Eight hundred and sixty two candidates are going to slug it out for 55 assembly seats in the first phase of the biggest election since 2009. Not surprisingly the elections are receiving big billing by the parties themselves. Nitin Gadkari, BJP president called the UP elections the “semi finals” before the 2014 general elections.
The elections are expected to be a referendum not just on the BSP, but also on the UPA government. If the Congress wins big in UP it will be generally seen as a vote of confidence for the party.
The elections are also significant in light of the fact that there are a great number of Muslim political parties fighting these elections. Whether or not they would be able to consolidate themselves as viable political players in the Indian polity, their ambition to articulate an agenda for the second largest community in this country, would either get a boost or a setback from the results of these elections.
The BSP is facing anti-incumbency, but the opposition is no great shape either. The SP has ruined its image, not just with the Muslims when it allied with Kalyan Singh, but also with the larger community because of its support of criminals. The Congress, despite Rahul Gandhi’s campaign remains a smaller player, and with its indication that it is not interested in coming into an alliance with the SP, it may well be that may not come to power in UP. Giving all these parties competition are upstart political organizations, including half a dozen Muslim ones, which would greatly splinter up the votes.
One get an idea of the amount of splintering that could occur from the fact that in one of its constituency Barabanki, as many as 26 candidates are contesting. There are a total of 403 assembly seats, tomorrow would see only the first phase of it.
The BSP had registered a clear victory in 2007, at that time too there were opinions that said that it will be undone by anti-incumbency. This time though, if the BSP manages to win, it will be pulling of something of a miracle. Though the dalit vote is still firmly behind Mayawati, the Muslim vote has clearly drifted away. The vote of the upper castes is more likely to go to the BJP than the BSP.
For SP too this election is crucial. It has been out of power for too long. It is in danger of being reduced to the status of a nonentity if it loses again. It would see itself fall by the wayside, like Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Janta Dal, or the Congress in Gujarat. Also this time around, the election is being fought under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The election would be something of a referendum of his ability to continue in his father’s footsteps.
This election would also be a sort of referendum for Congress’ heir apparent Rahul Gandhi, who has spared no efforts in campaigning in UP. Whether those efforts pay-off would be crucial to his rise to power.