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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Why is Modi focusing more on UP?

Sunita Aron, Hindustan Times  Lucknow, November 12, 2013
First Published: 00:07 IST(12/11/2013) | Last Updated: 15:43 IST(12/11/2013)

Why is the BJP – especially its PM candidate Narendra Modi — investing more in Uttar Pradesh than in the five poll-bound states?

Is it the BJP’s confidence in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan that allows it to focus on Uttar Pradesh for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls? Unlikely, because observers think it has to fight hard in those states.

Since the party is projecting Modi — who is trying to adopt both Hindutva and development as his main poll planks and is planning to contest from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s constituency, Lucknow — it needs a lab to sprout the seeds of polarisation and a sufficiently underdeveloped state to sell development.

Even 16 years after Babri mosque demolition and the social and religious churning that followed, the state is still vulnerable to communal emotions — quite clear after the Muzaffarnagar riots in August-September 2013.

But the temple issue looks redundant, as the saffron parties’ 84-Kosi Parikrama programme in August ended in a whimper.

Another factor that makes Uttar Pradesh the most important battleground is that three prime ministerial candidates -- Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati -- are from the state. And, of course, the fact that it has 80 Lok Sabha seats.

Now, the question that the BJP’s thought-leaders may be poring over is: Can Modi polarise more than the temple? If he can, there’ll be a rich harvest -- there are 35 seats in which BJP candidates ended as the close second or the second runner-up in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Bagging them will take the overall figure to about 45.

So, the polarisation process has begun, notwithstanding party chief Rajnath Singh’s appeal to the minorities to try the BJP once after having “suffered” the Congress for 60 years.

Singh’s calculation is that if there is division in the 18.5% minority votes, it would be to the BJP’s advantage.

The Congress was on the verge of revival in UP in 2009, when it won 21 seats and got 18.25% votes -- its highest in the past decade. But Akhilesh Yadav proved to be a spoilsport in 2012. This time too, the SP and BSP are going to put up a stiff fight.

But despite the Mulayam-Akhilesh duo’s Muslim-backward consolidation rallies having attracted huge crowds in the state, the SP is still in a tight corner after Muzaffarnagar.

BSP chief Mayawati has dismissed all speculation of her party’s pre-electoral tie-up with the Congress. Her worry is the exodus of Brahmin votes -- that had propelled her to power in 2007 -- to the BJP.

Though her vote-base of scheduled castes, especially the Jatavs, may be intact, she needs more. So, she is projecting herself as a viable option for the Muslims.

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