Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections have occupied disproportionate Indian media attention not only because Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state but the results of this poll due to be out on March 06 2012 hold strong political implications for a variety of reasons which one would discuss later down in this Column. But before that some important features that stood out during this month long election campaign. The Gandhi family was out in full force for the first time comprising Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi. Priyanka Gandhi and her husband and children. Noticeable was the increasing anger of Rahul Gandhi in his election speeches which can only be explained as frustration in not being able to discern a wave in favour of the Congress. Also noticeable was the hackneyed ‘political mantra’ of all political parties to paint their opponents as more corrupt than they were, laughingly so, because in public perceptions corruption afflicts all political parties as a leprous infliction.
The Election Commission of India and particularly the Chief Election Commissioner were hard on political leaders and politicians flouting the Election Code. The biggest noticeable offenders were Congress Party Central Ministers including the Law Minister, who violated the Model Code of Conduct in repetitive declarations of increased sub-quotas of reservation for the Indian Muslim community. Unprecedently, the Chief Election Commissioner had to address a letter to the President of India complaining against the Law Minister. Despite the preceding two more Congress Ministers followed suit in brazen defiance. The Chief Election Commissioner deserves accolades for the UP Assembly Elections being conducted without disruptions and in an orderly manner.
Speculation is now rife and intense as to how the political fortunes of the major parties pan out on 06 March 2012. Many believe that the incumbent Chief Minister Mayawati may return to power albeit with a reduced majority. There are some who maintain that Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party may emerge as the victor or at least the party with the largest number of seats won. In the latter case the bets on are that the Congress Party may opt to support him either with outside support or in coalition. It needs to be membered that the Samajwadi Pary has been providing outside support to the Congress Government in New Delhi despite many rebuffs from the Congress side.
The Congress Party leaders claim that they will get a thumping majority, an optimism buoyed by its extraordinary drive to win over the captive Muslin vote bank especially in Western Uttar Pradesh in league with Ajit Singh’s small party who on the eve of the elections was rewarded with a Cabinet Minister’s berth in New Delhi. But then it has to be remembered that the Indian Muslim vote-bank in Uttar Pradesh is not the exclusive preserve of the Congress Party or bowled over by Rahul Gandhi’s magic mantras. TheSamajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh also has a sizeable hold on Uttar Pradesh Muslim vote-banks.
Mentioned in an earlier Column of mine was the fact that the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections were the launch pad for Rahul Gandhi as the next Congress Prime Minister after the 2014 General Elections.
The Congress Party seems to have gambled heavily on this account. The Congress Party if it wins the Uttar Pradesh General Elections then it would credit this victory entirely due to Rahul Gandhi’s political acumen and political leadership. His future as the next Congress Party Prime Minister then is fully assured. Chances may also exist where the Congress Party leaders make a demand that he should assume the office of Prime Minister straightaway for the remaining two years or so of the tenure of the present Government.
In Congress Party’s Plan B where the Congress Party even if it does not emerge as the victor but its tally of seats won exceeds its present holdings, then in that case too the Congress Party would then also give the credit to Rahul Gandhi. But in this case Rahul Gandhi would have lost the crown of a thumping victory and would have to wait as to how political developments pan out till 2014 before his Prime Ministerial aspirations concretize.
While the Congress Pary has stated that it would not join hands with any political party to form a Government, it is not convincing going by the political arithmetic in New Delhi where the Congress Government is getting increasingly frustrated with the mercurial temperament of its main coalition partner, the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee. The friction is growing day by day and chances exist that in an extreme case of political brinkmanship, Mamata Banerjee may pull out of the Coalition Government endangering the Congress Government. In that case the Congress trade-off would be support for Samajwadi Party government in Lucknow and maybe the Samajwadi Party replacing the Trinamool Party in the Congress Government Coalition.
With unprecedented turn-out of voters in these Assembly polls, the poll experts have not been able to place their finger on what this increased turn-out of voters’ means for different political parties. One thing is that the increased turn-out of voters can be attributed to an increasing number of the youth voters making it a point to exercise their franchise. Also in urban areas there has been a greater turnout of the middle-class and educated voters who would be more discerning in their choice of voting. Which political party benefits from this phenomenon only the results on March 06, 2012 can tell.
The election results and the pattern of victories in the Muslim majority belts would be an educative exercise for the Indian political parties. It would give valuable insights as to whether the Indian Muslim community has made a choice of continuing to be ‘captive vote-banks’ for the Congress Party and the Samajwadi Party or has the Indian Muslim voter especially the Muslim youth has broken-out of the stranglehold of parties like the Congress and have elected to exercise their vote in a discerning manner as against being herded with promises of reservations and other incentives.
Meanwhile the political parties and political pundits wait expectantly for March 06, 2012 when the Indian voter’s mind in Uttar Pradesh would be discovered and also as a precursor to what the Indian voter portends for the 2014 General Election.