Almost half way through the elections, the party continues to waver between uncertainty and hope. As the party’s chief campaigner, Rahul Gandhi has, with his roadshows, brought the crowds for his party and made the Congress a talking point in the elections. ``But the question is whether we will be able to translate them into votes,’’ said a senior leader. The Congress won 25 seats in 2002 but was left with just 16 after a split. Ten of these seats fell in areas that went to polls in the first three phases of elections. This time, the party hopes to touch the 50-seat mark so that it can play kingmaker if there is a hung assembly as pollsters predict.
While lashing out at the SP’s “misrule” and the BJP’s “communal and divisive agenda”, Congress leaders have spared the BSP with which it might strive to explore a post-poll tie-up if they get enough seats and if no party secures a clear majority.
BSP president Mayawati’s “social engineering” strategy seems to have worked well so far. She has always had the Dalits votes, but this time, she also wooed the Brahmins and Muslims. Reports say the BSP will be the single largest party in a fractured House. In 2002, the party won 38 seats in 177 seats where polling is over.
With the Samajwadi Party losing ground, the BSP appears to be the biggest gainer. While the anti-incumbency factor against the SP will help both the BJP and the Congress, the BSP, because of Mayawati’s caste experiments, looks set to walk away with the trophy.
BSP general secretary Nasimuddin Siddique said Muslim support for the party had gone up considerably in western UP.
The BSP has fielded 86 Brahmin candidates to widen its base beyond its Dalit constituency. Will that be Mayawati’s trumpcard?
Worried. The voting is over in Mulayam Singh Yadav’s bastion of Etawah and in the Muslim-dominated Rohilkhand. Which, in effect, means that the best part is over and any votes it gets from now on will be a bonus. Of this cluster of 177 seats where voting is over, the SP had won 57 seats in 2002. But the party will be hard put to maintain that tally. Anti-incumbency is a real worry
Apart from striking an emotional chord with the people, Yadav has also tried to raise the third front bogey by inviting Chandrababu Naidu and Om Prakash Chautala at his Bareilly rally.
When asked about the party’s performance in the three phases, party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhury said, “The party is leading in all the phases.”
Chaudhury said the SP would increase its tally in 177 seats as compared to 2002 election.
That’s putting up a brave face.
In the first three phases covering western UP, the BJP had battled for seats mostly held by the SP or its one-time ally, the 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’s. 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 — covered areas where Muslims voters accounted for 35 per cent of the electorate and their votes would be split.
“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.”