Will the 2017 Local Body polls in UP Gauge Public Opinion Ahead of the 2019 Parliamentary Elections?

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While the local body election will be the first major challenge for the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh, for SP and the BSP this will be a way to gauge the public mood, points out Navodita, our Associate Editor, in the regular column, exclusively for Different Truths.

The UP State Election Commission recently announced its poll schedule for three-tier urban local body elections in the state – 652 urban local bodies, which include 16 Nagar Nigam, 198 Nagar Palikas, and 438 Nagar Panchayats, which would be held in three phases. The State Election Commissioner, S.K. Aggarwal told the press that 3.32 crore voters will be eligible to cast their ballots at 36,269 polling booths and 11, 389 polling stations.

This time election of municipal corporations will take place through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and like previous elections, ballot papers will be used in Nagar Palika Parishad and Nagar Panchayat elections. Every booth will have at least two EVM machines. Out of these, one EVM having blue ballot paper will be for the post of Mayor and another one with pink ballot paper will be for the post of Councillors. The ballot paper will showcase name and symbol of each candidate with an option of none of the above – NOTA for the first time.

are Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Jhansi, Kanpur Nagar, Faizabad, Agra, Aligarh, Bareilly, Moradabad, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Saharanpur, Mathura, and Firozabad. Polling will be held on November 22, November 26 and November 29 in these cities. Nominations for all three phases of polling have been filed. Twenty-four districts will be going to polls in the first phase, which includes Meerut, Agra, Kanpur, Amethi, Gorakhpur, and Sonabhadra. Twenty-five districts will go to polls in the second phase, while 26 districts will go to polls in the third phase.

While the election will be the first major challenge for the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh, for SP and the BSP this will be a way to gauge the public mood. This year Ayodhya and Mathura-Vrindavan municipal corporations, constituted by the Yogi government, will go to polls for the first time. In its election manifesto, the BJP has promised free WiFi at prominent public places and ‘pink toilets’ for women. Adityanath focused on the government’s work in the area of electrification, basic public amenities and public transport in the state. The Aam Admi Party is contesting these polls for the first time.

The BJP had some time back released its list of mayoral candidates for the upcoming elections in the state – Sitaram Jaiswal (Gorakhpur), Rishikesh Upadhyaya (Ayodhya), Pramila Pandey (Kanpur), Kanta Kardam (Meerut) and Naveen Jain (Agra). Representing the Congress party is Vandana Mishra as a mayoral candidate from Kanpur, Shailendra Mani Pandey from Ayodhya and Mamta Sood from Meerut. Maya Gupta is the SP candidate and Archana Vyas is the BSP candidate in Kanpur for the post of mayor.

As campaigning is underway by various candidates and their teams, it should be noted that lot of developmental work remains to be done in the city. While the safety of girls continues to be the main issue at hand, proper power supply and clean drinking water in some localities are the main concerns in cities. While the main issues seem to be getting sidelined by the BJP, the Yogi government seems to be saffronising the election campaign with daily meetings with religious Gurus. It is the first time that any chief minister has campaigned for a local body election – Adityanath has visited Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, and Bahraich among a few places.

This time the number of candidates with criminal charges has registered a sharp drop by 10-12 percent. The number of such candidates is much lower than the number of tainted candidates in the Assembly elections. As compiled by the State Election Commission, 16.1 percent (9 candidates) have criminal cases, while in Palika chairman post 0.5 percent (44 candidates) and in Palika ward, 3.3 percent (52 candidates) have a criminal background.

Candidates with enormous wealth are also in the fray. It is surprising that no such limit has been put by the State Election Commission on the assets of candidates. In fact, 69.6 percent of mayoral candidates have assets of over Rs. 25 lakhs. In case of chairman of Nagar Palika 3699 candidates are in the fray, who have properties worth Rs. 25 lakhs or more.

This election is going to be the real litmus test for the Adityanath government. “The results will also present an opportunity to the party for course correction in their policies and governance,” political observer and academic Manjula Upadhyaya told LiveMint. In 2012, the BJP had swept the elections, winning 10 of the 12 mayoral posts. Lucknow mayor Dinesh Sharma is now a deputy chief minister of the state. In the coming months, the spotlight will also be on the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls with the recent Amethi visits of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and BJP chief Amit Shah and the SP national convention in Agra setting the stage for a high-octane test.

As the voting day comes closer, the real fight gets tougher for the Congress. BJP still has an upper hand, while the SP and the BSP think it’s the turf to set the ball rolling ahead of 2019 elections.

©Navodita Pande

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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 24×7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.