The assembly elections may be a year away yet the state’s political arena is buzzing with activity
State elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) may be due in May next year, yet elaborate preparations by major political parties underline the electoral importance of Bharat’s most populous state. The state’s assembly has 403 seats and sends 80 MPs (Member of Parliament) to the Lok Sabha.
The elections this time are crucial because the incumbent Samajwadi Party (SP) government will be battling huge public discontent due to CM Akhilesh Yadav’s inept governance.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that had performed exceptionally well in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, has decided to declare 200 candidates for the upcoming Assembly elections. The party will declare remaining candidates in several batches later on. BJP had won 71 out of the 80 parliamentary seats in the last Lok Sabha elections held in May 2014 and the party is keen to build on its winning momentum.
‘We are eyeing 265+ seats’
Preparation for upcoming Assembly elections Uttar Pradesh is being watched not only by Bharatiyas but equally by foreigners also. Discussions are being held across the nation. Betting has started on who would be the winner or loser in this game. To fulfill its reform agenda, this election is more important for BJP than Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress.
First of all I would like to thanks our leadership that it has given the big responsibility on a common worker. BJP has a democratic organisation. Here, claim for post or for candidature goes on till the last moment. But the day decision comes in then, here in BJP we have such type of system and democratic setup, everyone works for coming tomorrow. In UP we have many big stalwart whose direction we used to get and we will get their blessing also. Challenge of 2017, winning of 265 plus seat target given by national president, I could say with full confidence will be achieved by BJP.
Since UP is a big state, anyone becoming a president will belong to only one place. If he comes from east or west, then the other part shall have the problem —differences will remain there. BJP has a strong organisation of its own, a strong network. A series of leadership is here. We will create a wave in the whole state in favour of BJP. On the other hand SP has totally failed on every front. Neither farmers nor youths are happy. People is totally angry with the work of state government. Law & order situation is totally in a bad position. In such circumstances BJP has a golden opportunity. And BJP will use it.
Earlier too, several “Gathbandhans” and “Maha-gathbandhans” were formed. BJP is fully prepared to meet out any challenge. I do not think that any “Gathbandhan or Mahagathbandhan” has any relevance in UP. The situation in Bihar was different, so they got to work on grand alliance. This time BJP is in full preparation. There are 1.20 lacs booths in UP. The BJP has constituted more than one lac booths out of these. We will reach fast to the places where we have not reached so far. I will find out its solution after meeting with national president.
BJP does not do caste politics.
Let the Opposition parties do caste politics. The way we replied Opposition in 2014, will also be replied in 2017.
Sabka sath sabka vikas and Na goondagardi na bhrastachar hum denge achhi Sarkar.
We used to chant Bharat Mata ki jai and we will continue to do so. I will not comment on those who do not say it. But I have a feeling of sympathy for them. Why they ignite such type of feeling? Live in Bharat and will not say Bharat Mata ki jai. Country will not accept such type of statements. Certainly, people of UP is with us on this issue. I don’t think that going forward with such feelings, any party or any leader will ever get success.
SP and BSP had faced election together earlier also. We know their strength. In Lok Sabha elections, we have faced both and achieved great success also. I think in 2017 election both these parties will fight for first and second positions. But we will be the number one, while both these parties will end up contesting for second and third positions.
“BJP has almost finalised its plan for upcoming UP elections. Meetings are being held regularly to chalk out the strategy. I cannot divulge more than this,” said a party insider who is privy to party’s strategy for UP.
BJP had recently announced the name of its new state president Keshav Prasad Maurya and the party’s central leadership is now planning to give few more surprises to its political opponents in UP. “A president from backward Kushwaha community will foil the attempts of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who is trying to garner support of Kurmi caste in UP,” said another party insider.
Last month on March 25 the ruling SP had declared its candidates for 142 candidates and the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had also declared a majority of its candidates around a month back.
“Congress has also completed its home work for 370 seats. Party has erected a basic infrastructure on these seats and has identified potential workers and leaders to give a tough fight to the BJP,” said a senior Congress leader who is aware of the party’s preparations for the UP assembly elections.
Prospects of incumbent Samajwadi Party
As the public mood is against Akhilesh government the Samajwadi Party faces an uphill task and the party knows about it. In a hurriedly called press conference in Lucknow on March 25, the SP vice-president Shivpal Singh Yadav announced the names of party candidates. Several of these candidates were second or third position holders in the last assembly elections held in 2012.
By reposing their faith on defeated candidates, SP has given them time to prepare for their respective constituencies. In 142 assembly tickets party has tried to keep its balance in caste and religion mathematics.
Out of the 142 candidates announced the party offered tickets to 28 Muslims, 22 Dalits, 19 Yadavs, 15 Kshatriyas, 11 Brahmins, 07 Jats, 03 Bhumihars, 02 Baniyas and one each to Kayastha and Sikh communities. SP has changed 75 old warriors to new faces.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is trying to hard sell whatever development his government had carried on in the state over the last five years. His government is giving full page advertisements to all national and state’s newspapers regularly.
The party has also initiated new development works such as digging and construction works across many parts of the state.
BSP—the old warrior
“Behen Ji (Mayawati) has already declared the names of almost all BSP candidates for UP assembly elections about a month back,” said a source within BSP requesting anonymity. All the candidates declared are making their vote banks solid for the coming heyday. “We are minutely watching the poll strategies of other parties. We are waiting for some blunders of contesting parties particularly from the ruling SP,” he added while choosing not to elaborate further on the plans of BSP. However, fresh hearing in the disproportionate assets case of Mayawati in the Supreme Court will continue to haunt the BSP.
Will early announcement work this time for SP and BSP?
“Early announcement of candidate names by the SP and BSP could not yield the desired results this time for both the parties. BJP will be number one party this time,” said Gorakh Nath Pandey a prominent BJP leader of UP and an ex-MP of BSP. “Law and Order situation in the state are at their worst. Corruption and hooliganism have marred the Akhilesh government. Although he has a clean image among the voters but he also carries an image of being a “helpless” man who wants to focus on developments and good governance but could not fulfill his agenda because of impediments erected by elders members of Yadav clan and other big stalwarts within the Samajwadi Party,” explained Pandey in support of his conjecture of BJP’s position.
Because of its arrogant, dictatorial and whimsical attitude towards the upper castes and OBCs this time the BSP has lost support of not only Brahmins but also other upper castes “Savarn”. Pandey who was an MP from the party in 15th Lok Sabha agrees. “Brahmins and other general caste voters will not go with BSP this time. Party will not be able to get enough seats in the Vidhan Sabha only with Dalits votes in the upcoming election” he said.
New plans for Congress to regain its lost position
Meanwhile, Congress party has given the reins of UP elections to poll strategist Prashant Kishor who has been praised for his deft management and successful campaign of the recently concluded Bihar elections. Kumar was the man behind success of Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) of JD (U), RJD and Congress.
Kishor wants a bigger role for Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as well as for former Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit. “He wants to send some former Ministers of UPA from Uttar Pradesh to contest assembly elections as it will help to draw out more commitment from stalwarts of state” said a source. “He also has emphasised to spend more moolah for a better and upgraded platform of communications with voters and a mahagathbandhan type arrangement with JD (U), RJD, RLD, Apna Dal and some other parties led by Congress for achieving the target of revival of party in state,” said another leader of Congress.
Further, in an attempt to reclaim the Dalit vote last year Congress made elaborate plans for Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar’s birth anniversary and announced a committee headed by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. The plan was to chart out a year-long programme to celebrate Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary at the district, block and Panchayat levels but Congress has failed to give shape because of party infighting over Kishor.
Congress is also worried over BJP’s hypothecation of Ambedkar and concerted bid to make inroads into the Dalit vote bank which is also a big concern for Mayawati.
“Congress’ plan is to spend a big chunk of its coffers in the UP elections to win around one fourth of assembly seats so as to produce fractured mandates in the Vidhan Sabha such that the party is able to hold an important position in government formation in 2017,” said a political leader from UP, requesting anonymity.
However, Kishor’s choice to revive Congress’ fortunes in UP has set off a debate within the party over his appointment. Sources within the party say that a section of old Congress patriarchs are not happy with new development and do not want to work with Kishor in the UP polls.
Plans on track for BJP
Well, greater and active participation by a poll strategist of Prashant Kishor repute will give some sort of stress to the BJP. To counter the opponents’ moves BJP has new initiatives in place for the state’s election. For the first time Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address 52 thousand village panchayats directly and simultaneously. It will also run a “Village Swaraj Abhiyan” in these village panchayats from April 14 to April 24 coinciding with the anniversary of Dr B. R. Ambedkar.
During its 15 days campaign the party will let people know about new initiatives and programmes stated by the Central Government for the welfare of common people. A plan has also been chalked out in which big stalwarts will reach at least 10 village panchayats in its effort to directly contact with the voters. This will end by a direct address of Modi to all the village panchayats of state.
BJP president Amit Shah is eyeing more than 265 seats in these elections. A majority in UP means more seats in the Rajya Sabha where BJP is facing stiff challenge from the opposition benches. “Selection of KP Maurya has sent good feelers within the BJP voters and supporters. He will attract votes of some non-Yadav castes of other backward castes (OBCs),” said another source.
Rubbishing all charges of internal differences within the party leadership Pandey said, “If party gives candidates of people’s liking and with a clean image then we will be able to form government in the state.” Party has done its homework well in time and has completed booth level organisational work.
Who ultimately wins Lucknow will be clear only after the polls in 2017 but the electoral arena is witnessing intense activity and political parties are not leaving any stone unturned to woo the voters.