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8:30pm, 11th February, 2017

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The largest state of India with 403 Assembly seats, Uttar Pradesh has finally gone to polls. The state is having its Assembly Elections in 7 phases, the first of which was concluded today. The voting for 73 assembly seats of Uttar Pradesh was held today. The last phase polling for UP Elections will be held on 8th March after which the counting of votes will take place on 11th March.
 

Understanding the Complex UP politics
UP-Election-2017
Image Source: SamacharIndia.in
For decades it has been tough to comprehend the Uttar Pradesh politics. The caste and religion based issues have always dominated over the local issues such as health care and education. Before understanding the politics of UP it is essential to apprehend the complex caste-religion structure of the state.
There are 14.1 crore electorates in Uttar Pradesh out of which an enormous 40% are OBC’s. Usually the votes of OBC’s gets divided between BSP and Congress. The SP-Congress Alliance will consolidate a huge number of OBC votes and this will for sure sabotage the prospects of Bahujan Samaj party. 20% of the electorates in Uttar Pradesh are Dalits. For long Dalits have  been and are still to some extent the vote bank of BSP. But the Congress has also tried to woo Dalits. 18% of electorates in Uttar Pradesh are Muslims. Muslims usually vote for the party which is in the best position to defeat BJP but most of the time the Muslim vote gets divided as all the three secular parties SP, Congress and BSP try to woo Muslims. But this time most of the Muslim votes will go with Samajwadi Party-Congress Alliance as it appears to be defeating BJP while BSP is out of the race even before the polling of votes. 11% of the electorates in UP are brahmins which have been a core vote bank of the Congress party in the past. Congress is trying hard to retrieve its vote bank. The BJP mainly focuses on upper caste voters. In 2014 General Elections BJP got votes from the dalits and OBC’s as well. Since then it has been trying to retain these votes. 

SP banking on Akhilesh’s development plank

UP Elections Samajwadi Party Akhilesh Yadav

Image source: Likveuamap.com
This time the stakes are high for almost all big parties. A win here for Akhilesh Yadav will not only emerge as the undisputed king of the Yadav family but he will also come out as a national leader who can take on Narendra Modi in 2019 General Elections. The Samajwadi party is banking on the development done by Akhilesh Yadav in his 5 year tenure as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister. 

Why Congress is the largest gainer?
Congress-UP-Election
Image Source: Patrika.com 
The Congress appears to be a mammoth gainer in this election. The party which was having no prospects in the state is now in an alliance with the frontrunner Samajwadi Party. Whilst the alliance will benefit both Congress and Samajwadi party but it is the Congress party which will gain the Lion’s share. Congress was almost expunged from the political scenario after the 2014 general elections and achieved nothing in the Assembly Elections that took place in last 2-3 years. It was reduced to 0 in Delhi and also lost  Haryana Assembly Elections among others. It had no prospects in Uttar Pradesh and all it could have done was to assist the Bharatiya Janata Party by getting some anti BJP votes. But now the picture has totally changed. The alliance with the ruling SP government has suddenly reinvigorated an otherwise lethargic campaign of the Congress Party. The alliance will help Samajwadi Party as it will get some additional Muslim and Brahmin votes. The Muslims who mainly vote to subjugate BJP will prefer going with Samajwadi Party-Congress Alliance rather than BSP.

Where does BSP stand?
BSP_UP_Election_Matchbox
Image Source: India.com
The Mayawati led Bahujan Samaj party is nowhere in the race. The party is poised to get even lesser seats than what it got in the last assembly elections. The main Vote bank of BSP was dalit/OBC and Muslims but now even the dalits are divided and the Muslims are inclined towards the SP-Congress alliance as the latter one is in a better positiom to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party. This alliance has badly damaged the prospects of BSP. 

Can Modi be defeated?
Modi-UP_Elections_Matchbox
Image Source: Naradanews.com 
The actual fight is between SP-Congress alliance and BJP. Various opinion polls  are showing a neck and neck fight between these two. A win for SP will bring Akhilesh Yadav in the national politics while a loss for BJP (read Modi) might turn out to be a major roadblock in its retaining power in 2019.
After a landslide victory in 2014 general elections it seemed as if BJP under leadership of Narendra Modi is undefeatable but the Delhi and Bihar elections have already proved that BJP can be defeated. The state of Uttar Pradesh gave a historic 71/80 parliamentary seats to Modi’s BJP in 2014 and a loss here would imply that Modi has lost his connect with the people and that the BJP has not been able to fulfill its promises. That is why the UP Elections are going to be a litmus test for the Bharatiya Janata Party after the 2014 historic mandate. A win here for BJP will connote that people still believe in Modi and it will be first big thing for BJP to rejoice after the 2014 polls. It will also signify that BJP won’t be facing any opposition leader who can compete with Modi in the next general elections.

Battle of Faces: Akhilesh v. Modi
UP_Elections_modi-akhilesh-meet
Image Source: DekhNews.com
The UP Elections will decide where our national politics is heading. A win for Akhilesh Yadav will project him as one national leader who can take on Narendra Modi while a win for BJP will mean that Modi might easily enjoy the power till 2024. The Uttar Pradesh assembly elections will prove to be litmus test for BJP after the 2014 historic mandate.

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