The politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh goes to the polls in early February and March 2022 and already the focus has begun by parties to wrest the state that virtually decides who will form the government at the Centre.
In the 403 member assembly, the term of current assembly elected in 2017 will expire on 14 March 2022. In the last election in 2017, without projecting a chief Ministerial candidate BJP powered to victory. It won 39.67 % of he popular vote and won an impressive 312 seats ( up by 265) out of 384 contested. The Mayawati’s BSP contested 403 seats but could manage only 19( loss of 61 seats) with 22,23 % popular vote. The Samajwadi party then rattled by inner party dissent faced the rout as it won 47 ( Lost 177 seats) after contesting in 298 seats . It popular vote was 22.81%. The Congress party contested mere 105 seats and won just 7. Loss of 21 seats from 2012 polls.
After the assembly elections were over in Assam, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal , Kerala, Puducherry the BJP has set its sight on retaining Uttar Pradesh. Parleys between the BJP , RSS leaders have already begun in right earnest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his interaction with party leaders has pointed out that party needs to learn from defeats too ( read the much hyped vitriolic and aggressive West Bengal campaign that ended in whimper) . Though there is according to media reports a sense of nervousness with Yogi Adityanath at the helm the party meanwhile though is insisting that they will go to Uttar Pradesh polls with Yogi in command.
The uneasiness Pradesh will definitely indicate which party has the momentum for 2024 in the BJP has arisen after the party did not fare well in the states municipal polls this year . Conceding the ground to the rival Samajwadi party. The party top brass were shocked as they saw the party lose – key districts like – Varanasi, Mathura, Ayodhya ( Ram Temple movement failed to resonate the voters) and Gorakhpur. BJP’s Deputy Chief Minister Kehav Maurya in Uttar Pradesh has already sounded the party’s intension and has claimed that the party would in 2022 would win over 300 plus seats. It is too early to reach this conclusion. Remember West Bengal slogan abki baar 200 paar. But there is no harm of being an optimist. BJP knows that the road to 2024 at the Centre will materialize only when Uttar Pradesh is in the bag.
The main challenge for the BJP will come from the Samajwadi party of Akhilesh Yadav. The samajwadi party received an unexpected boost after it did well at the municipal polls in 2021. It has stunned the BJP by winning in high profile Varanasi ( Prime Minister Narendra Modi constituency), Ayodhya and Gorakhpur ( Chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s bastion. That is not all SP had consolidated its hold on Etawah, Mainpuri, Firozabad, Azamgarh and Etah is traditional areas of support. These results have energized the SP party and workers. Akhilesh has decided not to tie-up with any party so far. Clearly hinting that his part’s alliance with the Congress last time was wrong. But key to SP returning to power is to how Akhilesh deftly handles the old guard and young guard of the party. The seniors who are close to party patriarch and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and the young with him. A faction ridden party does not appeal to voters. AIADMK result in the recently concluded assembly polls in Tamil Nadu is case in point. So while Akhilesh is upbeat with municipal results there are areas he needs to sort out within the party before he seeks to oust the Yogi government in the state.
Congress has already suffered a huge blow with young party leader Jitin Prasada joining the BJP after he stated the party in the state has no ground presence, lacks direction and without a strategy. The party is in dire straits in the state. In 2019 General Elections the party and workers morale were hit at a all time low when BJP’s Smriti Irani, became the giant killer as she beat then Congress president Rahul Gandhi from the family bastion of Amethi. Sonia Gandhi, now interim Congress president is the MP from Rae Bareli. But she does not appear in public due to health issues. There appears to be disenchantment within the party too with neither MP nor MLA Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s appointment as party’s General Secretary Uttar Pradesh East. How much votes will Priyanka Gandhi Vadra get is a big question?. Before Prasada another prominent Congress leader to join the BJP was Rita Bahuguna Joshi, She was the president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee from 2007 to 2012 and the daughter of Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna. Congress needs a miracle if they are fare well in Uttar Pradesh. With rumblings within the party post Jitin Prasad exit, one fears that the grand old party might end up repeating its feat in West Bengal 2021 polls of blank in Uttar Pradesh polls 2022.
If the Congress is facing problems then BSP too is facing the heat as well. With the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh just about six months away, BSP chief Mayawati had expelled two of its most prominent leaders, Lalji Verma and Ram Achal Rajbhar, for “indulging in anti-party activities” during the recent panchayat polls. Added to the expulsions by Mayawati earlier, this leaves the BSP with just seven MLAs in the Assembly, with one of them (Mukhtar Ansari) in jail. It had won 19 seats of 403 in the 2017 Assembly elections. Pressure On Mayawati to hold her party together.
Clearly the battle ground for Uttar Pradesh has well and truly begun as party’s seeks to address their issues before reaching out to the masses. So watch this space as the Uttar Pradesh Dangal will be the main focus from now on.