'...if elections were to be held today.'
'The problem is Akhilesh is not very aggressive.'
'Had he started his campaign aggressively six months ago, the picture in UP would have been very different.'
"Had the SP-BSP experimented an alliance -- like they did in the 2019 Lok Sabha election -- in this assembly election, then they would have uprooted the BJP from UP. They were two years ahead of their time," Rajesh Singh, secretary, Motilal Memorial Society -- an educational and cultural Lucknow-headquartered institution founded in 1935 by Chandra Bhanu Gupta, later an Uttar Pradesh chief minister -- and a veteran observer of UP politics, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com in the concluding segment of the interview.
Is Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party the sole challenger to the Bharatiya Janata Party? Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati doesn't seem keen to lock horns with opponents in this election.
Mayawati and Priyanka Gandhi are irrelevant to UP politics today. I will say that the BSP will not get more than 10 to 20 seats. The Congress will win seats in single digits.
Will Priyanaka Gandhi's Ladki hu, lad sakti hu call have any impact on the Congress's winning ability in the election?
Pundits know that politics is all about event management. There are so many ticket hopefuls who manage to get crowds (women at Priyanka Gandhi's rallies). The Congress has not been in power even once since 1989. For almost a generation the party has not been able to galvanise grassroots workers.
The Congress doesn't have any organisational structure. It's only the aaya rams, gaya rams who make for Congress supporters. Those who don't get tickets in the BJP, SP, BSP join the Congress and contest elections.
In fact, this is true of all political parties today. You have been seeing how political leaders are jumping ships. Loyalty to party or ideology doesn't matter to such politicians.
The BJP has RSS from where it draws its loyal base; the SP gets it from the Muslims and Yadavs. The Congress doesn't have any such cadres or loyal soldiers backing it.
Will the Muslim vote get trifurcated among the SP, BSP, and Congress?
To defeat the BJP, Muslims will vote for the SP in this election. I don't see any division of Muslim votes.
Mayawati seems reluctant to fight the election. In whose favour will the Dalit vote swing?
Dalit votes, other than Jatavs (the caste to which Mayawati belongs), will go to the BJP.
Would Dalits still tilt towards the BJP?
Remember, such dissonance happens at the micro level, not at the community level.
What has happened is that no Opposition political party in UP has honestly raised the issue of atrocities against Dalits and SCs and STs.
If you remember, when in 1968 in Andhra Pradesh a few Dalits were burnt alive, street protests erupted all across India. You don't see such widespread protests these days. No politician seems to be interested in making such atrocities against Dalits and backward castes a national issue.
Be it the BSP, Congress or SP, none showed any inclination to galvanise masses against Dalit atrocities.
You cannot give birth to a people's movement by organising candle marches or making such issues trend on social media.
Is there widespread anger among the farming community against the three farm laws? Will it dent the BJP's chances of emerging as the single largest party and forming the next government in UP?
The farmers from eastern and central UP, as I said earlier, are not much affected by these farm laws. Yes, the farmers from western UP, Punjab and Haryana do feel that they made Modi bend backwards and dented his strongman image. That is a huge political victory for the farmers in these regions.
Of the 124 seats in western Uttar Pradesh, the BJP had won 100 in 2017. It will be a huge victory for the BJP if they even win 60-70 seats from western UP this time.
In western UP, Jats are predominantly the land owning caste. The land owning castes in eastern and central UP are Kurmis, Rajputs.
Is there widespread anger against how Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra Teni's son was allegedly involved in the deaths of farmers protesting at Lakhimpur Kheri?
Most of the land ownership in this belt belongs to the Sikhs. If you see, from Terai to Pilibhit to Bahraich to Udham Singh Nagar most of the owners of big tracts of land are Sikhs. While the BJP tried to spin the farmers' protest against the Sikhs it couldn't succeed in doing it.
Are we likely to see more religious rhetoric from the BJP to ward off anti-incumbency?
That is going to happen. They are experts at doing this.
Will the Election Commission's warning against the use of hate speech have any impact on the use of religion to spread hatred?
The EC said the same in 2014, before and during West Bengal assembly election. We all saw how low the BJP and Trinamool Congress stooped to in West Bengal. We will see the same kind of political sloganeering this time, but it will be a tough, neck-and-neck fight.
Had the SP-BSP experimented an alliance -- like they did in the 2019 Lok Sabha election -- in this assembly election, then they would have uprooted the BJP from UP. They were two years ahead of their time.
Why couldn't the SP-BSP come together in 2022?
Every party has its own interests. Who doesn't want to become chief minister? Which political party these days go to voters with programmes, manifestos, ideology? Everybody is interested only in power sharing and enjoying the loot from it.
Akhilesh will surely get 150 seats at least if elections were to be held today. The problem is Akhilesh is not very aggressive. Had he started his campaign aggressively six months ago, the picture in UP would have been very different.