The assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state by population, is being seen as a blueprint for the general election in 2019 and the political parties involved have tried their best to seize the moment.
However, several events and actions have impacted the triangular contest between the Samajwadi Party and its ally, Congress, Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party in their bid to take hold of the state.
Here are the 5 turning points that affected the course of the crucial polls:
Swami Prasad Maurya’s exit from BSP
Swami Prasad Maurya, a close confidant of Mayawati and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly, quit the BSP on June 22, 2016, accusing the party chief of corruption and “auctioning” seats. Maurya’s decision to leave came as a severe jolt to the party and exposed the chinks in the BSP as some other leaders also left subsequently joining the BJP.
His departure came at a time when his presence in the party was considered as the ticket to a sure-shot victory. Maurya had played an active role in mobilising MLAs of other parties in favour of BSP candidates in Rajya Sabha elections.
PM’s demonetisation drive
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8, 2016, when the countdown for the state polls was about to begin. It has remained a major issue on state’s political horizons and the opposition made one or other counter move to target the PM and the BJP on the issue. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav even provided cash relief to the families of those who died in queues outside the ATMs and the banks post-demonetisation to focus on hardships of the people.
Akhilesh control over SP
The Samajwadi Party’s move to unseat Mulayam Singh Yadav and appoint Akhilesh as the party president during an emergency convention on January 1, 2017, marked a new beginning. With this one single stroke, the chief minister got a complete control over the SP and thus in the party’s ticket distribution for 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
BSP’s tickets to Muslims
The BSP’s decision to play the Muslim card by fielding nearly 100 Muslim candidates was considered as a major factor that intensified the battle for the minorities’ vote. This was the largest chunk of Muslim candidates fielded by any mainstream political party in recent years. The BSP’s move forced even its rivals to change their ticket distribution strategy. The BJP decided not to field even a single Muslim candidate while SP and Congress had to rework their strategy.
Congress and Samajwadi Party alliance
The Congress and the SP’s alliance was an important milestone in the run-up to 2017 assembly elections. The SP and the Congress had been closely working for weeks to forge an alliance. As a tug of war went on between the two parties for some time over the issue of seat sharing, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra worked behind the scenes to seal a deal with the SP. The SP decided to keep 298 seats leaving 105 for the Congress.