Political analysts see the ongoing Uttar Pradesh elections as a direct fight between the incumbent BJP government and the aspiring Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. There are many who think the Yadavs may make a comeback this time. However, the caste and religious overtures of Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), Congress and AIMIM may spoil Akhilesh’s party.
It is the strategy of the three above mentioned parties to field substantial number of candidates from the Dalit and Muslim communities that may spell doom for Samajwadi Party (SP), especially in West UP where Muslims make a strong vote bank.
Mayawati’s jugular act with Dalits, Muslims and OBC voters
BSP continues to rely on Dalits while giving chance to Muslims and Brahmin candidates as well. Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM wants to emerge as a new alternative for Muslim voters in the state, but is also eyeing Dalit and Hindu voters. The Hyderabad based party has given tickets to as many as eight Hindus, showing its intent to imitate Mayawati’s social engineering formula, which brought the Bahujan Samajwadi party in power in UP in 2007.
This time too BSP is focussing on the Dalit-Muslim-Brahmin combination while reaching out to Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Mayawati earlier told media persons that critics are taking her lightly this election, but she is capable of repeating her 2007 feat.
This time, BSP has tried to strike a balance between Dalits and Muslims by fielding 90 candidates each from the two communities. Samajwadi Party may claim it values Muslims the most, but when it comes to actual situation on the ground, numbers say it all: BSP fielded 90 Muslims while the SP has 87 Muslim faces. In 2017 too Behen Mayawati had fielded 100 candidates. Slowly but steadily she is cultivating Muslim voters, which has badly hampered SP’s equations.
While trying to lure Dalit-Muslim voters, Mayawati hasn’t forgotten the Brahmins, who form a substantial part of the state’s vote bank. That is the reason why Mayawati has cultivated a leader like Satish Chandra Misra. By giving tickets to OBCs, Mayawati is making sure the BJP and SP do not have anything easy.
Can Owaisi play spoilsport?
Every time Assaduddin Owaisi fights a state election he creates a buzz, giving shivers to other established political outfits. Owaisi’s AIMIM did that earlier in Bihar elections and later in Bengal. Though the party has had limited electoral success, it manages to create multi-angle fights at several constituencies. Owaisi’s critics say he is bifurcating the Muslim vote, but Owaisi claims he is fast emerging as an alternative to established secular parties by gaining popularity among Muslim voters. The fact remains that SP cannot take the Hyderabad leader lightly because his rallies do attract huge crowds. In Uttar Pradesh, the AIMIM is contesting around 100 seats this time.
He has preferred to tie up with smaller outfits and even fielded eight Hindu candidates. Owaisi could cause pain to SP in western UP where 35 constituencies have over 30 per cent Muslim voters while the share of Muslim voters is more than 50 per cent in nine constituencies.
Owaisi seems capable of challenging the myth that Muslims will whole-heartedly stand by Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samajwadi Party.
Congress too woos Muslims and Dalits
While Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has laid emphasis on women voters, the Congress isn’t far behind when it comes to wooing Muslim voters. The Grand Old Party has fielded more than 60 Muslim candidates this state election. It is definitely placed better this time when compared with 2007 polls when it tied up with SP in one of the most disastrous polls for the party in UP. The Congress then could win only seven seats, all of whom left the party eventually to join the BJP.