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Monday, June 09, 2014

 

Uttar Pradesh elections: A Shocker in the making

"People in Odisha might find it confusing that how could a 2% margin drop from 24.5% to 22.5% might create such a tremor, given that in Odisha the Biju Janata Dal has just hammered the Congress in the Zilla Parishad, rather brutally I must add. But in UP, a 2% drop in BSP vote-share could mean a decline of 45-50 seats for the BSP. The main vote-bank of the BSP are the Dalits comprising Jatavs and non-Jatavs and they are evenly spread out across all the constituencies in UP, ranging from 16% to 25% in each constituency. Therefore, in the absence of another vote-bank like the Brahmins or Muslims aligning with the BSP like in 2007, the BSP would find its vote-share high but resultant conversion of votes to winning seats low."

Dr. Sasmit Patra

 

In September-October, 2011, I was subjected to stiff ridicule and humour when I put up several banners/flexes in Allahabad city supporting the Congress party, being an ardent Youth Congress activist since my college days. One of my faculty colleagues in chaste Bhojpuri said, “Bhaiya, haath to 2007 mein gum hogayil ba, 2012 ma to khatam ho jayibe, kahe pasian phunkat hain.” (Brother, Congress was lost in 2007; it will be finished in 2012; why are you burning your money). The same faculty colleague went out and voted for the Congress in Allahabad on 15th February this year and has promised to watch the election results with me on 6th March, rooting for the Congress. What has actually changed in Uttar Pradesh over the past five months?

I am not trumpeting for the Congress. I also do not feel realistically that Congress will become the single largest party in Uttar Pradesh. But the 60 to 80 seats it would win in 2012 will put it on a good stead for 2014 and more importantly become a factor in Uttar Pradesh and hopefully in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh later.

But coming to the Uttar Pradesh elections, my gut feel is that it is a shocker in the making. Firstly, BSP and Behenji” might not be losing as much as being predicted. It is worthwhile to note that the 30% vote-share of BSP is being dented with anti-incumbency but not heavily. Unless, the vote-share drops to 24.5%, in a four-cornered fight, BSP would shock everyone with a better performance than expected. If the vote-share falls below 23%, then BSP might shock us even more with a double digit tally in a 403 seat strong house. People in Odisha might find it confusing that how could a 2% margin drop from 24.5% to 22.5% might create such a tremor, given that in Odisha the Biju Janata Dal has just hammered the Congress in the Zilla Parishad, rather brutally I must add. But in UP, a 2% drop in BSP vote-share could mean a decline of 45-50 seats for the BSP. The main vote-bank of the BSP are the Dalits comprising Jatavs and non-Jatavs and they are evenly spread out across all the constituencies in UP, ranging from 16% to 25% in each constituency. Therefore, in the absence of another vote-bank like the Brahmins or Muslims aligning with the BSP like in 2007, the BSP would find its vote-share high but resultant conversion of votes to winning seats low.

Another shocker in the making is the Samajwadi Party. After the fifth phase polling today, the fight for the sixth and seventh phase polls would be more directly fought between Samajwadi Party, Congress-Rashtriya Lok Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party. While the winds show a soft anti-incumbency against BSP, it is not as stiff as imagined. But in case the 2% drop in vote-share mentioned by me does take place for the BSP, then the direct gains might accrue to the Samajwadis. So, instead of a 130-140 mark, SP might also scale an unimaginable 170-190 seat benchmark just as BSP did in 2007 by winning majority on its own strength. So, on March 6th, do not be surprised to see Mulayam Singh celebrating an extra toast with Akhilesh in tow and forming the Government with a handful of smaller parties like the Peace Party, Apna Dal, Quami Ekta Dal and a few independents.

One of the most shocking surprises of this election would also happen with the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP has badly felt the absence of Narendra Modi during its election campaigning. The BJP in this election will not maintain status-quo which means that either it will revive or it will get wiped out. There are several theories doing the rounds that the BJP will do well in Purvanchal and take losses in Paschim UP. My contention is not so. In this election, the BJP has been conspicuous by its silence barring the occasional rhetoric from Uma Bharti. Even Advani and Nitin Gadkari have had blink-and-you-miss presence in this election. Rajnath Singh worked hard and Arun Jaitley was spotted in patches while Sushma Swaraj never campaigned. These multi-polar power centres in the BJP have not only put the spoke in UP elections but also are the harbingers of a disaster in making for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP cadre was confused. The RSS was silent and so were people like Vinay Katiyar and Pravin Togadia, the poster boys of Ram Janmabhoomi and Hindutva for the party. It just seemed like the BJP started on gas and then lost steam mid-way. The shocker will be a poor fourth position or a strong third position. If the BJP leads by more than 20 seats from the Congress, then it can safely assume a symbolic victory before 2014 and if it trails by more than 15 seats from the Congress, then as Rahul Gandhi put it in a Barabanki rally in November, “BJP is on the ventilator, after the elections the ventilator will shut down” Therefore, the BJP is counting on its new found strongmen like Yogi Adityanath from Gorakhpur.

I can never resist but close with the Congress. If wishes were horses, I would ride them and make them fulfill Rahul Gandhi’s dream of a Congress Government in UP in 2012. But I am also aware that Rahul Gandhi is himself aware about the magnitude of the task. But considering that in the first five phases, the polling has been extraordinary, the young voters have also gravitated towards Rahul and the Brahmins and Muslims have returned in some measure to Congress, could be news that might just be the Congress shocker for this election. A lot depends for the Congress in the sixth and seventh phase polling now in western UP. It can count on the Jat votes in this region due to its alliance with Ajit Singh’s RLD and the proximity of Ajit Singh’s son Jayant Chaudhury with Rahul Gandhi might just be the potent mix which would re-create the Muslim-Jat vote-bank combine which will see the Congress and its ally the RLD giving Mulayam and Akhilesh sleepless nights. The BSP though present in the last two phases will not be able to build on its vote-share. It would do well just to retain it. And if the 160 odd seats left give the Congress-RLD combine about 35 seats, then you can well and truly see the Congress-RLD combine hitting the triple digit tally from the 403 seats. This in my view would be the most pleasant shocker for me in this election and help me party through 6th March with my good old Bhojpuri speaking faculty colleague.

If you are a person who is interested in politics, do not miss the television screen on March 6th. It could well be a red-letter day for Indian democracy and more so for the people of UP, who for the first time came out without fear, thanks to the giant efforts of the Election Commission and Mr.Qurashi.

Author Dr.Sasmit Patra [sasmitpatra@gmail.com] is an Associate Professor of Business Management in Allahabad and is associated with the UP elections 2012

       

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