The BJP saw a more direct battle with the BSP rather than the Samjwadi Party in the next four phases when the fate of 226 of the total 403 seats spread over central and eastern parts of the state will be decided.
As the third phase of UP polls drew to close covering 177 seats, top BJP leaders said they are re-working their strategy as Mayawati was leading a surge in her party’s favour even as Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party seemed to be losing steam.
"It is getting clear we have to counter Mayawati now, and Mulayam is losing the edge he had. Henceforth, we will be training guns on her party’s casteist plank," said a BJP strategist.
In the first three phases of voting covering western parts, the BJP had battled for seats mostly held by the SP or its one-time ally, Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal.
The BJP’s calculation is that the SP’s loss of seats in the first phase (62 seats) will be its gain rather than the BSP. In the second phase, the BJP expects 18 seats while admitting that the BSP would improve its 2002 tally of 15 seats.
Also, the first three phases – particularly the second and the third — phases covered areas where Muslims voters accounted for 35 per cent of the electorate.
"Fortunately," said BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, “for us, the so-called secular vote was divided. Other parties could not mobilize Muslim voters against the BJP as the bogey of communalism against us did not work this time.”
He said the controversial anti-Muslim CD issue was started by BJP’s rivals. “We have not used Hindutva as a major plank at all so far. We are still focusing on Mulayam’s five year rule and UP’s condition.”
By Naqvi’s reckoning, even in the Rampur Lok Sabha constituency, which has more than 55 per cent Muslim voters, the BJP was confident of winning at least 2 of the six seats when it had drawn a blank in the 2002 polls.
Naqvi, who handles the central election campaign election and management, said, “the BJP is confident of winning seats in other Muslim-dominated areas like Bareilly, Moradabad, Bijnour, Shahjanpur and Moradabad.”
For the remaining four phases, the Muslim votes are not a big deal, says Naqvi. The key factor, according to BJP strategists, is the alliance factor. “We expect our alliance with the Apna Dal and the Janata Dal(U) to play a big role for us.” Hence, the BJP intends rigorous.