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  India   All India  12 Feb 2017  UP polls: High polling, mixed signals

UP polls: High polling, mixed signals

THE ASIAN AGE. | SANJAY BASAK
Published : Feb 12, 2017, 1:14 am IST
Updated : Feb 12, 2017, 6:09 am IST

UP polls seen as do-or-die battle for political bigwigs.

Women gesture after voting during the first phase of UP Assembly elections in Mathura. (Photo: PTI)
 Women gesture after voting during the first phase of UP Assembly elections in Mathura. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The first ballots in Uttar Pradesh were cast across 73 constituencies in the riot-scarred and communally sensitive region of the state, often referred to as its wild west, on Saturday.

A high turnout of 59 per cent in this region had favoured the Narendra Modi-led BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

This time, however, the impressive 64 per cent turnout might not adhere to the usual indicator that the more people come out to vote, the more it’s a vote for change. This time the figures tell no story.

Ground reports reaching the saffron headquarters in the national capital were “confusing and mixed”.

A senior BJP functionary observing the trend merely said, “There’s no wave and it’s difficult to predict. The fight could be between the BSP and BJP. But cannot say.”

The second part of western UP will go to polls on Wednesday. The region is locked in a four-cornered fight between BJP, BSP, SP-Congress and RLD.

After losing Delhi, Bihar and the situation in Punjab looking extremely grim, Uttar Pradesh is a do-or-die battle for BJP. The UP polls are being touted as a mini referendum on the Modi government’s demoneitsation policy and an electoral defeat in UP could deliver a severe body blow to the BJP’s electoral prospects in 2019 general elections.

With nearly 140 seats (of which 73 seats went to polls in the first phase), western UP is the best bet for the BJP.

In 2014 general elections, the BJP, led by Mr Modi, had swept this region. The Jats and the OBCs overwhelmingly voted for him.

Some saffron pundits admit that despite flaunting the development plank, polarisation after the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 had helped the BJP in western UP. This time too, BJP played its hawkish card and raised issues like banning of illegal slaughter houses, Ram Mandir and exodus from Kairana. BJP leader Yogi Adityanath even compared the situation in Kairana to Kashmir.

There were reports of saffron muscle-flexing in Meerut on Saturday. Police detained Gagan Som, brother of controversial BJP leader Sangeet Som, for carrying a pistol inside a polling booth. Sangeet Som is a sitting MLA from Sardhana. He shot to limelight for his alleged hate speeches during Muzaffarnagar riots. Western UP has nearly 25 per cent Muslim and 23 per cent OBCs, which include 17 per cent Jats.

Saturday’s voting trend in the Muslim dominated areas like Muzaffarnagar (65 per cent) Aligarh (65 per cent), Meerut (65 per cent), Agra (63 per cent) among others could spell trouble for the BJP, a saffron functionary observed. The BJP wants the Muslim votes to split between the BSP and the SP-Congress alliance.

The party was also receiving mixed signals from Jat dominated constituencies like Baghpat, Shamli and others. While in some constituencies Jats overwhelmingly voted for the BJP, in other areas they returned to the resurgent Rashtriya Lok Dal, reports reaching the BJP headquarters indicated.

Agencies reported that in Baghpat members of different communities clashed in Baghu colony when one side tried to stop the other from casting their votes. Ten persons were injured in the clash and had to be admitted to a hospital. Another report from the area stated that RLD workers tried to prevent Dalit voters from casting their vote in Looyan village. An FIR was lodged against three RLD workers.

What’s “not clear” for the BJP is how the BSP factor will play out. There seemed to be total “confusion” among the saffronites on how “effective” Mayawati had been. For the BSP supremo, western UP is a stronger than most others.

Tags: narendra modi, up polls, yogi adityanath, mayawati, dalit voters
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi