High Stakes Polls

AS expected, Uttar Pradesh polls are turning out to be very polarizing in nature. First, it was Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath saying the election was a contest between 80 percent and 20 percent which was interpreted as a communal dog-whistle. The religious composition of the Uttar Pradesh population is 80 percent Hindus and 20 percent Muslims. Adityanath has since backtracked on the statement saying he was not referring to religion at all. However, the BJP has tried to advance a development agenda as well and also promised freebies to the farmers. In a statement, the union home minister Amit Shah promised farmers that they would not have to pay electricity fees for five years in case the BJP wins the polls. On its face, it seems a deft strategy on the part of the saffron party to woo farmers who have otherwise been alienated from the party following the enactment of controversial farmer laws. The union government later withdrew the laws after farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh determinedly protested against them for a year. Two phases of the polls have already been held in the UP and according to home minister Shah, the Samajwadi Party has received fewer votes.

There are several more phases to go and it is difficult to say which way the election will go. From the looks of it, the Samajwadi Party led by redoubtable Akhilesh Yadav appears a strong contender.  Many political analysts are predicting Yadav’s victory, even though the opinion polls held last month have indicated that the BJP would retain the power. An ABP-CVoter poll showed that the BJP will again win in the UP but not without the party losing over 100 seats it won in the last state elections. In Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress (INC) are locked in a neck-and-neck fight, but without either hitting the majority mark. Goa, on the other hand, is set to go the BJP’s way.

Be that as it may,  the ongoing polls in Uttar Pradesh are of profound significance not only for the future of the state but also for India as a whole.  In UP, the election is high stakes contest between the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Samajwadi Party. Congress and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party are not considered in the reckoning. At stake is not only the mundane question of who rules UP over the next five years but where India is headed as a country. A win for a party other than the BJP  will go some way to arrest the disarray among opposition parties and give them the confidence to stand up to the overarching persona of PM Modi. But a victory for the BJP will yet again reinforce the political invincibility of Modi and further power his political cult. The election outcome will be announced on March 10 and we can’t help but keep our fingers crossed.

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