As the ongoing assembly elections drag their tedious way to a dreary end, all eyes will be on the results to be announced on 10 March. Opposition parties are looking eagerly not so much for their victory, but at the prospect of the BJP losing ground, even being defeated, in its strongholds of UP and Uttarakhand. Outplayed almost in all departments, their final hope is that a general incumbency will be strong enough to make voters overlook the poor quality of the alternative. While everybody concedes that the BJP’s star campaigner, Prime Minister Modi, retains his popularity with the voters, it is being hoped that the poor performance of individual MLAs will be enough to bring about change.
The greatest expectation is from UP, where Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav is drawing large crowds. They feel he has the numbers, which is why the likes of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee are rushing in to lend a hand. What is being overlooked is that the crowds are the result of a polarisation between the SP and BJP that has rendered the other parties, particularly the Congress and BSP, somewhat insignificant. The big question is whether the votes possibly lost by these two parties (approximately 20 percent, each) have shifted en masse to the Samajwadi Party, or have been divided between the two major contenders. Traditionally, these voters have chosen the BJP as their second choice in preference over the SP. This is element is being overlooked in the somewhat premature celebrations by the SP and its camp followers, particularly in the media.
The truth is, had it not been for the farmers’ agitation and supposed alienation of the Jats, the victory of the BJP under Yogi Adityanath was considered a given. So, everything depends on the basis of the polarisation. While the SP has concentrated on caste and community, as well as the usual unemployment and inflation factors, the BJP has focused on nationalism, law & order, development and the ‘larger picture’. In fact, the ongoing Ukraine crisis will have bolstered this sentiment. CM Adityanath will be banking on a ‘silent’ wave in his favour.
The polarisation is not so strong in Uttarakhand, even though the basic contest is, once again, between two parties. The issue will be resolved more constituency wise, with a basic bias towards the BJP. The election is more the BJP’s to lose than any preference for the Congress to prevail. This is why some thought is being given to the possibility of independents helping reach the majority number. Any significant drop from the present 57 seats will anyway be considered a setback for the BJP, even if it manages to obtain a majority. The party will, therefore, also be looking for a moral victory. Overall, the results will determine whether PM Modi’s hands are strengthened in the remaining two years of his tenure, or he loses much moral authority.