While voting in Uttar Pradesh has shifted to its last but not the least phases – in very important 27 seats of ‘Poorvanchal’ or eastern Uttar Pradesh, political temperature in the Hindi-heartland is rising with the rise in mercury and the intense heat wave.
The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party is pretty much aware of the importance of these 27 seats. In the last 2014 elections, the saffron party had swept 25 of these seats with its ally Apna Dal winning one seat. The seat of Azamgarh, from where Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh won, was the only one which went to the kitty of the opposition.
But politics and political equations do keep changing. Yogi Adityanath vacated Gorakhpur seat and Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated Phulpur to become Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2017. The by-polls to these two seats came as a rude shocker to the BJP.
A new alliance between Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal, which was in its wings of experiment in 2018, trounced the BJP from these two seats. Another Lok Sabha seat of western Uttar Pradesh Kairana with an Assembly seat of Noorpur were also won by the combined opposition which was then in its testing phase.
Tasting success in these by-polls, BSP Supremo Mayawati thought of burying her enmity of the 1995 Lucknow Guest House incident and agreed on joining hands with the Samajwadi Party after a gap of about 24 years.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is planning all guns blazing campaign in eastern Uttar Pradesh. Sources say that a high-level committee comprising UP Chief Minister Adityanath, State General Secretary Sunil Bansal, party’s Gujarat leader Gordhan Zadafia, party’s National Vice-President Dushyant Gautam and senior Madhya Pradesh leader Narottam Mishra has been formed to oversee the last two phases of polls in the state.
Sources say that the party high command is worried over the split of the Non-Yadav OBCs, Non-Jatav Dalit Rainbow Coalition which was solidly behind the party in 2014 National elections and 2017 U.P. Assembly elections. And this high-powered committee has been set up to ensure that the Rainbow Coalition comes back to the party fold. And this worry of the top BJP leadership is not without cause. One person has been assigned to influence a thousand voters each of the Non-Jatav Dalit and Non-Yadav OBC voters.
BJP leaders are probably aware massive transfer of vote between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in the first five phases of polling in the state. The real optics to this came when it was being said that the BSP-SP vote was not being transferred to each other and Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple touched the feet of BSP Supremo Mayawati at the alliance rally in Kannauj.
This created a ripple in the Dalit vote bank of BSP. One could argue that this infuriated the Yadav vote of the Samajwadi Party but people who know the politics of the state know that this time, though angry with the party till outside the polling booth, the Yadav voters only preference or option is the Alliance candidate as he or she enters the booth.
Another optic was Mayawati posing before the flashing cameras after casting her vote in Lucknow and it is not a secret that the Lucknow seat has gone in the kitty of the Samajwadi Party. This message of the BSP Supremo was enough to tell her loyal vote base to vote for the Samajwadi Party wherever its candidates are in fray.
Then came another game changer in Uttar Pradesh. A day before voting in Amethi and Rae Bariely, Mayawati addressed a press conference asking her cadre to vote for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Rae Bareli and Amethi respectively hinting at post-polls opposition unity. Earlier Mayawati had been launching scathing attacks on both the BJP and the Congress. A day earlier, Prime Minister had attacked the SP-BSP alliance and said it would break soon after election results. These political moves of Mayawati were enough to settle the dust in Uttar Pradesh.
BJP leaders are now of the opinion that there should be more rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Party President Amit Shah and the narrative should be Modi magic and nationalism. Sources say that the already planned five rallies of the Prime Minister in eastern Uttar Pradesh, have now been increased by six additional ones. Similarly, five to six mega rallies of party president Amit Shah have been planned for Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The Kurmi, Kushwaha and Nishad vote banks are major worries for the BJP. The SP-BSP alliance, in a bid to break the rainbow coalition, have fielded Kurmi candidates from Allahabad, Shrawasti and Basti seats. Former Member of Parliament from Machlisshahar, strong Nishad leader, Ram Charitra Nishad who was this time denied party ticket, left the BJP to join the Samajwadi Party. By fielding Nathuni Prasad Kushwaha from Kushi Nagar, the alliance has tried to get a grasp on the Kushwaha voters of this seat and adjacent seats as well.
The alliance has fielded a strong Nishad leader, Ram Bhuwal Nishad from Gorakhpur seat against BJP’s actor-turned politician Ravi Kishan Shukla. This seat is now a prestigious one for UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as it is his bastion. The alliance candidate is giving a tough fight here banking largely on Nishad, Yadav, Muslim and Dalit votes.
The Congress has fielded a strong local Brahmin, Madhusudan Tiwari from here. Tiwari is a popular Brahmin lawyer and has been President of the Gorakhpur Bar Association more than one. He will be aiming at denting the Brahmin vote base of the seat making life tougher for Ravi Kishan. A second successive loss of Gorakhpur could cause a major dent to the image of CM Yogi Adityanath.
Former Minister of the Yogi government, Om Prakash Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) has become another major headache for the BJP. Denied two seats by the senior party, he has fielded his candidates from over 30 seats. He intends to dent the BJP vote base by at least forty to sixty thousand, if not more at the crucial Ghosi, Gazipur and Balia seats of Western Uttar Pradesh.
Further, he has announced support to SP-BSP Alliance candidates from Sant Kabir Nagar, Bansgaon and Maharajganj where nominations of his candidates have been rejected. Om Prakash Rajbhar is playing the perfect spoiler for the BJP in Purvanchal as in close multi-cornered fights, forty to sixty of votes could be a big deciding factor.
BJP leaders are very much aware that the Rainbow coalition is not intact for the saffron party as it was in 2014 and 2017. The SP-BSP alliance has over the few months and years, has made significant inroads in the Non-Yadav OBC and Non-Jatav Dalits vote bank. Purvanchal is known for voting on caste lines and here, any day, voting on caste basis would triumph the narrative of development. Political parties are now leaving no stone unturned to show their “27 ka dum” !
Vivek Avasthi is Senior Editor – Politics with Business India Television – BTVI