A sweet shop in Lucknow has added some sweetness to the high-octane BJP campaign for the UP assembly polls. The sweet maker has come up with special ‘Modi’ and ‘Lotus’ jalebis to extend his support and to tempt voters to elect saffron party in the upcoming elections. But the jalebi maker didn’t know that the path to victory for BJP is little bit sour. The polls in Uttar Pradesh matters a lot for BJP as it will script the next stanza of the political poetry.

This election will be a litmus test for Mr. Modi.  He is halfway through his term of office, the UP election is being seen as a crucial test of his popularity. It will be a referendum of sorts on his most controversial move, the overnight decision in November to scrap the bulk of India’s paper currency. Mr Modi painted “demonetisation” as a bold strike against bad people, but the lack of cash hurt both businesses and wage-earners badly.

The victory or defeat of BJP will definitely affect the upcoming polls in Gujarat and political experts say that the defeat of Saffron party in Uttar Pradesh will be a call for a grand alliance in 2019 election. Though according to me, anticipating the national scenario for 2019 on the basis of UP polls will be too early. A victory for the BJP is crucial for it would be interpreted as a continuation of subscription that delivered 71 seats for the party in the 2014 polls. It will enable the BJP to improve numerical strength in the Rajya Sabha where its agenda is frequently obstructed; a victory will arm the BJP to call the shots in choosing who will be the next President of India this summer.

 The defeat could be interpreted as dilution of the Modi magic that has propelled the expansion of the party’s footprint. At an individual level, it is crucial for BJP President Amit Shah – following the setbacks in Delhi and in Bihar. A loss will also drive the wedge deeper in the troubled equations within the Parivar. The possibility of defeat and the potential implications are already currency in the futures bazaar of politics. There is the fear of politics and policy going populist, indeed race downhill. There is the worry that legislation relating to critical reforms will be stalled.

First phase of UP Elections was completed on 1 February, 2017. [Pic Credits: NDTV]

A strong showing in UP would signal likely a second term for Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalists in 2019. A defeat for the BJP would not only reinvigorate Mr Gandhi’s once-powerful but lately flailing Congress party, but it could also prompt questioning from within Mr Modi’s party of his imperious—but hitherto effective and apparently unstoppable—leadership. On the ground this makes for a tight and bitter race, because UP has often experienced tensions between majority Hindus and minority Muslims, some fear the BJP might deliberately stir up Hindu chauvinism. But, caste, class and ethnicity also play a role. One strong local party relies on Dalits or untouchables as its base; its chief rival, which currently runs the state and has forged an alliance with Congress, draws support from mid-ranking castes. Both compete for the 19% Muslim vote. The trick for the BJP is to split its enemies and win with a plurality, as India’s first-past-the-post system allows.

I observe this election as a war between parties on governance model. The contest is ostensibly between models of development rather diluted model of development – between the young Akhilesh Yadav and the BJP. From free petrol to pressure cookers, smartphones to cycles, voters across Uttar Pradesh, are being promised all kinds of gifts if they vote particular parties to power.

In 2013 the Supreme Court told the Election Commission to frame guidelines for election manifestos, saying, distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influences people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree” and when it comes to casting their valuable vote, the Indian voter is perhaps swayed less by the promise of a free laptop and other goodies, than the hope of secure jobs, uninterrupted electricity supply and development However, the campaign is in default mode. The rhetoric is high on decibel and low on content. The manifestos are replete with promises of freebies, farm loan waivers, doles and more. In the concluding statement, this election is Aache din aayenge vs. Kya ye saath Uttar Pradesh ko pasand hai!

Vote for the Best, The one better than the rest.

Author: Jinendra Parakh, Co-founder and Executive Editor (TA)

You may reach author at: jinendra.hnlu@gmail.com