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Shifting Political Narrative in Uttar Pradesh

As the first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections kicks in, it is increasingly becoming clear that it is going to be a tough electoral battle. Both the main contenders in the fray are, of course, claiming a runaway victory. But the real picture emerges when you look at how they are being forced to alter their pitch for the elections. The Narendra Modi-Yogi Adityanath led BJP is claiming that it will win over 300 seats in the 403 member state Assembly. Not to be left behind, the Akhilesh Yadav led Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal says that it will sweep the elections with 400 seats. And they are not alone. Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati also claims that the people will vote her party to power. The Congress is not claiming victory but has not thrown in the towel either.
Even before the Election Commission announced the poll schedule, the BJP had started emphasising what it called the progress made by the state under the ‘double engine’ government of Modi-Yogi. Another issue brought into the limelight by the BJP was the start of construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya and the Kashi corridor. Voices were also emerging from the BJP on similar developments in Mathura Vrindavan.The attempt clearly was to appeal to the sentiments of the Hindu majority. When the BJP appeared to be running away with the people’s support, came the desertion of several ministers and legislators belonging to the other backward classes. Most of them crossed over to the Samajwadi Party.
This gave rise to the perception that the focus had shifted from Hindu mobilisation to the Mandal versus Kamandal scenario. The other backward classes, OBCs, constitute a majority among the Hindu community and, have often in the past, been king makers both at the national as well as state levels.
But the focus is shifting again now with the opposition alliance of the Samajwadi Party and RLD emphasising bread and butter issues like economic decline, unemployment among the youth and failure to tackle the Covid pandemic effectively. Their main argument is that both the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and the Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh have failed to provide succour to the people hit by a massive downturn in the economy.
The BJP is trying to counter it by claiming that it has restored law and order in the state, suffering from chronic lawlessness during the tenure of earlier regimes, especially those headed by the Samajwadi Party. The BSP is also emphasising its credentials as a party that will restore the rule of law in the state. The Congress, under the leadership of party general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, is plowing a lonely furrow, stressing its drive to empower women. The party has nominated women as candidates in 40 per cent of the total seats. Ultimately, it is for the voters to decide which political narrative they will fall for. An interesting fight is on the horizon.

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