Heartland notes: On the BJP and U.P. polls

Lead actors in Uttar Pradesh were repositioning themselves in the last lap of the Assembly elections that are concluding with the seventh and last phase on March 7. The voter participation across the first five phases was close to the 2017 level despite pandemic-related restrictions on campaigning. In the last week, the war in Ukraine also entered campaign conversations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to reach out to people from the State directly affected by the war. He also acknowledged the serious problem of stray cattle caused by the short-sighted cow protection policy that was implemented by the BJP-government in the State. The party appeared defensive on the question of unemployment while gaining support for better law and order and welfare schemes. If re-elected, it has promised more welfare schemes such as a wedding gift of ₹1 lakh for girls from BPL families. Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav took note of the potency of welfare schemes for the BJP and sought to counter it by offering more. He has promised five years of free rations to the poor that will include ghee, lentils and other items. He has also striven hard to overcome the labelling — by expanding his social base — that he stood for one caste and one community: the Yadavs and Muslims. The question is whether he has marshalled enough public support to unseat the BJP that has three-fourths of the seats in the outgoing Assembly. The burden of the SP’s past regime, perceived as corrupt and protective of criminals, disrupts his momentum.

Regardless of who wins, the outcome on March 10 will create ripples beyond the State’s boundaries. The results will influence the course of national politics, particularly the efforts to create a common platform of regional parties opposed to the BJP being spearheaded by Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi made a mark in the campaign, though nobody is betting on the fortunes of the Congress in the State. The Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP had a public show of mutual warmth, and the political meaning of that will become clearer in the post-poll scenario. All these moves will largely depend on whether or not the fundamentals of the BJP politics in its biggest stronghold will be challenged. The BJP has not faced a setback in U.P. since 2014, and one-fifth of its sitting Lok Sabha members are elected from this one State. If the SP’s social justice politics upsets the BJP’s Hindutva parade, it will mark a return of the politics of the 1990s in the heartland. This sheer possibility, however indistinct it might be, makes U.P. a very consequential crucible of Indian politics.

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Printable version | May 7, 2022 1:40:09 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/heartland-notes-the-hindu-editorial-on-the-bjp-and-up-polls/article65198469.ece