Advantage Modi

| Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on January 03, 2017

Convulsions in the ruling SP will help the demonetisation-struck BJP in Uttar Pradesh

The desperation of an ageing patriarch to cling to the vestiges of his power is matched by the ambition of his son, justifying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mocking dismissal of the convulsions within the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. For those trying to read the tea leaves in the election-bound State, the demonetisation-struck BJP has suddenly been handed a host of diversionary poll tactics in SP’s recent implosions and the Bahujan Samaj Party’s preoccupations with its sudden cash crunch. It may be that the fresh-faced chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, has managed to offload much of the ‘goonda Raj’ legacy and anti-incumbency on to the discredited old guard in SP. That Mulayam Singh Yadav’s image is overshadowed by the likes of Amar Singh, Jaya Prada and Shivpal Yadav also helps the young chief minister consolidate his position in the party feud. Akhilesh’s uncle and the only erudite leader in the SP, Rajya Sabha MP Ramgopal Yadav, is not entirely wrong when he says “90 per cent” of the party MLAs, MPs and MLCs are in the chief minister’s camp.

But in the context of the approaching Assembly elections, the confusion it creates among the SP’s traditional voters — mainly the Yadavs (8-9 per cent of the electorate) and the Muslims (18-19 per cent) — is cause for cheer in the BJP camp. Not only does it increase the probability of a split in the Muslim vote between the BSP, Congress and the SP, it also helps the BJP’s contesting claim for the Yadav vote. While Assembly elections in Delhi and, more significantly, neighbouring Bihar, showed that the BJP was not able to retain its hold over castes that it weaned away from other parties, its Lok Sabha performance in UP cannot be overlooked. The BJP received a staggering 42.63 per cent of the popular vote in UP. According to a CSDS survey, as compared to 6 per cent of Yadavs who voted for the BJP in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, it attracted as many as 27 per cent of the Yadav vote in the 2014 election. Confusion among the SP’s core voters does not help the BSP and the Congress as much as it does the BJP, which attracted the Yadavs in the previous election.

But there are still many imponderables in UP, including the impact of demonetisation and the shock waves it has sent among the BJP’s core vote, especially the Banias, the farmers and the self-employed. Secondly, the Dalit consolidation behind Mayawati and the possibility of the Muslim vote shifting her way cannot be discounted. Thirdly, there is still a chance of a Bihar-style ‘ mahagathbandhan’ — mega alliance — between an Akhilesh-led SP, the Congress and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. But while none of these scenarios have so far firmed up, the BJP is looking like the only party in UP that has a plan and the necessary organisational and resource strength to fight a spectacular election in India’s most populous state.

Published on January 03, 2017
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