Who Is Winning UP?

Lucknow: Many political observers and election pundits believe that Uttar Pradesh will throw up a hung Assembly without any party getting to the half-way mark. Though the votes would be counted on the 11th and exit polls will be available by Thursday evening, party insiders grumble that it is going to be a fractured verdict.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the campaigner-in-chief for the BJP, after sweating it out started hinting at the possibility of a hung assembly. He said, SP and the BSP are waiting for such an opportunity for bargaining. Akhilesh Yadav retorted that after dreaming of 300 seats, Modi was now talking about a fractured verdict.

Though elections took place in four other States also, the main focus is on the biggest and toughest State of UP. In Punjab, AAP and the Congress are neck and neck with the Congress having an edge. In Uttarakhand, the ruling Congress and the BJP are evenly poised. It may go either way with the BJP having a slight edge. Manipur has seen Modi address an impressive gathering. But the Congress is no push over there. In Goa, the ruling BJP is ahead of the Congress. The AAP may have to settle for the third position.

It is in UP that the basis for the 2019 Lok Sabha poll would be laid. If the BJP wins a majority, there is no looking back for Modi. He will become more focused and aggressive in his pursuit of second innings. The BJP got 42 percent of the polled votes in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and won 71 out of the 80 seats. It was a dream run. Even if the BJP lost seven percent of the vote it got three years ago, it would win UP comfortably. The Apna Dal’s two MPs had subsequently joined the BJP. If the SP has to win, it has to muster 35 percent of the votes. Then it would get 202 seats out of the total 403. The party won 226 seats in 2012 with just 29 percent vote. Mayawati’s BSP has got a respectable 26 percent of vote share but ended up with 80 seats. It has to improve its percentage by 15 if it were to win a simple majority.

UP had hung Assembly for 14 years. The trend changed only in 2007 when Mayawati won a clear mandate. She was followed by Akhilesh Yadav in 2012 with a bigger seat share. However, there was no wave in the elections that were concluded on Wednesday when voting took place for the last phase where 40 seats were at stake.

UP is a bellwether State which has a bearing on national politics in 2019. All the major players have high stakes. For Modi, it is very important to win. It would strengthen him and he can win 2019 elections with the acquired momentum. If he fails to get majority it would be a setback. He can manage the demeanour the same way if the BJP emerges as the largest single party. But if it ends up behind SP-Congress combine or the BSP, he will have to answer some difficult questions from ‘Marg Darshak Mandal’. For Akhilesh, it is a prestigious fight. If he wins, he would by the unquestioned leader of UP and the SP.

He may even hope to challenge Modi in the next general elections. If he loses, knives will come out and he will have to face a difficult situation. His uncle Shivpal will ridicule him and try to belittle him for snatching away the party reins from his hands just before elections. Even his father, Mulayam, might have the last laugh. For Rahul Gandhi, a victory for the alliance will be a sure shot in the arm. A defeat would take his image further downwards. It would be disastrous for him politically. Mayawati cannot keep BSP intact if she loses badly this time. Second term in opposition is something she has not been used to for a long time. If she wins, she would become chief minister for a record fifth time. By all means, UP elections are a Test by fire for all the players.

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