UP to vote in seven phases, high octane political battle on cards
Lucknow, Mar 10: Uttar Pradesh, considered as the most important state politically because of the number of MPs it sends to the Lok Sabha, will vote in seven phases. A high octane political battle is on the cards in UP which sends 80 MPs to the lower house of Parliament. The state will vote on different dates over the 40 days beginning April 11. UP will vote on April 11, 18, 23 and 29 and May 6, 12 and 19.
The BJP would want to repeat its 2014 performance in the state when it won 73 out of the 80 seats, but this time around, coming even close to that mark seems like an uphill task. During the first half of PM Modi's rule at the Centre, everything in Uttar Pradesh seemed to go BJP's way. After a thumping performance in 2014, the BJP also won UP assembly election in 2017 and came to power in the state with a bang. Firebrand leader from Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath was made the UP Chief Minister and the year 2017 ended with the BJP sweeping the civic polls in the state.
The UP assembly elections in 2017 saw the BJP juggernaut steamroll the SP-Congress combine and the BSP. The SP and the Congress had joined hands ahead of the assembly elections, but both parties were decimated by the saffron surge. When the BJP government completed six months in office in September 2017, CM Adityanath released a detailed 'white paper' on the working of previous governments in the state and a status report on his own government's policies and achievements since he assumed office.
Realising that the route to power at the Centre is through Uttar Pradesh, political parties frantically began working on a plan to take on the BJP. SP and BSP kept their differences aside and forged an alliance for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Repeating or even coming close to 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 assembly polls for the BJP would be a massive challenge. This time, the BJP faces a resurgent opposition that has scripted back-to-back victories in last year's Lok Sabha and assembly bypolls. Two of those wins were particularly sweet for the opposition - the BJP lost Gorakhpur, the base of its star campaigner Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and Phulpur, held by his deputy Keshav Maurya. Political observers will like to keenly watch how the alliance of Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party performs.
The Congress too is into the fray more seriously this time with the grand old party - for decades an also-ran in UP - announcing the debut of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as its campaign in-charge for the eastern parts of the state, along with Jyotiraditya Scindia in the western belt. Priyanka Gandhi, sister of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, has so far confined herself to Amethi and Rae Bareli, the constituencies of her brother and her mother Sonia Gandhi, respectively. The Congress is banking on Priyanka Gandhi's charisma and connect - and her striking resemblance to her grandmother Indira Gandhi - to improve its score in Uttar Pradesh.
Over the past few months, Prime Minister Modi has focused on UP and his constituency Varanasi. Besides, the party has managed to appease upset smaller allies like Apna Dal(S) and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party that had felt "neglected".
As per Election Commission data, there are 14.40 crore voters in Uttar Pradesh and the count of first-time voters stands at approximately 45 lakh, of whom 16.75 lakh are in the age bracket of 18-19 years. With 'Mera Pehla Vote Modi Ko (My First Vote For Modi)' campaign, the BJP hopes the young electors will help it replicate its 2014 performance.