Poor administration, deteriorating law and order, crimes against women, rising unemployment or caste and communal unrest—Uttar Pradesh isn’t a stranger to any of these. Successive state governments have struggled to reverse this perception, and failed. The National Crime Records Bureau places UP among the top five states in almost all categories of heinous crime—rape, murder or crimes against the scheduled caste. Take the Hathras case as an instance. A 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped and strangled by four upper-caste men and she died in a Delhi hospital. Another 22-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped in Balrampur days later. Soon after, three minor Dalit sisters were attacked with acid by an unidentified man in their home in Gonda. Yet, with 17 months to go before the UP assembly elections, there’s no sign of anger among the masses against the government. Why? Is it because there’s no Opposition to help the people ventilate their anger? Where is the Opposition in the state famous for its acutely political electorate?
“The biggest advantage that Yogi Adityanath and the BJP have in UP today is the complete absence of an Opposition,” political analyst Sharat Pradhan tells Outlook. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP)—the two key Opposition forces in UP—have been “absolutely dormant”, while the Congress, long relegated to a fringe outfit in the state’s politics, “is still down in the dumps despite recent attempts at revival”, says Pradhan. In a 403-member assembly, the BJP has an absolute majority. In the March 2017 state polls, it won 312 seats while the SP and Congress—allies in the election—took just 47 and seven seats respectively. The BSP too was decimated, finishing with just 19 seats. And now, with its rivals struggling for electoral resurgence, the BJP has been exuding confidence of sweeping the 2022 assembly elections too.