Anti-incumbency threatens Maya, SP her key challenger
Sanjay Singh Posted: Feb 21, 2012 at 0314 hrs
Lucknow Rahul's hectic campaigning brings Cong in the reckoning in UP politics
Two things are clear at the end of the fourth phase of polling in UP:
one, the ruling BSP faces the anti-incumbency factor which is fairly
pervasive and, two, the Samajwadi Party is its main challenger.
A third important development is the emergence of the Congress as a
respectable factor in state politics after a gap of more than two
decades. For the first time, none of its rivals is taking the Congress
lightly, thanks to Rahul Gandhi's energetic campaigning and some deft
moves by the party.
The election process has already covered 226 of the 403 constituencies
in eastern and central UP. The remaining 177 constituencies, which
will be covered in the last three phases, are mostly in western UP and
parts of Bundelkhand.
The anti-incumbency factor against the BSP has much to do with the
state government's failure to provide a corruption-free administration
in its interface with the people. The voters' main grievance is that
they are forced to pay bribes even for getting things like income
certificates, caste certificates, police verification report for the
issuance of passports, birth certificates, old-age pension, in short
almost everything, like never before.
A second grievance is the "officer raj" where the voice of the
people's representatives on issues of public interest has ceased to
matter. The third major charge is that the BSP government is only
taking care of Dalits, and Prevention of Atrocities Against the SC Act
was being misused.
The SP seems to have been the most successful in tapping this
disenchantment with the BSP. Its candidates were well placed in almost
all regions which went to the polls in the first four phases, despite
the stigma of the lawlessness of the previous Mulayam Singh government
and constant reminders by Chief Minister Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi and
Apparently, young Akhilesh Yadav's appeal, and Mulayam Singh Yadav's
constant reassurance that the SP would not repeat past mistakes, have
improved its acceptability beyond its traditional supporters.
Also, although Muslims are no longer voting as a bloc, most of them
still seem to prefer the SP. Initially, Muslims in constituencies like
Tanda in Ambedkar Nagar and Mubarakpur in Azamgarh were influenced by
the Congress announcement of the quota within OBC quota for backward
Muslims and the special package for weavers, but they later developed
hesitation in fully backing the Congress.
However, the BSP's support among its core Dalit voters hasn't suffered
much erosion. It is mainly because the BSP rule has given the Dalits a
sense of security from dominant landed communities in rural areas and,
generally, from the police which tended to side with the powerful.
Although schemes like development of Ambedkar villages, allotment of
land to landless, and free houses under the Kanshiram Shahari Garib
Awas Yojna have benefited people of all communities, the Dalits have
been the largest section of beneficiaries.
The BSP is hoping that the unstinted support of Dalits, combined with
the division of anti-government votes among three main contenders —
the SP, the Congress and the BJP — besides several smaller parties,
will help it retain power.
The Congress decision to increase representation to OBCs, MBCs and
Muslims and, among Dalits, the Koris and the Pasis in the selection of
candidates has troubled both the BSP and the SP. Leaders in both
parties admit that the Congress is going to cut into their vote base.
This has also affected the BJP indirectly. For example, in Devipatan
range, which was traditionally considered to be a pro-BJP field due to
its high Muslim population before the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Congress
candidates are reported to be locked in triangular or four-cornered
contests in many seats. In many urban areas too, the Congress
candidates are well placed.
Rahul Gandhi's campainging has created a situation where no party can
afford to take the Congress lightly. The Congress as a respectable
factor is back in political debates after a gap of more than two
Like the Congress, the BJP has also tried its own version of
Mandalisation in ticket distribution, although on a smaller scale. The
party is hoping to boost its tally from polarization of Hindus votes
as a reaction to wooing of Muslims by the SP and the Congress, and
smaller outfits like the Peace Party. It is highlighting the weavers'
package, the quota within quota, Congress leaders' contradictory
statements on the Batla House encounter, and statements of Law
Minister Salman Khurshid and Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma on
Muslim quota as evidence of the Congress's appeasement policy.
The campaigning by Babu Singh Kushwaha, Mayawati's former family
welfare minister who is an accused in the NRHM scam, may help the BJP
to an extent in Bundelkhand and some other areas by getting Kushwaha
votes, but it is double-edged sword which may also harm the party in
Whatever the claims, the heavy polling in all four phases seems to
have foxed all parties. Opposition parties believe that it reflects a
strong anti-government sentiment driving the voters, but are not sure
whom it will help. BSP leaders hope the high polling is driven by
Dalits. Behind the conjectures is the fact that, for the first time,
about 60 per cent voters are 40 years or younger.
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