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Why the UPA will get more fragile after the UP election

Last updated on: February 23, 2012 11:17 IST

Why the UPA will get more fragile after the UP election

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi

The Uttar Pradesh election has become like a proverbial elephant. The political parties are looking at it from different angles and their assessments are quite contrary to each other, but not necessarily incorrect.

Sheela Bhatt shares the prevailing excitement about the UP election and the best case scenario that the Bharatiya Janata Party is looking forward to on March 6, when the results will be declared.

Dr Prannoy Roy, urban India's most celebrated face associated with Indian election analysis and its predictions, said recently in his must-see television programme UP Polls: Battleground of a Mini General Election that the ongoing election in Uttar Pradesh is one of the most uncertain election he has ever come across.

Assess the Bahujan Samaj Party correctly

Political circles in New Delhi believe if one wants to predict the UP election results correctly, then one needs to assess Mayawati's fortunes. The UP chief minister still carries a mystery around her.

There is a clear current (intensity unknown) of anti-incumbency against her rule. But she claims that the newly-formed constituencies after the delimitation exercise in the state will favour her.

Dalits cutting across regions continue to support their beloved Behenji. She has nominated a large number of Muslim candidates to 'divide' and retain Muslim votes.

The main claimants to the Muslim votes are the Congress and Samajwadi Party. But by giving nearly one-fifth of the BSP tickets to Muslim candidates, Mayawati has added a new dimension.

Also the fear of a return to Goonda Raj if the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party comes to power can help Mayawati to a certain extent. However, many loyal BSP voters feel she has totally abdicated the mission of her mentor and party founder Kanshi Ram.

She has established corrupt practices from the village level to the capital, Lucknow. Due to these contradictory facts for and against her, only very few experts have said that Mayawati is set for a complete rout.

Surely, as Dr Roy claims, the UP results are difficult to judge, but a few things are not.

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Image: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati


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'Rahul would turn out to be the pumpkin or hero of this election'

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Exciting permutations and combinations

If you look at the situation from the quotient of possible 'surprises' that this election can produce, you can safely judge that if Mayawati retains power, it will be the biggest surprise of 2012.

If the Congress party gets 100 seats it will be very impressive, but if it does not cross the 60-seat mark, it will be the least surprising element of the 2012 election.

If Mulayam Singh Yadav comes third in the race, it will be as big a surprise as Mayawati winning the election. It is more or less established that Muslims are returning to the Samajwadi Party's fold and Mulayam Singh's elder son Akhilesh Yadav has been drawing consistently large crowds.

Mulayam Singh has performed with maturity and has shown deft handling of the Muslim votes.

It is also now clear that Rahul Gandhi's idea to project himself "as the angry young Amitabh Bachchan of the 1970s" (as a BJP leader puts it) has not dented his competitor Akhilesh Yadav's appeal.

On the issue of religion-based votes, a BJP leader quipped, "Rahul can't compete with Mulayam in appeasing Muslims and he can't beat us in Hindutva."

The Muslim and Brahmin votes -- arguably, the two most important blocks needed to win a UP election -- are divided. The caste issue is dominant as always, making it difficult to predict the outcome of the nerve-wrecking election process.

On Tuesday, a senior BJP leader and strategist told the media, 'Rahul Gandhi would turn out to be a pumpkin or a hero of this election.'

That is the level of confusion of this election!

The BJP's wish-list

The BJP will be surprised if the Congress gets anything above 45/50 seats. In this situation, the BJP is speculating an interesting possibility.

The BJP is hoping against hope that the UP results should be such that it will help the Opposition parties weaken the central government. Instead of winning UP impressively, the BJP's aim is to use the outcome in Lucknow to hit the Congress hard in New Delhi.

The party wants to exploit the fragility of the United Progressive Alliance. The idea is that if Rahul Gandhi's enormous efforts and the Congress's monetary clout does not get that party a respectable number of seats in UP, then the combined power of non-Congress parties will get a political edge to plan an assault in the Lok Sabha during the Budget Session.

That would be possible if West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's stringent attitude towards the government in New Delhi and her aggressive politics to hit at the roots of her ally, the Congress in West Bengal, continues.

Another big gain for the BJP will come about if the BSP, BJP, anti-Samajwadi Party and anti-Congress candidates and parties get around 210 seats in the UP election. Then there is no way the Samajwadi Party and Congress can form a government, even if the Congress changes its mind and extends support to the Samajwadi Party from the outside.

If Mayawati's BSP gets around 125 seats, it will not be easy for the Samajwadi Party to break the BSP to form a government. Only if Mayawati's party gets a pathetic 70 or less out of 403 seats, will it be easy to break her party as the Samajwadi Party has done in the past.

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Image: Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav, who has been drawing large crowds in his election campaigns


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Rahul Gandhi has a closed mind on supporting the SP or BSP

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A senior BJP leader thinks that in the 403 member assembly, if the final outcome does not allow Mulayam Singh Yadav to form the government in Lucknow, then he will have no incentive to support the UPA government at the Centre.

For all the main contenders, the 2014 general election is very important. All eyes are now on what happens to the BSP and Samajwadi Party's support to the UPA in New Delhi.

Will these parties continue giving crucial support to the UPA without getting any solid benefits in Lucknow?

The BJP's assessment is:

1. If the Samajwadi Party and the Congress somehow get enough seats to form the government in Lucknow (with or without the support of fringe parties and Independent MLAs) then the Congress gets weakened because eventually Muslim voters will side with the Samajwadi Party by 2014.

2. If the Congress denies any support to the Samajwadi Party to form the government in Lucknow, then the UPA at the Centre will come under tremendous pressure because Mamata Banerjee will step up the pressure once she assesses that Mulayam Singh Yadav will not help the Congress in New Delhi.

3. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati will both scream and yell if the Congress manipulates circumstances to install President's Rule to avoid the BJP's strategic moves to help any one combination form the government.

The government in New Delhi is likely to face tough times in the Budget Session if Lucknow remains unstable or comes under President's Rule. There will be huge discontent amongst energised voters if no party gets power.

From the point of view of regional sensitivities, the complexities of the UP situation will be compounded if nobody gets a clear majority and if the Congress and BJP don't budge to extend support to the largest regional party to form the government.

The Congress and BJP's goals for the 2014 Lok Sabha election can make UP unstable. The legal option to impose President's Rule will be difficult to sustain because the BJP will not easily allow the decision to be passed in the Lok Sabha when it comes for mandatory approval.

In short, the BJP is hoping that the BSP gets just enough seats to ensure that the BSP and BJP's tally can touch the magic figure of 202 and the Samajwadi Party, Congress and Independents/others are unable to form the government.

The problems will then begin for the Congress.

Rahul Gandhi, in his recent interaction with editors, tried to convince them that he is not at all interested in supporting the Samajwadi Party or BSP. It seemed he has a 'closed mind' on the issue.

That makes the BJP's aspirations to weaken the UPA government in New Delhi much easier.

If Mulayam Singh Yadav's dreams are dashed just because the Congress wants to walk it alone to take forward its consolidation of the voter-base of 2012 to 2014, then imagine what he will do in the Budget Session.

Add to this situation the new clique of Naveen Patnaik, J Jayalalithaa, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee. Unless there is a clear political winner in the UP election, the UPA government becomes more fragile on the evening of March 6.

The non-Congress political parties are bent upon not allowing the 'arrogant' Congress smooth sailing through the Budget Session.

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Image: A Mayawati supporter during an election rally in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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