UP Elections 2022: What The Large And Small Parties Have Been Upto In Recent Days
As the weeks pass and Uttar Pradesh mover closer to its assembly election, the strategy of different parties in the fray becomes increasingly clear.
As Uttar Pradesh assembly elections approach next year, political parties in the state are honing their campaigns to win the most populous state in the country. The elections will likely be held between the months of February to March next year to elect 403 members of a new assembly.
The state with a 23 crore plus population is a composite of various castes and communities, which align and realign to boost different alliances to power.
Scheduled Castes (SC) constitute close to 20 per cent of the state’s population. Other Backward Castes (OBC) constitute around 40 per cent of the population, of which, Yadavs are the largest OBC community, wielding substantial political clout. They form around 15 per cent of the state's population.
The so-called forward castes constitute around 23 per cent, while Muslims constitute around 19 per cent of the state’s population. Around 80 per cent of the state’s population lives in rural areas, with a large proportion engaged in agriculture.
Different political parties have started social engineering their vote banks. The incumbent Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) won an overwhelming three-quarter majority of 312 seats with around 40 per cent vote share in the 2017 assembly elections based on its 60-40 strategy. Under it, BJP focussed on the 60 per cent vote remaining after removing Yadav, Jatav, and Muslims rallying behind SP and BSP.
The BJP seems to be sticking to this strategy for the upcoming elections.
In recent cabinet reshuffle, seven MPs from Uttar Pradesh were inducted into the union council of ministers. Of these, Anupriya Patel and Pankaj Chaudhary are from the Kurmi community, which comprises 10 per cent of UP’s population — the second highest OBC demographic in the state after the Yadavs. B L Verma is from the Lodhi caste and has been the state BJP vice-president since 2018 in UP BJP.
Apart from three OBC faces, three others were from the Dalit community. Kaushal Kishore, the Dalit MP from Mohanlalganj seat, belongs to the Pasi community. Bhanu Pratap Verma from the Bundelkhand is from the Kori community. The third face was Agra MP SP Singh Baghel, who earlier served as a cabinet minister in the Yogi government.
The political parties are also reportedly competing for the Brahmin vote in Uttar Pradesh who are 11 per cent of the state’s population. Their vote is decisive on at least 115 seats out of the total 403.
A popular experiment in mobilising their vote was done by Mayawati in 2007. She gave the slogan, "Brahmin shankh bajayega, hathi dauda aayega" (The Brahmin will blow the conch, and the elephant will come running) and won the elections. In 2012, upset with Mayawati, a substantial portion of the Brahmin vote is said to have shifted to the Samajwadi Party and it formed the government.
In 2017, BJP was able to turn the tables, and captured around 80 per cent Brahmin vote. Compare this to 2012 and 2007 when the number stood close to 40 per cent.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the increasing warmth between SP and Aam Aadmi party (AAP). AAP leader Sanjay Singh recently met Akhilesh Yadav and has been vocal in praising him for a while. Singh himself hails from Sultanpur in UP, and was reportedly once close to Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Akhilesh Yadav has previously said that he will not form an alliance with either the Congress or the BSP — the two major Opposition parties. Alliances with Congress and BSP in 2017 and 2019, respectively, didn't work well for SP. However, the party is actively looking to ally with smaller parties.
Reportedly, the SP is eyeing AAP's "upper caste" image, while latter's lack of a dedicated vote bank provides SP an upper hand in campaigning as well as seat sharing. AAP will also benefit from allying with an established player in the state politics. However, neither party has said anything regarding an alliance yet.
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi has also stated that the party is open to alliances. However, the party's poor performance in the state in 2017, 2019 elections coupled with underwhelming response of public to Rahul Gandhi's latest campaigns in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, etc. has left other parties cautious.
Meanwhile, small parties like the NISHAD Party, Apna Dal(S), Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), and the Peace Party try to stay relevant in polls, thanks to their 'decisive' vote banks.
SBSP's president Om Prakash Rajbhar has allied with AIMIM for the 2022 elections. AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has said that the party will contest 100 seats. The Rajbhar community itself makes up only 3 per cent of UP but has a presence in nearly 125 Assembly seats, and SBSP targets to bring over 60 most backward and Dalit castes together.
The UP elections 2022 will also see new faces in the Opposition camp - former Uttar Pradesh minister Shivpal Yadav's son Aditya Yadav, former Union minister Ajit Singh's son Jayant Chaudhary, Dalit activist-leader Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan, and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.
Identity Plus Politics
Beyond caste calculation and alliances, different issues and the performance of the ruling BJP will also affect the 2022 elections.
Pradeep Singh, editor of Apka Akhbar says that since 2017, a fundamental shift has taken place in UP politics. He points out that the tenure of SP in the state was characterised by goondaraj, giving several examples including "Halla Bol" campaign launched by the then CM Mulayam Singh Yadav in 1994 in which journalists, newspaper vendors, editors etc. were attacked. SP workers also reportedly stormed the High Court; and others like the Guesthouse episode.
Singh says that this defined the political culture heralded by SP in the state. The party became intertwined with the crime cartels running in the state, providing support and protection to various mafia, bahubalis etc. He gives the example of Mukhtar Ansari.
Singh says that since becoming CM, Yogi Adityanath announced a zero tolerance policy towards corruption and goondaraj. Several powerful gangsters and bahubalis were nabbed, many were killed in encounters. Singh says that many of the criminal enterprises, like illegal slaughterhouses in the western UP, were sources of finance for SP.
On the other hand, Akhilesh Yadav is also facing a crunch because of the cadre and funds that went with Shivpal Yadav. Another concern is the loss of Muslim vote to AIMIM.
Overall, with Congress and BSP fledgling, SP is the major challenge to the incumbent BJP. Akhilesh Yadav is also seen as a young leader. However, it will have to run an imaginative campaign to counter the BJP's blitzkrieg-style campaign woven around nationalism, development, Ram temple, as well as charisma of Yogi and Modi.
The UP elections 2022 will also judge the state government's handling of the migrant crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, law and order etc. The Yogi government claims that it has handled the crises well while the Opposition spread rumours and raised controversies.
The Opposition on the other hand, plans to target the government on jobs, COVID, availability of oxygen, hospital beds, farmer protests etc.
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