New Delhi: In a battle that almost every poll pundit predicted to be a four-cornered contest ending with a hung assembly in Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party (SP) has pulled off a coup, according to the CNN-IBN-The Week post-poll survey conducted by the CSDS. The survey projects the SP to win 232-250 seats in the 403-member Assembly, thereby ensuring a clear majority for the party. Incumbent Chief Minister Mayawati's BSP is projected to be a distant second with 65-79 seats while arch rivals Congress and BJP are expected to win 36-44 and 28-38 seats respectively.
The verdict may be one of the biggest electoral victories in UP in the last 20 years. The survey also says the SP may also garner an impressive 34 per cent of the total votes polled. A vote-share of 34 per cent means the party is ahead of its rivals by an unprecedented 10 per cent of the votes in UP. The CSDS survey further predicts that the BSP may have a vote share of 24 per cent as opposed to 30 per cent in 2007, BJP 14 per cent as opposed to 17 per cent in 2007 and Congress finishing a poor fourth with an estimated 12 per cent vote share compared to 13 per cent in 2007.
The magic figure for a simple majority in the UP Assembly is 202. If the SP ends up winning 232-250 seats, the party will not only gain a simple majority in the House, but also not need any ally to run the next government in UP. As the state went into polls a month back, there was a possibility of an impending SP-Congress alliance in case of a hung assembly in the state.
The CM question
The Samajwadi wave in UP is being credited to 39-year-old Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam's son and the chief architect of the SP campaign. However, speculations over who would be the next Chief Minister of UP have already started in the party camp. In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN, Akhilesh ruled out his candidature for the post, and said he and his party want his father, the 'Netaji' (Mulayam Singh Yadav), to be the CM.
Akhilesh's comment came a day after another party leader Shahid Siddiqui said that the Chief Ministerial question within the Samajwadi Party was still open. "It (Akhilesh Yadav becoming the chief minister) is an open question," said Siddiqui. He added, "Akhliesh Yadav can, of course, become the CM. He has got all the talent and all the support of the people. But it always is an open question. Decisions are taken post-poll and they should be taken post-poll as we believe in some kind of democracy."
Some say Akhilesh's 'positive' politics clinched the battle for him. In direct contrast to Rahul Gandhi's negative campaign pitch which harped on the injustice meted out to the state's people by not only its government but also by the reactionary groups in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, Akhilesh's 'free laptop' promise brought a whiff of the aspirational 'India' to UP's 'Bharat'.
In the CSDS survey, however, Mulayam was the top choice for the Chief Minister's post with 34 per cent of the voters opting for the SP chief, as opposed to Mayawati (22 per cent) and Rahul Gandhi (8 per cent). Despite the wave, only 2 per cent of the voters wanted Akhilesh as the CM of the state.
Whither Rahul 'magic'
Congress ending the UP battle with a dismal performance means the Rahul Gandhi magic has clearly failed yet again. The party already has all its leaders out in the field defending Rahul, who had not only campaigned extensively in the state with his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, but also had a lot at stake as far as his claim to a larger political role in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 is concerned.
Coming to Rahul's rescue, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said Rahul Gandhi should not be blamed if the Congress doesn't perform well in UP. "Why blame Rahul? What has he been saying? Rahul hasn't promised complete change immediately," Khurshid told CNN-IBN. Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi also tried to shield Rahul, saying that she will take full responsibility if the party does not do well in the Assembly elections. "Party and candidates are responsible for the results, not Rahul Gandhi," she said.
Meanwhile, Union Minister and Congress leader Beni Prasad Verma created a flutter on Sunday by favouring a tie-up with Mayawati's BSP, an out-of-turn comment from which the party quickly distanced itself. Verma, who quit Samajwadi Party in 2007 following differences with Mulayam Singh Yadav, said he would personally prefer BSP to SP, which he dubbed as a 'party of goons'.
"The key to form the state government is with Congress and Congress for sure will form the government. If we have to form an alliance,I would personally prefer BSP. SP is a party of goons, BSP is a party of Dalits," he said.
Getting into a damage-control mode, Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, "Whatever Verma said was his personal opinion. The party high command will take a decision after taking into account all the aspects only after the results are out on March 6."
In a well-calculated move, incumbent Chief Minister Mayawati on Sunday recommended the dissolution of the state Assembly. The BSP chief presided over what could be the last Cabinet meeting on Sunday night and got the order passed seeking the dissolution of the House. The recommendation will be sent to the Governor on March 6 once the counting of votes is over on Tuesday.