Third Phase Polls: UP Heartland to Witness SP-BJP Clash; Muslims and Dalits might Favour BSP

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Central UP has been voting in the third phase amidst jumlas and high-profile campaigning across 12 districts for 69 Assembly seats. Although there are no clear signs of anti-incumbency against Akhilesh Yadav, the enthusiasm to bring the incumbent back to power is missing. An excessive reliance of the SP-Congress coalition to woo Muslims has given latent rise to latent Hindutva sentiments across the . In this election, the Hindutva sentiments of non-Yadav and non-Jatav community would come out to the fore. The Hindutva factor in this phase could dominate and it is not necessary that the SP-Cong alliance should be a win-win for both the parties. BJP denouncing that Akhilesh Yadav or SP government meant welfare of one caste (Yadav) and one particular community (Muslims) has hit cords among people. The BJP’s campaign rests on only two elements – Modi and a caste coalition of upper castes, and non-Yadav OBCs. Given the absence of a local face, Modi’s importance has grown even more sharply. Our Associate Editor, Navodita, takes a hard look at the 2017 UP Assembly . She filed this report, after casting her vote, exclusively for Different Truths.

As UP gets over with the third phase of voting in the midst of jumlas and high-profile campaigning across 12 districts, the significant constituencies to look out for will include ones in the capital city of Lucknow, Kanpur city, Kanpur rural, Etawah, Farrukhabad, , Hardoi, Kannauj, , , Auraiyya and Sitapur.

The maximum number of candidates in the fray are from Etawah (21 candidates) – the hometown of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, while the least number is in Haidergarh (three candidates) Assembly constituency of Barabanki. The third phase comes as the biggest litmus test for Samajwadi Party as they held 55 of 69 seats in the 2012 Assembly elections.

Piqued at his ouster by son Akhilesh from the post of national president of SP, Mulayam Singh Yadav has not campaigned for the party only seeking votes for his younger brother Shivpal Yadav and daughter-in-law Aparna Yadav contesting from Jaswantnagar and Lucknow Cantonment seats respectively.

Although there are no clear signs of anti-incumbency against Akhilesh Yadav, the enthusiasm to bring the incumbent back to power is missing. An excessive reliance of the SP-Congress coalition to woo Muslims has given latent rise to latent Hindutva sentiments across the state. In this election, the Hindutva sentiments of non-Yadav and non-Jatav community would come out to the fore. The Hindutva factor in this phase could dominate and it is not necessary that the SP-Cong alliance should be a win-win for both the parties. BJP denouncing that Akhilesh Yadav or SP government meant welfare of one caste (Yadav) and one particular community (Muslims) has hit right cords among people.

The BJP’s campaign rests on only two elements – Modi and a caste coalition of upper castes, and non-Yadav OBCs. Given the absence of a local face, Modi’s importance has grown even more sharply. His rallies are proof this is not just another election for him. He is telling the UP voters, “Trust me, you need to give me Lucknow for me to work for you more effectively, the state government has impeded work.” What is striking is that three years into his term, despite a drastically risky policy move like demonetisation, which hit people, Modi continues to enjoy high levels of trust. Some voters are willing to give him more space.

The star campaigner in this phase was Priyanka Gandhi who made her first appearance in Raebareli reacting to Modi’s ‘adopted son’ remark, “UP doesn’t need an adopted son to do good for the state, Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav are two sons of UP.”

In a crowd of over 5000 women waiting to see a glimpse of Priyanka Gandhi, 45- year old lady said she had handed an application to Sonia Gandhi a few months ago personally requesting her for a grant to build a house and for a pump to be installed at her home. “Sonia Gandhi told me she would pursue it…if I met her again I will tell her that her people just don’t listen to the poor,” she said. Priyanka Gandhi has restricted her campaigning to her mother’s and brother’s constituencies.

Some prominent candidates fielded in this phase of polling are from BJP from Lucknow Cantt, Haji Irfan Solanki (SP) from Shishamau, Salil Vishnoi (BJP) from Arya Nagar in Kanpur, Satish Mahana (BJP) from Maharajpur in Kanpur rural, Ajay Kapoor (Congress) from Govindnagar in Kanpur city and Arvind Kumar Singh Gope (SP) from Ram Nagar in Barabanki.

Amidst the campaign echoes of ‘Kaam Bolta Hai’ catchphrase by Akhilesh Yadav government, the Chief Minister has held many rallies at Hamirpur and Chitrakoot in Bundelkhand while criticising his opponent Prime Minister for doing nothing. In the adjoining Assembly segment of Manikpur – 40km from Khoh village, however, people seem a disgruntled lot. They say you will find schools closed due to the fear of dacoits, as the ravines of Manikpur were ruled by dacoit Dadua. It is the same with Fatehganj, under Naraini Assembly constituency, that is infamous for banditry and where schools remained closed throughout the year. Banda-based social activist Ashish Sagar said, “In such an area Akhilesh Yadav made speeches and presented a list of his achievements in the field ranging from education to development.”

As Akhilesh Yadav’s and Rahul Gandhi’s rally gets underway, in Jhansi, on Sunday, the dry land gears up to vote in the next few days. Once again assumptions are being made about the crucial role that caste polarisation could play in the upcoming 2017 UP Assembly elections. We may see a ‘game’ of caste mobilisation in the background of slogans of development, good governance and efficient law and order system. So once again eyes are on the ‘Thakur’ votes of the region, too.

In Kanpur, Union Minister Smriti Irani addressed a rally in Moti Jheel saying, “The ruling state government is a protector of rapists; women of Uttar Pradesh have never felt safe under this regime. It is a disgrace that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had in his cabinet a person like Gayatri Prajapati, who has been accused of rape. That the court had to intervene and order that FIR was to be lodged against the minister proves that SP is a protector of rapists.”

She claimed that people are tired of both SP and BSP, which have alternately ruled the state for more than a decade. She even commented on the dismal performance of the Congress in the previous Lok Sabha polls and their inability to garner support among the masses.

In this phase of polling, in Central Uttar Pradesh, the big questions is will anti-incumbency lead to lesser seats for the SP or will they be able to retain their existing number of seats in the area. All is not well for the alliance in this area is clear from their possible defeat in the Unnao Assembly constituency, where they had won five of the six Assembly constituencies, in 2012. It dipped to four when one MLA died and the BJP bagged the seat in a by-election. Another MLA, too, defected to BJP. So will there be a repeat of Unnao in other districts, too, or will SP hold fort is going to be the big this time!

©Navodita Pande

Photos from the internet.

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Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24x7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.
Navodita Pande

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