A resurgent opposition has put BJP on the backfoot in Uttar Pradesh

The huge crowds thronging political rallies of the Congress and the SP are indicative of the fact that a large number of people are not happy with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh

A resurgent opposition has put BJP on the backfoot in Uttar Pradesh

Dr Gyan Pathak

The spike in COVID-19 cases and a no-holds-barred election campaign by some parties seem to have propelled the Election Commission of India to announce the election to the Legislative Assembly of Uttar Pradesh in as many as seven phases between February 10 and March 7, 2022.

Meanwhile, political activity is gathering steam. Election rallies of the Congress are witnessing huge gatherings. Samajwadi Party has become hopeful of wresting the seat of power from the ruling BJP. BSP seems to be rowing the political wave on its own, even as the AIMIM and AAP too have thrown their hats in the ring.

But it's the ruling BJP, of course, which has the highest stakes in the state due to a sharp decline in its political prospects. If some sort of unity is established among the opposition, either in the form of a pre-poll alliance or a seat-wise strategic arrangement, the BJP will be in even deeper trouble.

The huge crowds in the political rallies of the Congress and the SP are indicative of the fact that a large number of people are not happy with the ruling party.

Conducting elections in UP in seven phases would be easier to handle for the Election Commission. Election in a range from 54-61 assembly constituency and only 9-11 district in each phase is a wise decision. However, to ensure free and fair elections, the EC would need to maintain extra vigilance to prevent incidents of violence in the state, which can't be ruled out due to the high political stakes involved.

One simple modus operandi of cadre based political parties is for their voters to turn up in large numbers during the first half of the polling time, after which they start creating trouble at polling booths. When the situation becomes tense, the common people avoid even going near the booths, substantially reducing the vote percentage of common people.

Ensuring free and fair poll will therefore be crucial, at a time when most opposition political parties have much smaller cadres than the ruling BJP.

Some political surveys held since September 2021 have shown a steady decline in the political fortune of the BJP. In 2017, it had won 309 seats on its own, polling 39.67 per cent of votes. The NDA, altogether, had won 325 seats, with a vote share of 41.3 per cent.

Going by pre-poll surveys, there could be a fall of about 3 per cent in the vote share of the NDA, which may translate into only 212-230 seats for it. In a house of 403, NDA needs only 202 seats to remain in power. However, the prospect of losing almost 100 seats has made the BJP extremely apprehensive about the final outcome of the election, and it is not sparing any stone unturned to ensure a victory.

Such surveys have also predicted that SP and its alliance partners will win seats in the range of 137-152, up from 47 seats that the SP won in 2017. It is in this backdrop that SP hopes to come to power in case the BJP falls short of 202 seats. In terms of share of votes, the SP alliance is predicted to poll 34.4 per cent votes, up from 21.82 per cent, according to the latest survey.

The BSP had considerable political base in the state but polled only 22.23 per cent of votes and won 17 seats in 2017. This time, the party is predicted to further lose its vote share and seats. However, in case of strategic voting by some communities, it may retain about a dozen seats.

The AIMIM, on its part, may attract some Muslim votes, thereby hurting the prospects of the BSP or SP. The entry of AAP may also cause a split in opposition votes.

Under the circumstances, opposition parties may do well to reach some sort of electoral understanding which may well knock the BJP out of contention in the bellwether state, a development which is expected to have serious repercussions for it at the national level when general elections are held in 2024.

(IPA Service)

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Published: 10 Jan 2022, 9:15 PM