Countdown for 2017 begins in U.P.

Attempt to influence outcome of polls by polarising electorate on communal lines.

October 14, 2015 02:05 am | Updated 02:05 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The former Mumbai Police Commissioner and BJP MP from Baghpat in western Uttar Pradesh became yet another party leader from the area to make a controversial statement on the Dadri lynching case.

Ostensibly reacting to Pakistan government’s statements on the issue, he said, “a small incident like Dadri…our democratic atmosphere, our country is capable of handling it just fine.” This when the uproar over the incident has seen even President Pranab Mukherjee step into the breach.

The State is going through Panchayat polls and some attribute this vocal enthusiasm to efforts to influence the outcome of the polls by polarising the electorate on communal lines, a situation that worked to the party’s benefit in the 2014 General elections.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav in fact said as much while on a tour of Bihar. “A polarised situation helps the BJP the most,” he said. What he didn’t add was it also helps his Samajwadi Party (SP)— a bipolar fight between the BJP and the SP cutting out other players like the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) from the fray. Over the last few months he has also come out from under the shadow of his father, SP chief Mulayam Singh and his uncles Shivpal Singh and Ram Gopal Yadav and according to officials in the Shastri Bhavan secretariat from where his government is run, far more assertive than he was in 2012-13.

And yet, the situation on the ground is not as simple as a polarised polity. According political scientist Prashant Trivedi, associated with the Giri Institute in Lucknow, the BSP led by Mayawati has started asserting itself after the debacle of the 2014 elections. “The BSP usually does not support any candidates in local polls, these are anyway not fought on party tickets. This time however, it has supported many candidates for panchayat and local body polls, even in Lucknow and certainly in western Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

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