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UP Elections: Which Way Does The Wind Blow? Exit Polls May Not Tell Whole Story

While most exit polls have predicted a BJP victory in the assembly elections, the view from the top might not match the ground reality in Uttar Pradesh.

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PM Modi campaigning in Uttar Pradesh at a road show in Varanasi ahead of the seventh and last phase
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"Hawa kis ki chal rahi hai?"

Temperature is rising, the air is warm, the sun scorching sun is upon us, causing dryness but also electrifying. And it is unexpectedly hot for March. 

“It’s the elections…it has taken the temperature two notches up,” my companion asserts.  After ten days on the dusty, debris roads of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and the penultimate day of campaigning and the elections upon us, it’s a wrap on the mood that had been shaping this election. 

It is said Purvanachal makes or breaks the election results. Undeniably the political leverage, the push, the pull that was applied across parties has been dauntless. This time Purvanchal is important and of supreme essence, as it is a matter of prestige and pride, that hangs by the thread in this region, particularly for the ruling party. 

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Anger, resentment, frustration, fear, uncertainty, andh bhakti (blind faith), faith, division and casteism, the Eastern belt has been weighing, contemplating and thus swirling in all these emotions. And it is these emotions that are taking (or not taking) the voter to the poll booth. 

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PM Modi at an event in Uttar Pradesh (file photo) | Credit: PTI

If the boys of Jaunpur are mesmerised by the charm of Narendra Modi and Yogi Adityanath and cast their vote in the name of ‘rashtravad’ (nationalism), then the Ayodhya wasi residents are angry with the development that is being done in the name of Ram. Expectations with the Modi-Yogi government remain intact in the people of Allahabad but the low percentage of voting points to the discomfort of the issues of rising cost, unemployment and covid keeping them away from the polling booth. The people of Kaushambi and its villages went out to vote in the name of caste wrapped in the desire for change. The people of Gorakhpur preferred to shield their political inclinations, while in Varanasi there was no shyness in their expression.  

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The mood has been shuffling and there is no clear picture. From the top you will feel all is clear, the mood is baked for BJP but then there are the other layers where the mood is raw filled with anger and want for change. In five years of Yogi and two years of Modi 2.0 government, a lot has changed. People are talking about the issues that are plaguing their daily life. For a farmer, the stray cattle is a big menace on which he will cast his vote. For a housewife, the Rs.1000/- cylinder and Rs 200/- mustard oil is a deepening worry on which she will go cast her vote. For a young learned, degree holder, the hopelessness of finding employment is distressing on which they will go cast their vote. For a Brahmin, the politics in the name of Hinduism is disturbing, while for an OBC the terror of new formed Modi sena (army) is vexing. For Muslims, the hatred that has brewed is troubling while for the other castes the non-representation in the politics and the administration had been harrowing. No caste is happy, the politics have been non-inclusive and there are grievous issues that have crippled livelihoods. 

Meanwhile, both Samajwadi Party and BJP have done excellent jobs in creating and airing a perception that has swayed the minds, the mood and the inclinations of the janta (population), and the media. 

“Kaun banyega Sarkar?” (Who will form the government? ) is the question that I have been repeatedly asked in these ten days. 

Hawa kis ki chal rahi hai?” (Whose side is the wind on?)

And I will be clear. There is no hawa (wind) of any party, but there is a hawa that is aversive yet submissive. There is no deep emotional investment towards either BJP or SP but there are deep emotional issues that are stirring the mind of the voter. There is no other competition from any other political ideology but there is an undercurrent that is rumbling, that will disturb the harmony of any party that tries to stake the claim of the majority. 

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SP chief Akhilesh Yadav at an election rally (File Photo) | Credit: PTI

Par aayega toh Yogi-Modi hi hai” (But Yogi-Modi will definitely win), the people around me, the journalists around me sheepishly conclude after every discussion. They have the money and they have the power, and when both are made to walk together, anything is possible. 

So as I draw on the penultimate entry to my diary of Uttar Pradesh elections, sitting by the banks of River Ganga, a few metres away from where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is walking that last mile to convince and coax the people of Kashi and around to give him that one last chance, I can hear the screams, the applause for ‘the Prime Minister’. But the roar of Kashi that was vocal on the arrival of its beta (son) is amiss.

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But every election is different and therefore, as told by a leading psephologist, ‘every election has to be gauged from zero.’ As such the elections of Uttar Pradesh are completely different, unconnected to any other time. Yes, 2014 made 2019 but is 2019 making 2022?  For the BJP, it is unmaking in doing. There are elements, characters, mistakes and over-confidence of a government that is denting and deterring the mood of 2022 against them. These are making the mood for the Opposition and setting the agenda, the propaganda and the possibilities of an electrifying 2024. 

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