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80 seats everyone wants

The situation in Uttar Pradesh is still fluid ? but given the situation in the rest of the country, the 80 seats here could make the crucial difference in the post-poll scenario.

india Updated: Apr 03, 2004 14:11 IST

The situation in Uttar Pradesh is still fluid — but given the situation in the rest of the country, the 80 seats here could make the crucial difference in the post-poll scenario.

As of now, four-cornered contests seem to be most likely in a majority of constituencies. BSP leader Mayawati has so far rebuffed the Congress’s overtures for an understanding. The fact that whoever is in power at the Centre can influence the progress of the cases against her in connection with the Taj corridor project may induce her to keep her post-election options as wide open as possible.

The four-cornered contest scenario suits the BJP, since it will split the anti-saffron and the Muslim and backward vote which is not the party’s strong suit in any case. But should the BSP reach some kind of understanding with the Congress, the BJP’s electoral prospects will be seriously threatened.

The BJP’s decision to re-induct Kalyan Singh into the party is a measure of its concern about organisational attenuation and the lack of issues. He could make a difference if he is able to bring in some of the backward vote and is allowed to give his considerable organisational skills unrestricted play.

The concern is also reflected in the BJP’s decision to put Mandir back in its ‘vision’ to get the RSS network solidly behind it.

The other big player — Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party — will look to build on the considerable gains it made in 1999. Some observers say it will be at a disadvantage because it will not receive covert assistance from former chief minister Kalyan Singh, which it did in 1999.

On the other hand, Mulayam Singh is now in power, which will be a considerable advantage. His strong network at the thana level will work in his favour. The alliance with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal could yield rich dividends in western UP’s Jat areas.

Mulayam Singh Yadav’s attempts at distancing himself from caste politics and projecting a development-oriented image could also change equations. The ‘UP Shining’ theme has been bolstered by the presence of stars like Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai at government functions.

The BSP’s role will be largely that of playing spoiler — though its assured vote bank will make its role both in the elections and after important.

The Congress is perhaps the most unhappily placed in the state. Its organisation remains in tatters and its attempts to make an impression in eastern Uttar Pradesh may flounder because the BSP is putting up Muslim candidates in a majority of constituencies in the region.

A crucial factor in these elections is that the old issues — communalism/secularism, corruption, etc — are not striking a chord with the voters. And neither is the NDA’s ‘India Shining’ feel-good factor. And that could be bad news for the BJP.