Which way is the wind blowing? The baffling question has not one but many answers, contrary to the 2007 and 2012 elections when the outcome was clearer much before polling concluded.
If Mayawati was way ahead of her competitors in 2007, courtesy her successful engineering of the Brahmin, Muslim and Dalit votes, in 2012 it was Akhilesh Yadav cycling his way to victory.
It was easier to forecast then as it was a direct fight between two regional parties – the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Also, national parties BJP and Congress were decimated since early 1990s.
The state’s political landscape, however, is witnessing a sea change in 2017, making the elections complicated for pollsters to predict. The main reason for this is the triangular contest with changing adversaries from constituency to constituency.
Bahraich, a Muslim-dominated district, best illustrates this scenario with pockets of all castes and political parties.
In 2012, of the seven assembly seats, the SP, BJP and Congress won two each while the BSP got one. This time too the result will be fractured here in the absence of any wave in favour of any of the major players.
The SP-Congress alliance also faces an acid test here as they have pitted candidates against each other in Payagpur assembly constituency.
Second, the voting percentage has marginally improved over 2012 and despite provocative comments there is hardly any polarisation on communal lines. According to political commentator Vinod Dubey, Muslims and Yadavs did not react but responded by improving their polling percentage as BJP’s campaign grew aggressive.
Third, the national parties are back in the reckoning. After the BJP revived in the 2014 general elections, its vote share jumped from 15% in 2012 to 42% in 2014. It is a potent force today and even if it falls from the high pedestal, how deep can the plunge be?
Governments in UP are formed on 30 per cent vote share.
In 2007, when Mayawati first broke the hung house jinx, the BSP had polled 30.43% votes, bagging 206 seats in a house of 403. Similarly in 2012, Akhilesh Yadav had polled 29.29% votes, winning 224 seats.
The BJP looks fighting fit in 2017, but the fact remains that in 2014, when it swept the state under Modi’s charismatic appeal, SP and BSP had polled 19.77% and 22.35% votes respectively even though Mayawati failed to open her account in the Lok Sabha and Mulayam had barely won four family seats.
The two state parties remain robust despite the BJP’s blitzkrieg. Political analysts also see a silent support for Mayawati.
Fourth, is the state’s new experiment in alliance politics – the Congress piggy-backing on the SP’s cycle. Though the young leaders did not campaign together across the state, their road shows and rallies have evoked curiosity. The 2012 vote percentage of Congress and SP adds to about 40%.
Fifth, demonetisation is not a strong enough issue to swing the pendulum against or in favour of any party.
- Violence-free poll: No violence reported from any polling booth in six phases, making this the most peaceful in decades
- Ban-free poll: No leader banned from campaigning for hate speech despite certain controversial statements
- Bollywood missing: Film starts were missing in action though leaders used Bollywood movies and songs to woo voters; PM Modi referred to the 1973 hit Aa Gale Lag Jaa to attack Cong-SP alliance while Rahul Gandhi said PM’s tenure has been a film trip from ‘Achchey Din’ of DDLJ to demonetisation (loot) of people’s money a la Gabbar Singh of Sholay
- Dimple campaign: Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple evolved as a leader, addressing independent meetings and holding roadshows
- Dacoits underground: Unlike elections in the past, Mandate 2017 saw do diktat from dacoits THE LOWS
- No Muslim candidate: BJP did not field any Muslim candidate; party also asked EC to deploy women at polling booths to check burqa-clad women
- Stone pelting: The generally peaceful campaign marred by stone-pelting at SP leader Shivpal Yadav in Jaswantnagar; similar incident during Rahul and Akhilesh’s joint roadshow
- Beastly barbs: Politicians used animal references to attack each other; leader of the beastly pack was gadha (donkey) followed by bhains (buffalo), kabootar (pigeon), magarmachh (crocodile), machhli (fish), sher (lion), etc.
- Funeral and Festival: PM Modi referred to kabristaan (graveyard) and shamshaan (cremation ground) and drew parallel between Diwali with Ramzan to underline ‘disparity’ in power supply during festivals
- Heinous crime: Four candidates faced charges of crimes, police complaints against 3 of them
Sixth, Modi had created a new vote bank in 2014 – the youth. However, there is a clear schism in this vote bank with Akhilesh Yadav sharing a huge pie, both in urban and rural areas. Plus, his wife Dimple is the big discovery of this election and has attracted women.
Seventh, the poll issues have become irrelevant as votes are being cast for three leaders – Akhilesh, Mayawati and Modi.
Eighth, the crowds thronging the rallies do not manifest swelling support for any party. Modi, Mayawati and Akhilesh are drawing huge, responsive crowds, something that has left all in a quandary.
Ninth, Modi has plugged a major chink in the BJP – the absence of a CM face. BJP supporters are voting for Modi and less for the party or its candidates.
Tenth, the anti-incumbency factor has been neutralised by brand Akhilesh and his decision to ally with the Congress.
So, there are several factors are at play. While some are giving a clear majority to the BJP after Modi’s intensive campaigning, others are talking about a triangular contest with the BJP having a slight edge over the SP. There are few who see a dark horse in Mayawati.
The mist will clear only when counting begins on March 11. Till then, it’s anybody’s guess.