted to power. The new ambitious minimum income guarantee scheme has been named as “Nyay.”

Rahul Gandhi termed it as “a final assault on poverty.” “Minimum income line” is 12,000 per annum and the scheme will benefit individuals earning less than that,” he explained. He further claimed MNREGA the rural employment guarantee scheme introduced by the UPA government, and said that it had taken 14 crore people out of poverty in its first phase. The NDA government has reduced its budget allocations resulting in huge unemployment. Similar ideas have been gaining popularity world over to eradicate poverty known as a universal basic income (UBI) scheme. 

The caste-ridden communities dominate elections results in most populated state of Uttar Pradesh. It harsh reality that alignment of caste leaders with political party brighten their winning chances on the strength of support from their communities. But despite caste and communal fragmentation the people having extreme political consciousness as it displayed lead role in the freedom movement of the nation sacrificing many lives for the cause and they are democratically alive citizen. Even congress stalwart Indira Gandhi lost 1977 Lok Sabha polls after she proclaimed emergency and snatched fundamental rights of the citizens.

Right from rise of the forces of “Hindutava” to the downfall of Congress rule in the state in 1989, since then the state has witnessed various models of consolidation and disintegration of votes in the name of religion, castes and communities.

The Congress party use to rule the state on the core strength of Dalit, Muslims and Upper castes votes, but of late its vote share scattered among regional parties like SP-BSP emerged as champions of their causes and Muslims too split away from it after Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya during Congress led Narshimha Rao government in 1992. Thereafter Congress party could never comeback to power in its grassroots bastion.

Mulayam Singh Yadav aggressively campaigned and surprised everyone by entering into electoral alliance with Dalit crusader Kanshi Ram’s newly formed Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). But this combination could not survived long and that pave the way for BJP to flourish its base in Uttar Pradesh to gain political power.

Political observers feel, “Had the combination of OBC (including Yadavs), Muslims and Dalits continued it could have effectively checked the saffron upsurge in the state to attain formidable power. But it broke down very soon over pity differences between Mayawati and Mulayam and ultimately on 3 June 1995 his government fall after deep scars of State Guest House episode.”

Mayawati assumed power with the help of BJP and the alliance broke down during Kalyan Singh’s regime. Politics is always pregnant with possibilities and nothing is impossible in politics. The new generation of Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav tactfully patched up differences with BSP chief Mayawati and reentered into pre-electoral alliance of 50:50 each leaving just two seats for Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Now the re-alliance between two estranged political rivals is on the test of public scrutiny, as it will be interesting to see how it works down the grounds as their grassroots workers were at loggerhead.

 Ironically, in Uttar Pradesh, both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati clan and close aides are under the net of CBI and Enforcement Directorate, for allegedly accumulating “unaccounted wealth and money laundering” by acquiring disproportionate assets as compared to their known source of income. Recently entertaining the a fresh application of Vishwanath Chaturvedi, the apex court headed by chief justice Ranjan Gogai and Justice Dipak Gupta issued returnable notice within two weeks to CBI to place status report before the court with regard to disproportionate assets of Mulayam Singh Yadav, his sons Akhilesh and Prateek in pursuance to its orders to CBI.

The apex court by its judgement and orders dated 13-12-2012 directed that CBI may take such independent action, as it considers fit, on the basis of the inquiry conducted by it pursuant to the directions given by the apex court in the judgment after review. The court also insulated CBI from extraneous factors by directing it to function without seeking any direction from the Union of India or on the basis of any direction that may be given by it. On the other hand, the apex court had dropped the case against Dimple Yadav as she was not associated with Yadav family at that point of time.

Just ahead of crucial elections for the survival of political supremacy, the troubles for Yadav clan appears to be over till elections as Supreme Court directed the CBI to file an affidavit within four weeks on the records to place status of the case instead of oral submissions. The ball is in CBI hands against Yadav clan, which has to take a call whether to register a regular criminal case against them under section 154 Cr.PC after assessing evidential material collected during preliminary enquiry or drop it because CBI has to place its status report of its investigations before the apex court within four weeks from 12th April. The court had directed CBI in 2012 to take independent action without seeking any directives from Union government but it failed to take the allegations against them to a logical end, after inordinate delay of more than six years.

Similarly, the disproportionate assets case against Mayawati is pending before the apex court and has not come up for hearing since long but tax and enforcement officers have repeatedly putting pressure on her by raiding and questioning her close relatives and officers. Political circles believe that such moves proved instrumental to uproot the prospects of congress party to stand united with secular opposition parties against BJP. However, once again destiny played vital role in uniting SP-BSP and forging pre-poll alliance that was beyond the imagination of common people.