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Friday, February 07, 2014

'Uttar Pradesh To Decide Who Rules At Centre In 2014'

By Sofia Razzack | Lucknow

ELECTION 2014 SURVEY It's not called the heartland for nothing. With its 80 seats, Uttar Pradesh is the key to the 16th Lok Sabha. Be it Narendra Modi, or Rahul Gandhi, or even Mulayam Singh Yadav, India's next prime minister will need to deliver a victory in Uttar Pradesh to gain the numbers needed for triumph.

Uttar Pradesh has always been the controlling state as far as the Indian polity is concerned. The recent past has, however, seen a reverse swing in the polity. Between 1996 and 1998 Uttar Pradesh was firmly with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but it could not hold the Centre despite a third of its vote share coming from this one state.

Ironically, when it came to power in 1999, the BJP's Uttar Pradesh graph had dipped. Since then Uttar Pradesh has remained out of favour as far as the formation of a government at the Centre is concerned. Neither the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nor the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) have needed Mulayam or Mayawati critically. After almost twenty years of bucking the trend, Uttar Pradesh is back in the spotlight as the real swing state of the 2014 General Elections. No party can lose the battle for this heartland and hope to take Delhi.

Modi will need to score well in Uttar Pradesh due to the absence of allies. The state is important for the anti-Modi camp as well, for a chunk of seats from here will make all the difference in the national contest. There are six main regions in UP that behave like individual states and have different caste, leadership equations. Awadh and Poorvanchal are going to face a triangular contest. In western Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has an upper hand with solid support from the Jats and upper castes votes while the BSP has the support of Jatavs and Muslims. The contest in these areas is mainly bipolar between the BJP and BSP.

In Poorvanchal, Samajwadi Party (SP) has a clear upper hand. Here, OBCs, upper castes, Dalits and Muslims are present in large numbers. The OBC-Muslim backing still working for the SP and the upper caste vote going to BJP makes Mayawati's position shaky.

Poorvanchal is between the BJP and SP. In Awadh, the BJP is placed to do well. There are some important pockets where the Congress, SP and BSP all have a support base, but these islands are not remarkably important in the larger state picture.  

In Bundelkhand, the Congress-led by Rahul Gandhi-has put in a lot of effort but hasn't been able to reap any gains. The contests here are triangular between the BJP, BSP and SP. Dalits have gone back to the BSP, the upper castes to the BJP; there's not much left for the Congress.

The voters in this region mainly want to put their weight behind the party that is likely to form a government at the Centre. The lower Daob region is the home turf of Mulayam Singh. All seats here are contested by him or his family members so his vote share here is not surprising. The BSP is set to be wiped out here; the contest is between BJP and SP.

The Rohailkhand region has the largest number of Muslim voters. Every seat here will witness a bipolar contest between Modi and one of the three-Congress, SP, and BSP-depending on who the voters think has a strong enough candidate to defeat Modi. It will be tactical voting against Modi. So essentially, the contest across UP is between Modi on one hand and everybody else on the other. Dalits have remained behind Mayawati but a section of the middle class Dalit voters are now breaking lines to drift towards the BJP. The BJP seems to be well placed to harvest the non-Jatav Dalit and the non-Yadav OBC votes.  

Samajwadi Party (SP) supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav seems not to be confident about the OBC support base that he and his family had relied upon so far.

And so, the second phase of the party's 'Samajik Nyaya Adhikar Rath Yatra', which rolled out on Thursday from Lucknow, will focus on these backward castes, especially in the Yadav fiefdoms of Kannauj, Mainpuri, Auraiya, Etawah and Firozabad.

There was a time when Mulayam would not have bothered about these constituencies. But Mulayam's decision to get the yatra cover these constituencies indicated that he is not quite sure about that support any more. He possibly could not forget that his daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav was defeated by Congress candidate Raj Babbar during the 2009 by-election in Firozabad. Dimple later won from the Kannauj LS seat in 2012. But, Mulayam knows he cannot take any chance.

Top SP leaders, led by mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, are travelling in the rath. They will address over a dozen public meetings during their journey which will conclude on February 10 in Etawah. The aim of the yatra is to make OBCs aware of the welfare schemes of the SP government.

The party wants the 17 'most backward castes', who are now in the OBC list, be moved to the 'SC' list, he said.
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