The big fight: On battleground Uttar Pradesh  

U.P. is critical as a battleground at the national level 

Updated - April 06, 2024 11:04 am IST

Published - April 06, 2024 12:20 am IST

With 80 Lok Sabha seats, Uttar Pradesh is critical in all political calculations, and more so for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which on its own won 71 seats from the State in 2014 and 62 in 2019. Fronts led by the BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP) are the principal poles in the elections spread over all seven phases. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led by four-time U.P. Chief Minister Mayawati is going solo, even as it battles decline. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is trying to make its presence felt, in alliance with another regional outfit. Several sub-regional outfits that largely draw their support from a single caste group in a confined area are vying for autonomous space in alliances with other parties. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) got a shot in the arm with the induction of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) which commands a considerable following among the agrarian Jat community in western U.P. that had been agitated against the Centre’s farm laws. The Apna Dal (Sonelal) led by Anupriya Patel, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) led by Om Prakash Rajbhar and Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal (NISHAD) party of Sanjay Nishad are other platforms that enable the BJP’s outreach to specific subaltern communities.

The SP and the Congress, which are constituents of the INDIA bloc, have roped in the Mahan Dal led by Keshav Dev Maurya. The outfit enjoys the support of some sections of Other Backward Classes such as Mauryas, Shakyas and Kushwahas in central and eastern Uttar Pradesh. The broader rainbow coalition that the SP formed with multiple sub-regional parties in the 2022 Assembly polls is missing this time and two of its former allies, the SBSP and the RLD, have crossed over to the NDA. One faction of the Apna Dal is in alliance with the AIMIM. This front and the SP-Congress axis are both pivoting around a social coalition of backwards, Dalits and Muslims to counter the Hindutva consolidation behind the BJP, but similar efforts in the recent past have been largely ineffective. The BSP is staring at a dead end, with its leaders joining other parties, and its social base massively eroded. Despite the consolidation that the BJP has achieved in the last decade, U.P. politics remains fragmented along caste, religious and regional fault lines. The State also happens to be home to the most strident form of BJP politics and the party expects to make gains from the opening of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, and win more seats in the State than it did in 2019. The Opposition needs to win a substantial number of seats in U.P. to be viable as an alternative at the national level.

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