UP parties race past people's issues for 2022 polls

by IANS |

Lucknow, Dec 24 (IANS) As 2022 dawns and Uttar Pradesh prepares for elections, the battle is becoming less political and even less issue based.

A new political vocabulary is emerging with slander, laced with communalism, dominating the election campaign which, at present, seems to have narrowed down to a straight fight between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party.

The Bharatiya Janata Party which has been claiming it will return to power with 300 plus seats in Uttar Pradesh, is undoubtedly becoming increasingly nervous as the countdown to the polls begins.

The party's nervousness is evident from the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made multiple visits to the state and all top party leaders and ministers have been tasked with ensuring victory in UP.

Uttar Pradesh, apparently, is crucial for the BJP which is also looking to repeating its government in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The state, with 80 Lok Sabha seats, will be the key to the next government at the Centre.

The BJP ranks high when it comes to preparedness for the assembly polls.

While the party has its cadres working overtime at the booth level, party leaders are closely monitoring their progress.

The BJP has also launched a massive publicity campaign on all genres of media -- TV, newspaper and digital -- with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as the focal point. Slogans, songs, short films and even cartoons project Yogi Adityanath as an unparalleled and undisputed leader. His credentials as a Hindu leader are used to highlight the change he has brought in the state by cracking down on various mafias.

The BJP campaign, interestingly, has now shifted focus from development to attacking the Samajwadi Party.

A new set of short films titled ‘Farq Saaf Hai' targets the Samajwadi Party on every issue.

With Yogi Adityanath dominating the campaign and Prime Minister Narendra Modi supporting him, the scenario for the BJP in UP could not be better.

However, one problem that the BJP is likely to face is regarding selection of candidates. Party sources say that about 50 per cent of the sitting BJP MLAs may not get tickets because a survey shows them in poor light and non-performance in their constituencies is a major issue.

The BJP wants to neutralize the anti-incumbency factor by replacing the sitting MLAs with new faces.

Changing candidates on a large scale - almost 150, if sources are to be believed - could lead to internal sabotage during the elections by those who are denied tickets.

Two party MLAs -- Rakesh Rathore from Sitapur and Digvijay Narain Chaubey from Sant Kabir Nagar -- have already switched loyalties to the Samajwadi Party.

The BJP also faces the onerous task of accommodating the leaders who have come from other parties.

"It is obvious that those who have joined the party in recent months are expecting tickets for the assembly polls. The leadership will have to decide how to deal with the situation because not all of them can get tickets," admitted a senior party functionary.

The Samajwadi Party, which has emerged as the main challenger to the ruling BJP, has swiftly moved ahead of other parties in the race.

Its leader Akhilesh Yadav has cleverly stitched together an alliance of smaller caste groups - mostly from the OBC category - and is highlighting the failures of the Yogi Adityanath government in his election yatras.

The SP president has finally sunk his differences with his estranged uncle, Shivpal Singh Yadav, and announced an alliance, thereby preventing any division in Yadav votes.

Akhilesh is, in fact, using the same strategy which the BJP used in 2017 to gain power.

The cornerstone of the Samajwadi campaign is inflation and price hike of essential commodities which has affected every section of society.

Akhilesh speaks of the price of mustard oil, petrol, diesel, unemployment, farmers' issues, students' problems and reminds people of the Covid mismanagement that included shortage of oxygen, floating dead bodies and, of course, the travails faced by migrant workers.

To remind people of the horrors of demonetisation, he flaunts a five-year-old boy named Khazanchi, who was born outside a bank where his mother was waiting in a queue to exchange money.

His Vijay Yatras are drawing unexpectedly huge crowds and the mood in the Samajwadi Party is very upbeat.

Party spokesman Anurag Bhadauria said, "The thousands that throng Akhilesh Yadav's rath during his yatras, have not been ferried in government buses. They are staying on the roads till well past midnight to greet the leader. If the BJP wants to bury its head in the sand, we can do nothing about it."

The Samajwadi Party, however, faces the same problem as the BJP when it comes to accommodating the new entrants and pacifying its candidates on seats that the SP will have to give to its allies.

"Our partymen have been working relentlessly since the past five years in their constituencies for the 2022 elections. They will, without doubt, be disappointed if their seat is given to an ally. However, the party leadership is assuring them that they will be suitably compensated when the party comes to power," said a senior party functionary.

The Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, meanwhile, have been reduced to the status of non-players in the UP polls -- at least for now.

BSP president Mayawati is conspicuous by her absence and leading the party campaign is Satish Chandra Mishra, a Brahmin. Mayawati's presence is limited to a tweet a day.

The BSP's focus on wooing Brahmins is irking its base vote of Dalits.

The party has expelled the majority of its Dalit leaders and there is no second rung leadership, except Satish Mishra.

Mayawati's inaccessibility is another factor that is now a talking point among her cadres.

Her display of her newfound love for Hindutva -- she recently marched on to the stage at a party meeting with a ‘trishul' in her hand -- is making Muslims in the party uncomfortable.

Besides, BSP supporters are also confused at Mayawati's political posture which is decidedly soft on the BJP and offensive towards the SP and the Congress.

The Congress, on the other hand, is living in utopia, generated by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's dedicated team.

The team, comprising leaders having origins in Left outfits, is going full steam ahead on slogans, posters and songs on ‘Ladki hoon, Lad sakti hoon' while the party is slowly imploding.

Priyanka's team has ensured that senior leaders take the exit route from the Congress. The party has lost a record number of leaders in the past two months but Priyanka seems to be blissfully ignorant about the situation within the party.

"The problem is that Priyanka gets a very good response when she visits a district in UP but after she leaves, there is not a single leader who works on the ground. She is drawing crowds but the party workers refuse to help in translating that into votes."

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Ajay Kumar Lallu claims that the Congress will form the government in UP while analysts doubt if the party will cross the double-digit mark.

A party that is slowly but steadily making inroads in UP politics is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The AAP is shrewdly targeting the middle-class voters that have been virtually abandoned by the BJP.

"We are not talking about caste and community because that is not our agenda at all. We are promising jobs, free electricity, and good governance. We are promoting the Kejriwal model of governance and people are listening to us," said AAP spokesman Vaibhav Maheshwari.

The AAP may or may not win seats in UP, but the party will prove that it is here to stay.

The saddest part of the UP assembly elections is that though various political parties are announcing sops by the dozen, no one seems to be talking about basic issues that concern the people -- roads, electricity, inflation and unemployment.

The parties are happily playing the blame game and racing past the people with sops that will most probably be never delivered. The people are being left behind in this race for power.

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