India’s biggest state in terms of number of legislators goes to the polls from Saturday.
India’s biggest state in terms of number of legislators goes to the polls from Saturday, with the ballot boxes first placed in western Uttar Pradesh in the opening phase. UP has always loomed larger than life on the electoral map of India with the state having held a monopoly in the matter of Indian Prime Ministers with an unbroken 30-year run from Independence up to 1977 and then for a major portion of the 1980s before ceding ground to the rest of India, while still producing Prime Ministers into the early 1990s. The current polls may only be for the state Assembly, which means pollster calculations are totally different from the national perspective and yet the significance of winning UP never diminishes in Indian politics.
The projected four-way contest in western UP between the ruling SP, which has found an ally in a fading Congress in the state, the BJP which won a majority of the Lok Sabha seats in 2014, Mayawati’s BSP and the RLD, which could be a force in the area, could be quite unpredictable. The satta market, usually a good indicator of which way the political wind is blowing, is convinced there will be a hung Assembly at the end of this long electoral campaign, with neither the BJP nor the SP-Congress combine getting a clear majority.
While the verdict is a month away, the first phase becomes important as it might help see the establishment of momentum in a state polarised by communal and caste considerations as well as internecine ruling family politics. Adding a national peg to the Assembly polls is the likelihood of their helping to cast light on the popularity or otherwise of demonetisation. There is no election these days without the stakes being high. Even so, UP is still a kind of bellwether where the stakes are even higher.