UP is on the boil. Dharnas, demonstrations and police lathi-charge have become the order of the day as there is politics on every issue — from land acquisition to rape.
With less than a year to go for the assembly election, the political parties are obviously in a poll mode. The opposition is on the offensive and the government equally belligerent.
An HT-GFK Mode (a leading market research agency in the country) survey in six districts of the state has thrown up some interesting statistics on the top 10 poll issues. The important qualities that the voters are looking for in the future chief minister, what they consider more important while casting their vote — the party or the candidate — and on the leader and the party of their choice.
The survey was conducted in the urban and the semi-urban areas of six districts, namely Noida, Agra, Meerut, Lucknow, Varanasi and Allahabad. In all, 1,256 respondents were contacted, of which 50% each were male and female. Two age groups were covered, 18-30 years and 31 years and above.
Though small, the survey offers a glimpse into the changing mood of the voter.
Samajwadi Party state president Akhilesh Yadav comments, "I agree and disagree with surveys. The sample size in a state with a population of 20 crore and 70-odd districts is very crucial for any conclusive finding. The mood of the voters in a huge state like ours varies from the urban to the rural areas."
Corruption topped the list of 10 poll issues that the respondents were asked about. Others included land acquisition, price rise, proposed trifurcation of the state, Ram temple, economic development and industrialisation, education and unemployment, bijli-pani-sadak and health. Yadav agrees with the survey here.
“I agree with the survey as my party also plans to focus on three poll issues — corruption, price rise and unemployment. While the Congress is responsible for rampant corruption and price rise at the Centre, Mayawati will have to face the music in the state for the same.”
An average of 21% of the respondents, cutting across gender and age-groups, voted for corruption as the most important poll issue. The issue got the highest votes in Meerut (24%) and the lowest in Allahabad (16%).
Unemployment was rated as the second major poll issue with an average of 19% males and 18% females opting for it. Interestingly, the issue seems to be bigger in the semi-urban areas (20%) as against 17% in the urban areas.
Crime, that seems to have rattled the Mayawati government, figures fifth on the list. The survey confirms the general perception that the Ram temple issue has lost its potency. Only 1% of the respondents favoured it across five districts, while in Allahabad 4% respondents still believed it to be a poll issue.
Similarly, the proposed trifurcation of UP, raised by political parties in the state off and on, is not much of a poll plank with only 1% of the respondents favouring it. Surprisingly, land acquisition, that virtually set off a political storm in the country, is not a viable poll issue with only 2% respondents finding it important.
Contrary to the general perception, the respondents preferred Mayawati in Noida and Agra, which had seen intense politicking over the farmers'agitation against land acquisition. As many as 44% and 45% of the respondents preferred Mayawati in these two districts. The Gandhi scion was the choice of 49% respondents in Allahabad, 42% in Varanasi and 43% in Lucknow.
Prof SK Dwivedi of Lucknow University's political science department said, “Bihar is an example for us. The state voted for development, sidestepping the caste issues. UP is going to vote for development in 2012 and not get influenced by slogans of social engineering and Ram temple.”
The survey also revealed that the battle of the ballot in 2012 could well be between Mayawati (BSP) and Rahul Gandhi (Congress). Though the respondents showed a preference for an experienced politician at the helm of affairs, they admired the whiff of fresh air that Rahul brings with him to UP politics, sans caste and communal lines.
About 58% of the respondents ticked 'experience' as the most important quality that they looked for in the future chief minister of the state. Nearly 36% were in favour of youth and energy.
To the question ‘In your opinion who is best suited to be the chief minister of UP’, 38% of the respondents, of all age groups and from both urban and semi-urban areas, voted for Rahul Gandhi with Mayawati closely following at 30% and Mulayam far behind at 15%. Leaders like Kalyan Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi lagged far behind.
Akhilesh Yadav obviously disputes the finding. “The SP is going to be the main contender as the Congress and the BSP share their acts of omission and commission.”
Even Dwivedi doesn’t agree with the findings. “It will be the BSP vs the SP again. The Congress has not gained as much as expected.”
But Nawab Qazim Ali, BSP MLA from Rampur, has a different take. “It’s too early to predict. Let the parties field their candidates. The picture will be clear only then.”
The Congress, however, is upbeat about the findings.
Says UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi, “I am excited about the survey. Rahul Gandhi is emerging as a powerful leader. People are getting inclined towards the Congress and want the party back to power in Uttar Pradesh. They want an end to the 22-year-old sway of caste and communal politics and wish to see the state back on the road to development.”
She terms price rise as an international phenomenon. "But we need to check blackmarketing and hoarding. The public distribution system also needs to be strengthened. More jobs need to be created and effective steps taken to check corruption. This will minimise the impact of price rise," she says.