Advantage BJP: SP infighting and other parties’ weakness put BJP in driver’s seat for UP election


Recent developments in Uttar Pradesh appear to have catapulted BJP into pole position, ahead of principal rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as the election campaign goes into overdrive with polls scheduled from February 11. This is a poll for BJP to lose and if it will fails to win a majority, that has to be seen as a vote against demonetisation which has caused job losses in UP. If that happens it augurs badly for BJP in the rest of the country, as it suggests demonetisation is being badly received.
There is no sign of the feud within SP’s first family being settled, as Mulayam Singh Yadav is adamant on keeping control over the party despite the majority of its cadre appearing to side with chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. Despite several rounds of meetings, father and son have been unable to patch up their differences. The electoral promise of Congress – itself a fringe player in UP – aligning with SP and consolidating minority votes is neutralised if SP is split down the middle.
BSP is betting heavily on its old formula of social engineering. This was reflected in ticket distribution where BSP has fielded 97 Muslim candidates as compared to 87 Dalit candidates. Mayawati is also betting that Dalits have bitter memories of the Rohith Vemula suicide case where BJP leaders were blamed for precipitating the crisis, as well as the public flogging of Dalits in BJP-governed Gujarat over allegedly skinning a cow. But a number of her followers have switched to BJP, perhaps sensing which way political winds are blowing.
In the last Lok Sabha election, BJP wiped the floor with other parties by winning 71 out of 80 seats in UP. It was helped then by the oratorical and crowd pulling power of Narendra Modi, who broke the stereotype of BJP being a party of upper castes as OBCs and Dalits embraced the lotus. That fire power will be working for BJP again, as Modi will now be campaigning as PM. At the moment, Modi is projecting demonetisation as a war on corruption where he is crusading on behalf of the poor. This is a double-edged sword which could either prevail over caste calculations or take the sheen off Modi’s aura of invincibility.

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