The election scenario in the fear-plagued Uttar Pradesh

The ruling Bharatiya Janata party is sanguine that it would bag 300 plus seats out of the 403-seat Uttar Pradesh State assembly. The party’s optimism stems from a number of factors. They include the appeal from sloganeering, ”allure” of freebies, and monopoly of the “fearful Muslim vote bank”.

Surveys reflect that the BJP’s expectations may not be out rightly outlandish; yet, a discernible change in the Congress’s strategy may strengthen their winning tally. It is the nouveau appeal to the women’s vote bank. Emerging coalitions also may alter the scenario. Akhilesh Yadav is forging alliances with smaller parties to widen his support base beyond the Yadavs and the Muslim.

Besides Uttar Pradesh, there are six other Indian states heading for assembly polls soon. They are

Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Goa, Manipur, and Uttarakhand . The BJP is hopeful that if it seeps poll in Uttar Pradesh, stage will be set for its victory in the next general elections.

Why Uttar Pradesh is important

With a population of 204.2 million, Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in the Indian Union. Hindus constitute 79.7 per cent of the state’s population and Muslims 19.3 per cent. Various other communities together account for just about one per cent including Sikhs (0.3), Christians (0.2), Buddhist (0.1), , and  Jains (0.1). The Muslim community numbers over 38, 483,967, the largest among the Indian states. Some self-employed segments of the Muslim population are well off though they are under-represented in government services.

Utter Pradesh is the second most robust economy contributing about eight percent to India’s gross national product. It perennially contributes 12-15 per cent to India’s total pool of manufacturing employment. It outranks the other states as the largest foodgrain-producing state in India.

It is home to several historical and spiritual sites in Ayodhya, Varanasi, Kushinagara, and Agra (the Taj Mahal). About 182.8 million domestic tourists and 2.9 million foreign tourists visit it adding to its revenue each year.

BJP still banks on sloganeering

The BJP  won previous elections riding a wave of slogans and Narendra Modi’s charisma as a strong man who could carry out so called surgical strikes within Pakistan. Or see eye-ball-to-eyeball to China. The BJP banks on the hope that the voter does not measure performance of an incumbent strictly on the basis of scientific parameters.

Is Modi’s magic waning?

At least six BJP’s stalwarts have left the party. But, only the hustings would  tell whether Modi’s magic is waning or not. The last elections were a debacle for the Congress in the UP. Even  Rahul Gandhi lost its citadel, Amethi. Yet, it is wrong to perceive Congress as just a dynasty. It embodies an ideology of secularism socialism and pluralism. It could still throw up a surprise in coming state assembly elections. Several factors account for Congress’s debacle _ less money, poor slogans, weak leaders, infighting, missing alliances, and lacking RSS-like foot soldiers. Modi’s self-image brand prevailed.

The RSS held many conclaves to reach out to intellectuals. Muslim Munch, distributed RSS leaflets. Even after winning the elections, BJP stalwarts visited Madrassa Deoband. Modi captivated popular imagination as a strong leader _ Modi hai to mumkin  hai (If Modiis there, then it’s possible). Modi brazenly bagged credit for all achievements of previous Congress governments. Yet the fact remains that it was Jawaharlal Nehru who abolished the zamindari (feudal) system.  It is Nehru, not Modi, who set up space centre that catapulted India’s ASAT Shakti.

Sloganeering in historical perspective

Since independence, political parties have been alluring the electorate with slogans. They coin slogns without regard for budgetary provisions or impact ofon financial subsidies. Here is a bouquet of slogans: Nehru sloganeered  “aaraam haraam hai” (rest is not kosher), Lal Bahadur Shastri’ “jai jawan jai kisan” (long live farmer, long livesoldier),  Indira Gandhi’s   “garibi hatao” (eradicate poverty),  post- 1977  “Indira hatao, desh bachao” (remove Indira, save the country),  post-Indira-assassination (October  31, 1984) “jab tak suraj-chaand rahega,Indira  tera naam rahega” (till sun and moon shines Indira will live on) , BJP (1996) slogan “sabko dekhabaari-baari, abki baari Atal Bihari” (now it’s Bihari’s turn), BJP(2014)  “achchhe din aane waale  hain” (good days are in the offing), BJP(2019) Modi hai to mumkin  hai (If Modi is there, then it’s possible).

Modi brazenly bags credit for all achievements of previous Congress governments. Yet the fact remains that it was JawaharlalNehru who abolished the zamindari system.  He had the nerve to face the reality that minor kings, riyasats and feudal landlords were still quite influential shortly after independence. It is Nehru, not Modi, who set up space centre that catapulted India’s ASAT Shakti.

The politics of coalition: Wooing Other Backward Classes

Despite defeats in the 2017 and 2019 elections, when Akhilesh Yadav was in alliance with Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party respectively, he continues to remain a force to be reckoned with.

This time, he is creating a formidable coalition by bringing together small caste-based parties from all over Uttar Pradesh. He is keen to shed the baneful image that he is  against non-Yadav Other Backward Classes. Eighty per cent of Yadavs voted for Samajwadi Party Yadavs, but only 18% OBCsvoted for SP.  About  58% OBCs voted for Bharatiya Janata Party. This is why Akhilesh is trying to ally with smaller parties representing non-Yadav OBCs who constitute 35% of the OBC population in Uttar Pradesh.

Akhilesh appears to now realise that elections cannot be won only with support from Muslims and Yadavs. To win, SP needs to increase its vote percentage in the state. When SP came to power in 2012 the party got a 29.7% vote share, while in the 2017 assembly elections the BJP got 40% vote share. Muslims and Yadavs, the core voters of SP lead it to a 24-25% vote share. Earlier the SP used to bank on the local candidates to get additional 7-8% of votes but now even that is not sufficient.


Besides slogans, the parties promise exotic freebies to their electorate. The goodies range from hard cash to electric scooters to mobile phones, laptops, gas cylinders, free electricity, cooking vessels, cycles, mixer-grinders, government jobs, or even gold jewelry for daughters’ marriages.

In the last assembly elections, a offered free robots to homemakers to help them in their domestic chores, three-story houses with a swimming pool for everyone, a mini-helicopter, 100 sovereigns of gold to women for their marriage, a boat for every family, and $50,000 to youths to start business ventures.

The  BJP’s bonanza for UP this season includes a cash transfer of $30 to Indian farmers per month; $800 million to self-help groups empowering women; $15 sent to primary school students’ families for buying school gear, and $30 provided per month to 1 million girls.

Women’s power

Various political parties paid only lip service to women until now. The Congress has now pledged

40% of Congress party’s candidates for women in the the 403-seat state assembly. The congress now draws inspiration from  West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati have wielded considerable power. 

Congress party won just seven seats in the last state polls . The women fielded by Congress party are diverse. Sadaf Jafar, the actress who was jailed for her role in demonstrations against a religion-based citizenship law is now a Congress spokeswoman. Another candidate Poonam Pandey, led a protest for wages by women frontline workers who are helping India to achieve its vaccination targets.

The Congress women have a catchy slogan “I’m a girl and I can fight”, the campaign underscores the growing importance of women voters.

To attract female voters, the Congress has released a separate “women only” manifesto offering smart phones and electric two-wheelers to girls, a rise in the amount of monthly pension for widows/senior citizens as well as free bus travel within the state for them.

Male chauvinist Adityanath and fear raj

The BJP is unruffled by the change in Congress’s strategy. It knows that the Congress lacks the radical infrastructure to communicate its message to the masses. During the 2017 polls in Uttar Pradesh, when the BJP’s Hindu hard line leader Yogi Adityanath swept his party to victory, less than a tenth of the candidates fielded across party lines were women. Even they saw little success with only 39 seats won then.

In 2014 Yogi Adityanath authored an article that affords a peek into dark recesses of his mind. The article is entitled matrushakti bharitiya sanskriti ke sandarbh mein (power of the mother figure in the context of Indian culture).He says, ‘Shastras (scriptures) have talked about giving protection to women. Just like urja (energy) left free and unchecked causes destruction women also do not need independence, they need protection. Their energy should be channelized to be used productively’.  He added, ‘Stree shakti (women power) is protected by the father when a child, by the husband when an adult, and by the son in old age. If the woman adopts the qualities of men, that of bravery (shaurya) or masculinity (purush arth), then she becomes a devil (rakshasa).

Love jihad

In disregard of India’s freedom of Religions Act, Adityanath abhors inter-caste and inter faith marriages. Anti-Romeo squads in connivance with police discourage such marriages. The legislation is used to harass Muslim community and institute false cases against them.

There is a cumbersome procedure to consummate  an inter-faith marriage. The person seeking to It is to be attested by the priest or clergy  performing the conversion. He verifies that the conversion is non-coercive. Most converts are –reconverted through trickery or social pressure. Even so only five percent cases of inter-faith marriage and 95 per cent inter-caste.

Muslim Munch

To avoid persecution, many Muslims join the Muslim Munch, a wing of the RSS. Modi’s government did not rebuke calls for Muslim genocide. In a US Congressional briefing, Gregory Stanton, Genocide Watch president said on January 12, “We are warning that genocide could very well happen in India.” For Stanton, genocide is a ten-stage, non-linear process, which culminates in “extermination and denial”. The Genocide Convention, though, defines it not as a process but as acts “committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. These acts include killing, inflicting bodily harm, or preventing births.

Concluding remark

Some nascent changes in electoral strategies indicate that BJP may find it difficult to realise its talls dream of bagging 300 plus seats in the 403 Uttar Pradesh state assembly.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.