Pre-Poll Scenario-Uttar Pardesh (UP) Elections in India

Pre-Poll Scenario-Uttar Pardesh (UP) Elections in India

A IPRI lecture was held in the IPRI Meeting Hall on January 30, 2017. Mr. Asghar Ali Shad, Research Fellow, delivered the lecture.

Salient points of the discussion are as follows:

  • Seven states of India are going to the polls in 2017 with five of them in the first half of the year. While the biggest election would be the much-awaited Uttar Pradesh (UP) polls on which most political observers are keeping an eye. Followed by UP elections, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur states will also elect new governments. Towards the latter half of 2017, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh states will go for the polls.
  • The UP Legislative Assembly election will be held from February 11 to March 8, 2017 in seven phases. The state has 403 electoral constituencies, each representing a seat in its legislature. The result of the UP vote will impact Indian politics in the coming years, including national elections in 2019.
  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces three powerful regional players in UP; the incumbent Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj party and Congress party led by Rahul Gandhi. Congress and Samajwadi party are fighting for 105 and 298 seats simultaneously.
  • The BJP has not given even a single symbolic ticket to any Muslim in UP.
  • The other crucial state going to the polls is Punjab, where an alliance of the BJP and a regional party has been in power for 10 years. A big upset here would be a victory for the four-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which governs only one small Indian state, Delhi, and has been working to expand.
  • Uttarakhand Elections are expected to be held on February 15, 2017 for 70 seats.The key players in the state are only Congress and BJP. AAP is yet to come out as a major force in the state and doesn’t look capable of making its presence felt in 2017.
  • Assembly elections in Manipur will be held on 4 March and 8 March 2017 in two phases. The fifth state to hold elections as part of this year’s election cycle is Manipur in India’s remote northeast where, again, the BJP is looking to make gains at the cost of the governing Congress. Voting in Manipur will take place in two parts on March 4 and 8, 2017. Manipur is strategically important for the BJP after its victory in Assam.
  • The Indian Punjab legislative assembly election will be held on 4 February 2017 to select 117 members. The results of the election will be announced on 11 March 2017. Three parties are popular in Punjab; AAP, Congress and BJP.
  • The biggest issue confronting voters is not jobs or corruption, but the drug epidemic that is sweeping the state. Youth unemployment and the increasing rate of suicides by farmers are other major issues.
  • The small western state of Goa will vote on the same day as Punjab, followed by the northern state of Uttarakhand, in February 15. AAP is expected to win elections in Goa.
  • Assembly elections in Manipur will be held on 4 March and 8 March 2017 in two phases.The term of the current Legislative Assembly ends on 18 March 2017. The Communist Party of India (CPIM), Congress and BJP are the popular parties in Manipur.
  • There are political advantages for BJP in Tamil Nadu in the absence of Jayalalithaa. The Congress does not have a strong state leader or cadre leaving the field open for the BJP.
  • UP, however, as the most populous state, has higher weightage than north-eastern states. The BJP will need a near sweep in the UP assembly election to see an NDA candidate as the next President of India.
  • Since UP has always been a prestige state for the party, as done in the General Elections 2014, the Gujarat model of economic development will be the major part of Modi’s campaign in the state since it will be politically contingent for the BJP to win in UP.
  • In Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the BJP would like to wrest control from the Congress, which is already facing several corruption charges in both the states.
  • But in Goa, both the Congress and AAP hope to win from the Laxmikant Parsekar-led BJP government, which too has entangled itself in charges of corruption and weak governance.
  • The success of AAP in Punjab will be a major setback in Indian politics.
  • The recent demonetization policy of the Modi government became a hot debate in Indian politics. The withdrawal of bank notes led to a short-term disruption in India’s economy. While it created a cash crunch, the time spent in queuing up outside banks negatively affected general productivity. The opposition parties staged nationwide strike against the demonetization drive. A united opposition also attacked the centre in the Indian Parliament on poor implementation of demonetization.
  • Since the polls have come on the heels of demonetization, that is set to be a major theme. The poll results in UP will be a key indicator for the 2019 general elections on how people would view Modi’s drive against black money. Despite BJP’s this issue, its President, Amit Shah has set high targets for himself and his party for winning the state assembly election in UP.
  • Since UP’s ruling Samajwadi Party is embroiled in a family feud, the BJP believes that its vote share has increased after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetization announcement. Winning the 2017 elections in six states by the BJP will lay the foundation for its success in 2019 Lok Sabha elections under Modi’s leadership.
  • However, the note ban will continue to remain the primary topic of political discussion in 2017, at least in the first half of the year when its impact on Indian economy is being weighed and scrutinized. And this issue will also dictate how the Indian political landscape shapes up this year.
  • Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal have alleged that the note ban, which flushed banks with unprecedented deposits was done to help out big corporations which are reeling under heavy debts.
  • Indian politics still revolves around India-Pakistan rivalry. India has not responded to Pakistan with maturity. During election campaigns in India, politicians use negative slogans about Pakistan to win votes.
  • State elections in India are held after every few months and by propagating anti-Pakistan sentiment political parties in India assume that they can make massive strides in elections and can garner votes. Such propagation proves to be the biggest obstacle in improving Pakistan-India relations. Many politicians in India believe that if they criticize Pakistan, they will get more votes.
  • Hence, India’s state elections held after every few months are also a hurdle for both countries to overcome their longstanding enmity. There is no political party or leader in India who believes in developing regional cooperation with Pakistan.This particular attitude of Indian politicians has become a reason for worsening relations between Pakistan and India, although Pakistani politicians and related institutions want to improve relations with India.

Conclusion: Indian government has already witnessed the public sentiment about its controversial banknote policy last year. Now, upcoming state elections will give citizens a chance to grade Modi’s leadership based on this issue. Results of UP elections will definitely impact the national politics in India during general elections scheduled to be held in 2019.

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