Lucknow, Jan 9 (PTI) The BJP has its task cut out in Uttar Pradesh –- to break a jinx under which no party has won two consecutive assembly elections in the state after 1985.
Spread over seven phases, moving sequentially from the west to the east of the vast state, the 403-seat polls will have a major bearing on the 2024 parliamentary elections, when the party hopes to return to power in Delhi under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Union Minister Amit Shah, who has been spearheading the ruling party’s campaigns in UP in the past elections, indicated that much a few weeks back at a rally that scotched speculation that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is now out of favour with the BJP’s central leadership.
“The foundation of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, which has to be won under the leadership of Modi ji, will be laid in the 2022 assembly elections here,” he said.
The state will vote on February 10, 14, 20, 23, 27, March 3 and 7. The results will be declared on March 10 along with the four other poll-bound states of Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur.
The BJP had registered a landslide victory in 2017 assembly polls winning 312 seats on its own, and 325 if the those won by the allies are also counted.
Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party was a distant second then at 49. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party won 19 seats. Apna Dal (Sonelal) got nine, two more than the Congress tally.
The SP has emerged as the major contender to power, and the Congress is under pressure to come up with better numbers, now that the campaign is under the direct charge of general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
With PM Modi inaugurating or laying the foundation stones for a series of projects – including expressways and irrigation schemes – in recent weeks, development still remains a big poll plank for the ruling BJP.
But the party appears to be banking heavily on the “Hindutva” card.
The Ram temple being built in Ayodhya has been a constant refrain at political rallies and the first phase of the redevelopment around the Kashi Vishwanath temple was showcased by Modi himself. He took a dip in the Ganga and addressed a rally which focused on the country’s resilience against the likes of Aurangzeb.
And CM Adityanath has often directed barbs at Akhilesh Yadav that suggest that the SP is counting on the Muslim community. A remark by the SP leader, seemingly equating Pakistan founder Muhammed Ali Jinnah with the likes of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has also been repeatedly invoked at BJP rallies.
The SP, in turn, has harped on “rising” crime – the BJP disputes this and recalls the “mafia rule” when the SP was in power – and claimed that many of the projects being inaugurated now were begun by its own government.
It has also accused the BJP of misusing the central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate to intimidate opponents.
But more than anything, the SP hopes that its alliances with the smaller parties will make the crucial difference.
Apart from the RLD, Akhilesh Yadav ‘s main allies are Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) – PSP(L) led by his once-estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav.
Also on his team are the Apna Dal (Krishna Patel faction), Sanjay Chauhan’s Janwadi Party (Socialist) and Keshav Dev Maurya’s Mahan Dal.
The BJP has tied up with the Apna Dal (Sonelal), and the Nishad Party which represents the group traditionally associated with boatmen and the fisher community. The BSP and the Congress have decided to go solo in these polls.
Most of western Uttar Pradesh will go to polls first on February 10. Elections on 58 seats in 11 districts would be keenly watched as the region witnessed the farmers’ active participation against the three agri laws at Delhi borders. Farm leader Rakesh Tikait hails from here.
The BJP made a clean sweep in the region last time, winning 71 of the total 84 assembly seats in western UP. This time, the SP is counting on the alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal to upset the BJP.
Adityanath, now the face of the BJP in these polls, has claimed that the party will be back in power in UP with an “overwhelming majority”.
UP Congress spokesperson Ashok Singh claims that his own party — being seen by most as an underdog — will spring a surprise.
And Akhilesh Yadav’s tagline is “March das BJP saaf” (on March 10, BJP will be finished). PTI NAV SNS ASH ASH
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