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UP elections: BJP steps up campaign, showcases developmental work; tie-ups with smaller parties

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The incumbent BJP government under Yogi Adityanath is being challenged by the Samajwadi Party led by former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.The opponents to both these formations include the Bahujan Samaj Party whose chief Mayawati fancies a change while several smaller parties are working to join one of these major parties which has a considerable presence in Uttar Pradesh. The Indian National Congress, once a pole around which politics revolved, today remains on the margins.

UP elections: BJP steps up campaign, showcases developmental work; tie-ups with smaller parties
Uttar Pradesh remains a bellwether state in Indian politics. In about three months, the people of the prime Hindi-speaking state would be casting votes to elect a new government. The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government under Yogi Adityanath is being challenged by the Samajwadi Party led by former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
The opponents to both these formations include the Bahujan Samaj Party whose chief Mayawati fancies a change while several smaller parties are working to join one of these major parties which has a considerable presence in Uttar Pradesh. The Indian National Congress, once a pole around which politics revolved, today remains on the margins.
BJP, with an electoral machine that remains in top gear, comes out as a party that never rests its oars. Some six months ago, after the state, like many others in the country emerged from the severe battering of the COVID-19 second wave, began to trim its sails.
The series of confabulations the BJP central leadership had with the Chief Minister led to some adjustments and three months ago the party had deputed six senior leaders tasking each of them with a region spread across the length and breadth of UP.
Now for the past couple of weeks, the BJP has stepped up its activities in the state with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah engaging the people with a series of events, demonstrating work done during its government's tenure since 2017.
The nature of politics and administration is such that the government of the day remains answerable as people seek to review the ground covered in the backdrop of promises made in the run-up to the elections. Anti-incumbency is inevitable. Yet, over the last few years, the BJP in several states demonstrated that the party with its superb election management managed to blunt the thrust of this factor. Can UP be any different?
Over the last few weeks, pre-elections surveys indicate that the BJP remains the leader of the pack although it may not be able to recreate the wave which gave the party 40 percent of the vote share and over 300 seats in an Assembly of 403.
The farmers' agitation, remains on the front burner with perennial agrarian distress adding to its woes. Whether adverse reports suggesting inadequate management during the second wave of COVID-19 would remain an issue when people speak at the voting machines is undefined.
On the other hand, the BJP and the Yogi government are showcasing the development works undertaken during the last five years with the latest inauguration of the Lucknow – Gorakhpur Eastern Express highway being a case in point. Then the promise of a Ram Mandir is fast turning into reality as is the corridor around the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, which underscores the party is working to deliver on its promises.
During the 2017 UP elections, the Ujjwala Yojna, providing for free cooking gas connection was a major factor that brought out the women to turn out in support for the BJP as its army of foot soldiers knocked at the doors reminding the voters of the welfare measures.
Last month, PM Modi handed over keys to 75,000 beneficiaries in urban areas under the housing scheme adding to the growing numbers in UP. Can the PM Awas Yojna and Har Ghar Jal programmes of the Centre be the game changer this time?
While development and delivery on promises should augur well for the party in government, polls and politics in UP like other parts of the country, are driven by caste calculations and perceptions, especially of the disadvantaged sections.
The SP as the principal opponent to the BJP is positioning to dislodge the Yogi government, is still looking for a workable combination. Having scalded from its electoral ties-ups with the Congress in the 2017 Assembly polls and with the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2019 Lok Sabha, the SP is sewing up with smaller parties like OP Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party with a presence in Eastern UP and Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal in Western UP to shore up its traditional Muslim-Yadav base.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the BJP under Amit Shah worked wonders with its tie-ups with several smaller parties and reinforced the caste combination ahead of the 2017 assembly. The OBC constitutes 44 percent including 35 percent, Extremely Backward Classes. Dalits constitute about 21 percent with the Jatavs remaining strong supporters of the BSP.
Getting the caste combination right remains the key and no party can ignore this factor. The Congress does not have any demonstrable presence even among the 16 percent upper castes and is nearly absent among the 19 percent Muslims. It is in such a scenario, it promised to field 40 percent women in the state. The move and its effect would be watched with interest.
— KV Prasad is a senior journalist and has earlier worked with The Hindu and The Tribune. The views expressed are personal.
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