UP Election Moves Into The Tickets, Tantrum, And Suspense Phase

by Atul Chandra - Jan 19, 2017 04:23 PM +05:30 IST
UP Election Moves Into The Tickets, Tantrum, And Suspense PhaseAmit Shah, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav
Snapshot
  • And all eyes are now on the SP-Congress alliance. Will it pose a threat to the BSP’s massive outreach to Muslims?

On Monday, Uttar Pradesh was abuzz with the news of the Election Commission (EC) allotting Samajwadi Party’s symbol, ‘cycle’ to Akhilesh Yadav, and outsiders making it to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s first list of candidates for the assembly elections due next month.

The list featured those who were said to have had a role in the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 and raised doubts if the party intended to polarise voters in the communally sensitive western Uttar Pradesh. Although, it was the victory of Akhilesh-Ram Gopal Yadav duo over the triumvirate of Mulayam Singh Yadav-Shivpal Singh Yadav-Amar Singh that dominated debates more than the BJP’s poll list.

The feud in the family, which began last year, ended with Mulayam being ousted first from the post of party’s national president and finally losing the party and the symbol to his chief minister son. It was now for Mulayam to graciously accept the verdict and desist from either challenging the order or fielding candidates against what is now his son’s party. The talk in political circles, however, was that his faction could contest polls on Lok Dal’s symbol. Shivpal was also said to be mulling approaching the high court against the EC’s decision.

Armed with the EC’s order Akhilesh can now implement his political agenda of forging a grand alliance between the Samajwadi Party, Congress and, possibly, the Rashtriya Lok Dal. The new SP president is expected to announce contours of the alliance in a day or two, but it is understood that the chief minister’s parliamentarian wife Dimple Yadav and Priyanka Gandhi played a role in the stitching together of the alliance to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party which was leaving no stone unturned to repeat its Lok Sabha performance in the assembly poll.

That won’t be easy, however, as the party with a difference grapples with problems in ticket distribution. The immediate problem in the making would be in the form of Rajnath Singh whose son Pankaj Singh has been ignored while Sandeep Singh, the grandson of Kalyan Singh, former UP chief minister and the present Governor of Rajasthan, has been fielded from Atrauli in Aligarh. What may peeve the Union Home Minister further is the party’s decision to give ticket to Ramesh Tomar who had left the party following differences with Rajnath. Tomar, who joined the Congress after leaving BJP, had returned to the party fold on Monday morning. He will be the party candidate from Dhaulana.

Besides Rajnath Singh, the verdict on the kin of other senior leaders like Hukum Singh and Kalraj Mishra, is not yet out. The party is relying on leaders who shifted allegiance from other parties, and OBCs, to ride to power in the state. Of the 149 names announced, 24 are ‘outsiders’ with 10 being sitting legislators, with at least seven of them from the Bahujan Samaj Party. Candidates from OBCs account for 60 seats. No Muslim figures in the list but 11 women get a chance to try their luck at the hustings.

Two names which attracted critical attention were those of Suresh Rana and Sangeet Som, both sitting legislators. The two had allegedly played key roles in the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. Both Som and and Rana were indicted by the Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission of inquiry for their part in the riots. They were both detained under the National Security Act but the State Advisory Board had revoked their detention.

On the whole, BJP strategists seem to be focusing on backward castes and outsiders. Dalits, who also formed a strong component of its poll strategy in view of Mayawati’s hold over them, have been given their due importance with 26 of them getting nomination. However, the presence of riot accused in the list hints at Hindutva also being made a poll plank alongside development.

With Mayawati already having announced candidates for all the 403 seats of Uttar Pradesh, all eyes are now on the SP-Congress. Will the SP-Congress alliance pose a threat to the BSP’s massive outreach to Muslims? Will that, in turn, have a cascading effect on the voting patterns of other social groups for the BSP? Once the SP-Congress list is out, all focus can decisively shift on western UP, the region which first goes to polls on 11 February.

Atul Chandra is former Resident Editor, The Times of India, Lucknow. He has written extensively on politics in Uttar Pradesh.

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