Uttar Pradesh will be going to polls in February-March next year and all eyes are set on the turn of events and major political developments in the state. Uttar Pradesh has 80 Lok Sabha constituencies and 403 legislative assembly constituencies, highest amongst all states of India. Politics in Uttar Pradesh is mostly dominated by caste and religion factors. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are the most prominent parties in Uttar Pradesh.
In the 2017 legislative assembly election BJP won a landslide victory winning 312 out of 403 seats. BJP fought the elections under a collective leadership and on the popularity and political clout of PM Narenda Modi. The ruling Samajwadi Party with internal family conflict between the top leaders of the party had a pre-poll alliance with Indian National Congress (INC), however Samajwadi Party could win only 47 seats with Congress winning 7 seats. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election Samajwadi Party and BSP formed a pre poll alliance named Mahagatbandhan but performed poorly winning only 15 seats out of 80 (SP : 10, BSP : 05) while the BJP won 62 seats.
BSP claims to represent backward classes like SC, ST and religious minorities. BSP got absolute majority in the 2007 legislative assembly election and Mayawati became the CM. But BSP was defeated when Samajwadi Party got an absolute majority in 2013 elections and Akhilesh Yadav became the CM who remained in power till 2017.
Since 2013 the popularity of BSP has decreased. In the 2017 election BSP won only 18 seats. There is a possibility of a split in the party. Many expelled and rebel BSP MLAs might join Samajwadi Party or BJP or form a new party of their own. With only a few months left for the election, this may affect the performance of BSP.
Challenges for BJP government to seek re-election for a second term
BJP has mostly depended on Hindutva politics to maintain its voter base however in recent years there are other factors and issues that BJP is taking up actively. In Western UP many seats are dominated by Jats and Muslims votes. In the last election Jats supported BJP and BJP won many seats from Western UP. However due to the Farmer's protest which saw a consolidation of Jats, there are huge anti BJP sentiments in the region affecting BJPs vote share in the Western UP.
Another issue for which the government is facing heat is the handling of the second wave of COVID-19. There wasn't much criticism during the first wave however like the rest of India Uttar Pradesh reported a sudden rise in cases during the second wave with a shortage of resources like oxygen, beds, medicines.
In the recently concluded Panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh whose result was declared in May, BJP backed candidates performed poorly while the candidates backed by opposition Samajwadi Party showed a good performance. In Panchayat elections, elections aren't fought on party symbols but parties back candidates contesting elections, so Panchayat elections may not give a clear picture but the results cannot be underestimated. There are many achievements BJP can brag upon like increase in investments in the state, various business reforms, infrastructural projects and many other schemes implemented successfully in the state and the popularity of CM Yogi Aditynath in the state.
Currently the BJP has an edge over other parties but with strong opposition parties and more parties like AAP and AIMIM contesting the elections next year, the battle for power in India's most populous state and world's most populous country subdivision would be interesting and only time will tell who wins this battle.
This article has been written by Harsh Battulwar for The Paradigm
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