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Abhishek Patni
Saturday , March 03, 2012 at 10 : 14

UP Polls 2012: Maths of multi-cornered political battle


Two month long exciting phase of elections in India's five states has finally come to an end. These elections have been a nightmare for the poll pundits and are expected to throw up interesting results. Five states going to polls are Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and the most crucial state - Uttar Pradesh.

These elections have virtually puzzled the electorate more so the poll pundits. In Punjab after nearly five decades, a ruling party, the SAD-BJP combine under political veteran Prakash Singh Badal has dared to shrug-off anti-incumbency; in the hill state of Uttarakhand its BJP CM BC Khanduri's "Mr clean image" Vs the Congress which is hoping for a comeback this time.

In the North-East, the violent state of Manipur may see incumbent Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi retaining power; while Goa in West India another Congress Chief Minister, Digambar Kamat faces an uphill task with a series of mining scandals in his state.

But perhaps the most fascinating and interesting political battles of all times is being fought in the plains of Uttar Pradesh; which is witnessing a fierce multi-cornered fight between BSP, SP, BJP and Congress. What will be the results of the Uttar Pradesh Elections? As UP's 7- phase long polling comes to an end here are sense of what is happening at the ground.

What is Samajwadi Party's top?

It is now an open secret that Samajwadi Party is all set to be the single largest party. But by how much? Let's take a look. Reports seem to indicate as expected SP has done quite well in the first 5 phases. Under Akhilesh Yadav, this strong Yadav dominated party seems to have won back the Muslim vote bank it lost massively in the 2009 Lok Sabha after it inducted Kalyan Singh into the party.

SP seems to have done particularly well in the third phase and upstaged BSP in places such as Sultanpur, Allahabad, Jaunpur, Varanasi and Mirzapur. In the 6th phase which is mainly Western UP, SP seems to have lost a bit of steam. But in the last phase SP is poised to do relatively well in Muslim dominated areas such as Moradabad, Rampur and Bareilly. So if all goes well SP could well hit the 150-160 range.

BJP could be the real surprise?

But the real surprise in these elections could well be the BJP. For BJP president, Nitin Gadkari - Uttar Pradesh is the ultimate acid test; especially after his decision to make Uma Bharti, someone considered an outsider in party's state unit, as the party's chief ministerial face. Reports seem to suggest the BJP may actually be doing very well. It has picked up steam from the 2nd phase and right till the 7th phase the party is doing remarkably well in virtually all pockets.

At many places the Muslim votes have got split between other parties which could propel BJP's rise.

But behind BJP's surprise gain there seems to be a Congress hand. Congress leaders' frequent remarks both on Muslim reservation and imposing president's rule in UP, have not only served to dampen the party workers at the grass-root level but also not gone down well with the UP electorate. Muslim reservation remarks seem to have polarized the Hindu OBC vote bank which might have gravitated towards the BJP. The party might have drawn criticism for inducting scam tainted NRHM tainted Babu Singh Kushwaha into its fold. But the move seems to have paid off for the BSP.

If the BJP maintains it steam as seen (or rather unseen by the media) throughout all the phases in the last phase also some surprising results could emerge which could propel the party somewhere between 85 to 90 seats.

Rahul's charm might not be enough?

After initial euphoria weaved around its poster boy Rahul Gandhi, the Congress seems to have realized that the ground realities in UP political turf are too complex for it to convert its vote share into seats. Congress has gained largely in polling percentage but not made a remarkable surprise in terms as seats as expected earlier.

Further, to make matters worse, Rahul's "good work" seems to have been undone largely by frequent and unwarranted remarks by senior Congress leaders such as Salman Khurshid, Sri Prakash Jaiswal and Digvijaya Singh. So much so that after the 6th phase polling the state Congress President Rita Bahuguna went on record to say that "too many media comments" were not good.

If Digvijaya Singh's repeated remarks on Batla house encounter not only polarized votes to BJP's advantage it also sent confusing signals to the Muslim electorate, especially in Azamgarh where Muslims got gravitated towards the Samajwadi Party, the Ulema Council and the Peace party.

While Sriprakash Jaiswal's president rule in UP statement hit the party badly in the crucial 5th phase, Salman Khurshid's remarks on minority reservation not only helped the BJP, it might also come as a personal setback for the senior Congress leader. In Farukkhabad Sadar seat, Law Minister Salman Khurshid's wife Louis Khurshid now faces a virtual uphill task as Hindu votes have got polarized after this remark while Muslim votes seems have split.

Congress also seems to have maintained a status-quo in the Gandhi family bastion - Sultanpur and Amethi where Congress's start campaigner Priyanka Gandhi who virtually camped for several weeks failed to propel the party. In 2007 BSP had captured several seats in this Nehru-Gandhi bastion. Now just the reverse is about to happen. SP seems to be doing well here.

Congress' only ray of hope is its alliance with RLD. Congress is doing relatively (read relatively) well in West UP along with Ajit Singh. But the question is. Will that be enough? Congress by all means is all set to hover in the range of 55 to 60 combined with RLD.

BSP getting wiped off?

So with three major parties gaining, SP getting the lions share, while national parties such as Congress and BJP both set to stretch their tally, there are no rewards for guessing who is the big loser. It is quite apparent that BSP which came in with a massive and clear majority in 2007 has suffered the worst blow.

If poll indications are true (they are not always) these elections are not about a Pro-Samajwadi Party wave as suggested by many, but they are more about a massive Anti-Mayawati wave.

The elections seem to have seriously damaged the BSP. But by how much it is not clear. There seem to have been a massive anti-incumbency not only against Mayawati - especially in the middle and upper classes for all the money she spent on parks and statues - but also against her MLAs.

Mayawati did try some damage control at the last minute and made amendments replacing such "tainted candidates". But it all seems to be come too late; or worst in many places it proved counter productive. One example is Mirzapur, where Mayawati first cut the ticket of her sitting MLA and Brahmin minister after he was indicted in the Lokayukta report and replaced him with a Muslim candidate. But in the last few days of filing her nomination Mayawati again replaced the Muslim candidate and brought back Mishra. This not only hurt the sentiment of the Muslims but also helped other parties. Worse, these last minute changes have been many and at several places, hurt the BSP badly.

But the big question is how much Mayawati falling to? Will she be wiped out? Can she ever be wiped out?

While there has been no doubt that these is a massive anti-incumbency against Mayawati and voter turnout has been the highest since independence, are these two factors enough to slide Mayawati below the 100 mark?

The question is tough and the answer is even tougher. Dalit voters are known be "silent voters" and often best of poll analysts can fail to read this 'quite undercurrent'.

There is no doubt BSP cadres have been the best organized and BSP's poll preparations began way ahead of others, but it is her calculations that seem to have undone the BSP Supremo. Though reports from the ground suggest fewer seats to BSP, Mayawati - with dalits solidly behind her - could finally rest around 90 to 110.


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More about Abhishek Patni

Abhishek Patni is currently working as a Senior News Editor with CNN-IBN in Delhi-NCR and is handling news operations in the channel. In his 17-year long career as a professional journalist, he has worked with newspapers such as The Pioneer, Hindustan Times and television channels such as Zee News and Sahara Samay before joining CNN-IBN as Bureau Chief in Lucknow during launch of CNN-IBN in 2005. A keen observer of politics, Patni has covered the 1997, 1998 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections and the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of 1997, 2002 and 2007. Apart from several special reports and impact stories which include Amitabh Bachchan’s Barabanki Land scam, Manjunath murder case, Mayawati Taj Corridor case, fall of 13-day Vajpayee govt in 1997; Abhishek has also reported live from Badrinath on the kapat opening ceremony at height of 10,800 feet in 2002- the first tv journalist to do so. He has made several documentary films prominent among them being ‘Highland Trade’ shot at a height of about 14000 feet on the Kailash Mansarovar yatra route and ‘Sugarcane Tigers’ shot in the jungles of Dudhwa National Park in UP. A product of St Joseph's College Nainital, Abhishek has a Masters in Modern Indian History from DAV College, Dehradun. He also has a post-graduate diploma in journalism and mass communication from Bhartiya Vidhaya Bhawan, Lucknow. He has done an appreciation course in professional cinematography from Pune in 2001. Loves photography, traveling, trekking, reading and writing.