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UP Elections – an analysis of mainstream commentary around political parties

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Like most political enthusiasts, I have followed Uttar Pradesh elections closely. But my primary source of information is through someone else’s pen rather than first hand experiences.

To make most of it, I kept a track of keywords used over the last month by different analysts to try to make sense of what is happening out there. I shortlisted around 75 articles from various publications such as Times of India, Hindustan Times, Firstpost, Rediff, DNA, Indian Express, News18, The Hindu, LiveMint, etc. and even tracked responses from associated commentators on Twitter. All these articles and commentary was posted between February 11 to March 6.

So as we approach the end of a very colourful election season, here is what the scene looks for the major contenders. I have created a word cloud for every party, which shows the frequently used terms appearing for that party in these articles and comments.

I’ve also added a quick summary around those terms (which is summary of the general commentary by the mainstream media; not my views except where explicitly mentioned), which are major influencing factors if we go by the commentary during the assembly elections.

BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party):

Word cloud
Terms that dominate when discussing BJP’s prospects

8. Baniya Vote, Demonitisation – This section of the electorate was severely affected by demonitisation. However, there is not enough clarity if demonitisation has had any negative impact on BJP in this election. If Maharashtra and Odisha are any indication, the impact seems to be negligible.

7. Local leadership – BJP does not have any local leadership or a Chief Ministerial candidate. They are severely dependent on Modi’s charisma to take them through.

6. Varanasi – BJP is nervous in Varanasi. Ticket distribution has created disturbances and disinterest amongst the cadre. Modi’s rallies have calmed nerves but impact will be known only on March 11.

5. Jat Vote – Amit Shah’s last minute efforts to meet Jat leaders and salvage some vote share does not seem to have helped. BJP suffered in the first phase.

4. Brahmin Vote, Core Vote, OBC Vote, Dalit Vote – BJP’s core vote remains intact. There is a definite Brahmin vote shift towards BJP. Due to careful candidate selection non-yadav OBC and non-jatav Dalit vote is also shifting towards BJP.

3. Polarise, Samshan, Kabristan – Middle phases of the UP election were the most acrimonious and ‘Samshan’ and ‘Kabristan’ echoed for quite some time. This moment polarised the already polarised atmosphere.

2. No Wave, Main Contender – Even though there is no wave this time around, one point all commentators agree upon is that BJP is the main contender in most of the seats. The depth of BJP’s footprint gives them a clear advantage over other parties.

1. Modi – Narendra Modi is the fulcrum around which BJP’s wheel revolves. People remember Modi’s unkept promises which are in sharp contrast to Akhilesh who is seen as someone who has delivered. However Modi is seen as a hardworking administrator and the electorate is willing to give him another chance.

Congress-SP (Samajwadi Party) alliance:

op-ed analysis
Words used when talking about Congress-SP in Uttar Pradesh

7. Gadha – People have a soft corner for the PM and Akhilesh’s ‘Gadha’ remark has not gone down well with the electorate. It explains why Akhilesh was not willing to stretch this fight further. This could be the turning point of this election.

6. Appease – Perception matters more than reality. BJP has successfully been able to convince people that SP is an appeasement party bending rules for Yadavs and Muslims.

5. Reverse Polarisation – Overt dependency on Muslim vote has clearly caused a reverse Hindu polarisation in BJP’s favour. This is one of the biggest factors along with muslim vote split and it will be interesting to see how SP and BSP react in 2019.

4. Coalition – Coalition is described by most analysts as hasty and uneasy. 105 seats are too much for the Congress. Bonhomie between Rahul and Akhilesh is good for PR but has not percolated to the cadre. Friendly fights on many constituencies have further confused the cadre.

3. Congress – Congress is the weak link and it is just not able to transfer votes to SP. Priyanka and Sonia are missing from much of action, which is again not helping the Congress and they are on shaky ground even in Amethi and Rai Bareilly. Also SP cadre is not too enthusiastic to canvas on seats given to Congress.

2. Local Connect, Strategists, Rebels – SP’s chief strategists are missing from war rooms and also from the campaign. This has dented SP’s local connect. Party Rebels who sided with Shivpal and also from the 105 seats given to Congress are a major roadblock.

1. Akhilesh – Brand Akhilesh is powerful. He is popular, known to be pro-development and is perceived as someone who has delivered on promises. At the moment, he is the only one who can breach the gap between victory and defeat for SP.

BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party):

Word cloud for BSP
Comparatively, BSP has received less media attention and space.

3. Muslim Vote – BSP struggled in the initial phases but has picked some Muslim vote in later phases. Whether this is some momentum or a careful strategy by Amit Shah to divide votes will only be known post March 11.

2. Core Vote – Mayawati’s core vote is intact. However, she is struggling to get the incremental vote. Additionally non-jatav dalits are looking at BJP as an option.

1. Silent Vote, Don’t Write Off – These terms are associated with BSP again and again. This ‘Silent Vote’ might be a real force or just a hedge against the US election kind of a verdict used by analysts. Personally, I feel the expectation of a large silent vote borders more on hope than sound observations. BSP does not have much to promise to the voters and are also facing a severe resource crunch.

***

I leave it upon the readers to derive any conclusion whether this commentary is in line with what they expect. We anyway will get to know on March 11, how much of it was based on sound observation or plain kite flying.

Footnote

BJP alliance won 43% of the total vote in 2014 elections. In comparison, SP+INC and BSP won 29% and 19% respectively. This is in sharp contrast to Bihar where Mahagathbandhan (sum of INC+JDU+RJD) had 44% as compared to NDA’s 38% in LS14. The fact that UP is a 3 horse race, accentuates the vote differences even further. This was always BJP’s election to lose.

Two of the oft repeated words in my analysis are ‘Badlav’ and ‘Mauka’. UP is yearning for ‘Badlav’ and the most probable candidate who will get the ‘Mauka’ seems to be Modi’s BJP.

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