With SP in fragments and most parties feeling the heat of the demonetization drive of PM Modi, electoral politics in Uttar Pradesh could take an altogether different dimension this time round

By Prasoon Pant

With assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh just round the corner the political class is a bundle of nerves. While the recent demonetization drive has wiped out cash and many-an-aspirations of many “budding” ticket aspirants from all parties, it would be interesting to see how the political picture unfolds in the days to come—now with illegal cash out of the picture thereby promising to bring about a paradigm shift in the whole electoral process.

If the BJP hopes to gain with the current financial regime in place the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) has a lot of homework to do, especially now with the divisive internal politics that the party has fallen into. In fact, many say that SP has fallen prey to the same brand of politics that it is accused of promoting. The party is already facing anti-incumbency and further divisions in the rank & file has not gone down well with the public as even their ardent electoral support base in the form of Yadavs (of eastern UP) and Muslims is now in a disarray. The party also faces the added dilemma of keeping its flock loyal, at the district and the booth level as here, there is a possible danger of revolt and sabotage within the party organization during the elections, with their loyalties clearly divided now between CM Akhilesh Yadav and Shivpal Yadav. Although Akhilesh Yadav has been the torchbearer for the SP in the last assembly elections and has shown some grit in weeding out the follies of his forbearers, this time whether he will be able to recreate the same magic is doubtful. “Everyone is in the know that Akhilesh has been used by the Yadav political clan to meet their own ends and hence it counts little if he has a good image or not,” remarked Rajiv Tyagi, a Muradnagar resident. “People this time will not be wooed by him as he has failed to come out of shadows of his father,” he added.

The SP’s main worry is not whether it will be able to fight a close battle with other parties or not; but whether or not it would be able to keep its own flock in check and from revolting against the party’s top brass—just before the crucial time of canvassing begins. This is specially more true after the recent announcement of contestants from Ghaziabad, many of whom were not seen as likely faces. One party insider told Ghaziabad Mail that many hopeful candidates were not shortlisted as contestants in West UP thereby increasing the likelihood of those turning up against the party and jeopardizing the prospects of SP candidates in many areas. Added to this is the constant infighting and bickering among SP party workers— who are not seen as disciplined by the common public. Also the anti-incumbency factor that is a vital factor in every election, is weighed heavily against SP and this is not going to make things better for them. “SP’s image has greatly been that of a party favouring Yadavs and Muslims and the Party has not been able to shed this image as yet,” said Hansraj Sharma, a resident of Raj Nagar, Ghaziabad. “Even if the SP leaders say otherwise, this favouritism will lead to its downfall,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Kumari Mayawati seems to have lost out on aggression with carefully crafted statements that are more reactionary in nature. The BSP is confident of the anti-incumbency in its favour and the BSP cadres feel that this time the party would be the natural choice of masses, who already suffer from the “mistrust” of SP rule. Not surprisingly, the party leaders alongside their supremo do not forget to mention the poor law & order situation in UP, in all their public interactions and utterances.

“The problem of this government is that incapable and inefficient people are sitting at the helm in most of the departments, commissions and authorities and the same is the case with the police,” pointed out Tejvir Bhati, a resident of Gr. Noida. “Getting a plum post in UP and especially in Ghaziabad or Noida, all depends on the connections you have with members of the ruling party,” he said and added, “At least, if this is not true this is the perception of the people in general.”

The BJP is largely fancying its chances on Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who is being projected as the first ever PM to have taken a sweeping decision to curb black money and corruption, apart from taking decisions on GST. “The PM’s image is definitely an advantage for the BJP, however all this would need to translate into BJP fielding reliable and people friendly candidates in elections and not just candidates with moolah in their pockets,” pointed out Sharad Tiwari, a resident of Noida. “The PM’s image and his rallies would be the opening the BJP has desired in elections, but the electorate knows that the  PM is not the CM candidate and here the party could be vulnerable,” he added.

“Also, the BJP should not forget that the BJP is the ruling party in the Centre and hence anti-incumbency factor could also come in here, albeit  to what extent is difficult to say now. The effects of the demonetisation move on the people’s mood is hard to assess as of now and this could play a definite part in the forthcoming assembly elections, said Manish Saxena, a Ghaziabad resident.

As far as Congress Party is concerned, it is a situation of being ‘better late than never’. The Congress Party  is searching for a neta that could connect with the masses. “The problem with the party is that the people of UP do not seem to take them as serious contenders in elections,” summed up Ravikant Sinha, a Meerut resident.

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