With the polling having been over in around 60 per cent seats in Uttar Pradesh that sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, though the saffron surge is noticeable, it is still risky to forecast outcome. The Bahujan Samaj Party, however, appears to emerge as a dark horse and surprise the pollsters.
The 47 seats where polling had been completed, lie in the western and central region, where Jats, Muslims, Dalits and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are the deciding factors. While the Jats, who form around 12 per cent of the electorate in the western region, were divided in their support for the BJP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Muslim votes appeared to have been shared by the Samajwadi Party (SP), the BSP and the Congress.
Dalits have, by and large, sided with the BSP as expected while the Yadavs seemed to stick to the Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is a clear favourite in his bastion at Mainpuri. The upper caste and the `non-Yadav OBCs,' however, were reported to be supporting the BJP indicating that the saffron party could gain in the western region at the expense of SP and RLD.
In the central and Avadh regions, the SP seems to keep its ‘Muslim-Yadav’ vote bank intact something that augurs well for the party, which is clearly on the back foot in the polls especially for the failure of its government on the law and order front. BJP national president Rajnath Singh, contesting from Lucknow, appears all set to enter the Lok Sabha for the second time. The other BJP stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi, however, seems to be facing a tough battle in Kanpur. The Congress, too, looked to be on a strong wicket in pockets in the region.
A division in the Jat votes, however, could hit the RLD chief Ajit Singh's prospects in Baghpat as well as of his son Jayant Chaudhary in Mathura. The BSP was able to keep its Dalit vote bank intact and in many seats the Muslims were reported to have supported the party like they did in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and if that were the case, the party could not only retain its seats but also add a few more in its kitty.
The BSP has been working quietly at the booth level with its well oiled machinery and effective cadres rather than going for big rallies. The party hopes to cash in on what it perceives the ‘anger’ against the SP government over its failure on the law and order front.
The focus has now shifted to the 33 seats, which are mainly in the eastern region where the polling is due on May 7 and 12. Upper castes, Muslims, OBCs and Dalits would prove to be the deciding factor in the outcome of the polls in this region, according to the experts.
The eastern region has emerged as a new battleground in this polls especially after the BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi and Mulayam decided to contest from Varanasi and Azamgarh respectively in an apparent bid to counter each other. Modi, though seen as a favourite, is embroiled in an interesting battle in Varanasi with his rivals from Congress while Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is leaving no stone unturned to give him a tough fight.
The support of the Quami Ekta Dal (QAD) of mafia don-turned politician Mukhtar Ansari to the Congress in Varanasi is likely to make life a bit tougher for Modi in the seat where Muslims form around 15 per cent of the electorate. A polarisation is expected in Varanasi. Mulayam, who entered the contest from Azamgarh to counter the Modi impact, is also expected to sail through with the support of the Yadavs and Muslims, who together could make or mar the electoral fortunes of many a candidates in the region.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is trying to enter Lok Sabha for the third time from his family turf of Amethi, is also fighting a do or die battle with AAP leader Kumar Vishwash with TV actress turned politician Smriti Irani breathing down his neck. Though Rahul has been busy campaigning elsewhere, his sister Priyanka has been sweating it out in Amethi to ensure a smooth sailing for him.
The BJP’s vote share was a meagre 15 per cent in the 2012 assembly elections and the saffron party faces an uphill task of reviving its electoral fortune in the state. In the 1998 LS polls, the BJP had secured 36.48 per cent votes and it had bagged as many as 58 seats. If the BJP's dream to grab the same number of seats were to come true, it would need to increase its vote percentage by around 21 per cent, which is, undoubtedly a tall order. The SP's vote share in the 2012 assembly polls was an impressive 29.15 per cent and the party had managed to win a record 224 seats. BSP, its arch rival, had managed 25.91 per cent votes in the same elections while the Congress's vote share had stood at a meagre 11.63 per cent.
Quite evidently, the SP and the BSP only need to maintain their vote share to retain the seats while the saffron party and the Congress would need a massive surge to do well in the state.
With the ongoing Lok Sabha elections over in more than half of the seats, the experts are keeping their fingers crossed and it remains to be seen if the ‘Modi wave’ is able to break through the caste equations.
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