Two more Cs, other than caste and communal card, are driving the BJP's campaign in Uttar Pradesh. These are the hunger for 'change' and the will to give a 'chance' to its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, believed to have dwarfed his political opponents with strategic and systematic poll bombardment.
This mood is more evident amongst first-time voters who want to steer away from the traditional politics of 'caste and past'. From a minimum of 20,279 in Shamli to 118,616 in Aligarh constituency, they can upset anyone's applecart in an election where four major players are locked in a fierce fight.
Modi, the youth say, might not be the ideal leader. But as Ritwik Sharma, a student, says, "We have seen many governments and many PMs. We might as well choose the devil himself!" Ankita Johari, a research scholar at Lucknow's KGM University, explains this attitude. "We must give the reins of the country to a person who can at least speak up. We do not want a mute prime minister anymore."
What's helping Modi despite the Godhra blot? According to Banaras Hindu University's Kaushal Kishore Mishra, the Gujarat model though not apt for UP has raised public confidence in his governance. "It's the youth and the women who are going to decide this election. The higher turnout is an indication of people voting for a change," he says.
Sunil Pradhan, professor of neurology department, SGPGIMS, says: "It is BJP's strategy to promote Modi ahead of the party. And it has worked well. Modi promoted development, good governance and Gujarat model which won the heart of the youth and first-time voters who will play a decisive role in this election."
But why Modi when there are so many claimants for the post from within BJP and other parties too? AK Singh, ex-director of the Giri Institute of Development Studies, says: "People, impacted by misrule, corruption and indecision, are looking at Modi as an alternative because they have very little to choose from."
While the opposition has been debunking the Gujarat model, Modi seems to have raised the hopes of the man on the street – even in Rahul Gandhi's Amethi and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Azamgarh constituency – of getting basic facilities and opportunities to earn.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi's concern over the failure of the party in taking its government's achievements to the voters was not off the mark, but it was wide of the ground reality. This is more so in the high-profile constituencies, from where – other parts of underdeveloped central and east UP too – people have gone to Gujarat for jobs. UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's claim that the Gujarat model is all hype thus have few takes among those who can compare the two states.
Muslims, wary of Modi, too have found out that non-BJP governments cannot guarantee their security. "If he has qualities of better leadership, he should be PM. We should move on from Godhra," say Syed Zain Mahdi and Noreen Fatima, students in Lucknow.