Three ministers – Dharam Singh Saini, Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan and around a dozen MLAs resigning from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Joining Samajwadi Party (SP) were initial signs when a whisper of some SP wave started. The resurgence of “Mandal” –caste-based identity politics and “Kamandal”- mixing caste-based identity politics in the Hindutva project, set the stage of the election in UP.
Elections were completed in seven phases. It saw multiple issues that were claimed to be impacting the election outcome– farmer protest, stray cattle menace, law and order, jobs, among others. The caste arithmetics was also at play. There were also debates about BJP undercurrent, anti-incumbency, Thakur -Brahmin rift.
SP formed an alliance with seven regional parties – The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Mahan Dal, Janwadi Party (Socialist), Apna Dal faction led by Krishna Patel, Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, Shivpal Yadav's Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party and Gondwana Gantantra Party. BJP too contested in alliance with Apna Dal, Nishad Party and some other small parties.
However, exit polls are predicting a comfortable majority for BJP in Uttar Pradesh with 211-225 seats. Many saw this election as a contest between BJP and SP, and BSP as a non-player. Exit polls are also weighing on this and keeping it between 2-20 seat brackets. But it will be interesting to see how many seats it gets. If its vote base erodes, whoever gets it will be at the most advantageous stage.
Some are also claiming the BSP vote base has shifted toward BJP. When voting of the fifth phase was completed, Union Home Minister Amit Shah in an interview said that “BSP has maintained its relevance. I believe it will get votes. I don't know how much of it will convert into seats but it will get votes.” It created a whisper around, that BJP might form a post-poll alliance with BSP. Mayawati denied it though.
This election will determine the politics of a few leaders who made the news ahead of polls such as SBSP chief OP Rajbhar, whose party contested 24 seats, and Keshav Dev Maurya of Mahan Dal. It will decide the future of leaders like Dharam Singh Saini, Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh who defected from BJP and Abbas Ansari, son of jailed politician Mukhtar Ansari who contested from Mau.
The Mubarakpur seat from where Shah Alam, Guddu Jamali, said to be the strongest candidates of AIMIM, are contesting. Rampur Sadar will also be interesting from where Azam Khan is contesting, where a lot of sympathy votes will be at play.
In 2017, BJP swept western Uttar Pradesh by winning 53 out of 58 seats. There was a division between Jat and Muslims, but in this election, SP had formed an alliance with RLD and went with a strong pitch for the election in 11 districts.
Another important thing was Congress’s pitch for this election. To woo voters Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, gave the slogan 'ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon' for her campaign and fielded 40 per cent of women candidates, a first for any party in UP.
This election will also decide the fate of 10 ministers including deputy CM Keshav Prashad Maurya (Sirathu) Suresh Rana (Thana Bhawan), Anil Sharma (Shikarpur), Kapil Dev Agarwal (Muzaffarnagar), Dinesh Khatik (Hastinapur), Atul Garg (Ghaziabad), Shrikant Sharma (Mathura), Sandeep Singh (Atrauli), GS Dharmesh (Agra Cantt) and Chaudhary Laxmi Narain (Chhata).