BJP, SP traverse caste, governance issues to pull UP voters in Phase 3
In Uttar Pradesh, there has been more than one arrest a day since the so-called love jihad law came into force a month ago

BJP, SP traverse caste, governance issues to pull UP voters in Phase 3

While the first two phases were centred around Muslim-Jat votes, Sunday voting goes back to caste arithmetic, with some development thrown in

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There is high suspense as the seven-phase Uttar Pradesh Assembly election enters the third phase on Sunday. The phase covers 59 constituencies across 16 districts in the Bundelkhand, Awadh and western UP regions, where prime rivals BJP and Samajwadi Party (SP) have their respective bastions.

Campaigning for the first two phases of voting, held in western UP and Rohilkhand, were largely focussed on the Muslim-Jat population. For the third phase, however, the population is more diverse, forcing the parties to go for more targeted campaigns.

In the 2017 Assembly election, BJP had swept the region, winning 50 of the 59 seats. Though it is a Yadav stronghold, the SP made losses, as did the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in its stronghold, Bundelkhand.

What changed this time

So, this, time, the parties have altered their campaign narratives. SP leader and former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has chosen Mainpuri, a stronghold of his family, to enter the race this time. He has tied up with his uncle Shivpal Yadav, with whom there had been some bad blood earlier, to prevent the division of Yadav votes.

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This has turned Mainpuri into a political hotbed, with the BJP firing salvos through its key leaders. No less than Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Keshav Maurya have campaigned in the region.

Apart from caste and religion, the BJP has also been forced to talk about development to counter anti-incumbency. The government has been unable to complete a key expressway project, which had been touted to boost jobs and the economy, in the drought-prone Bundelkhand region. However, it has worked on pilgrimage tourism and schemes such as Har Ghar Nal (A Tap for Each House), which are now part of the campaign material.

As parts of the State vote on Sunday, caste will continue to be a key arithmetic. While the Yadav votes are likely to go the SP way, the MBCs (most backward classes), a sizeable group, could make a big difference to the outcome. The Lodhs are predominant in the Assembly constituencies of Kasganj and Etah, while the Mauryas, Sainis, Kushwahas and Shakyas are key voter groups in Kanpur Dehat, Mainpuri, Auraiya, Firozabad and Etawah.

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In the Bundelkhand districts of Lalitpur, Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur and Mahoba, the non-Yadav OBCs as well as Dalits may be the key deciders.

Beyond caste lines

After religion and caste, law-and-order has been a key talking point in the 2022 election. The BJP has been claiming that law-and-order has improved vastly in the State during its rule, vis-à-vis the earlier one led by Akhilesh Yadav. It has also pushed the development projects and welfare schemes introduced by the Yogi regime.

Though not openly stated by any of the warring parties, the recent hijab row in Karnataka is expected to have some impact on the UP election. The conflict is likely to further the BJP’s majoritarian agenda in UP, which has a long history of religious rivalries.

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