U.P. is the largest state in India, and so what happens in the forthcoming U.P. Assembly Elections. will be extremely important for the whole of India.
Some Opinion Polls have predicted a BJP victory in the forthcoming U.P. elections. I do not agree.
My own prediction is a clear majority for the Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav, possibly even a two third majority, and the BJP will be routed, getting even less than the BSP seats.
My reasons are as follows :
1. In most states, including U.P., voting is largely on the basis of caste and religion. The exception to this is when there is a wave, e.g. the Modi wave in favour of BJP in the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Presently there is no wave, and so voting will be largely ( over 90% ) on the traditional basis of caste and religion.
Demonetization was perhaps done to create a wave, but it has not succeeded in doing so.In fact it is going to damage the BJP as the common man, small and middle level businessmen, farmers,etc have been hard hit
2. To win an election a candidate has to get over 30% votes. It is not necessary to get 50%
3. The BJPs vote bank is the upper caste Hindus ( i.e. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, etc). These collectively are about 18-20%.It may also get a small section of about 5 or 6% of OBC votes, ( OBCs are not one but several castes ). That may make bring up the figure for BJP to 25 or 26%, which is far less than the minimum of 30% required to win an election. But in fact it will lose at least 5% of its votes because of demonetization. Many jobs have been lost because of demonetization and the common man of all castes and communities was put to great hardship because of this harebrained scheme. Those who thought of making India a digital economy forgot that India is not a developed country like America or Europe, and it is basically a cash economy. So the BJP votes will go down to about 20 or 21%, making it behind even BSP, what to say of SP.
People, especially the youth, voted for BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections because ‘vikas’ suggested that millions of jobs will be created, but far from there being any vikas the Indian economy is stagnant, rather it is in recession ( the Central Statistical Office in its report of 6.1.2017 has admitted that GDP growth has slipped ). So instead of ‘vikas’ creating jobs, Modi’s version of vikas has reduced even the existing number of jobs. .It is estimated that demonetization alone will reduce 4 lac jobs this year.
4. The BSP vote bank are SCs (20% ) and STs ( 2% ) i.e. 22%.
5.The SP vote bank is many of the OBCs, which would be about 20 to 22% ( OBCs are altogether about 30%, but not all of them may go with SP ).
6. Congress has hardly any vote bank presently in U.P.. This situation is very different from that prevailing for a few decades after Independence. At that time the Congress Party used to get the SC votes ( 22%), Muslim votes ( 18% ) and the Brahmin and some other upper caste votes ( about 10 to 12% ). This combination gave it almost 50% of the votes, resulting in landslide victories. But the present position is that the SCs formed their own party, the BSP, Muslims left Congress after demolition of the Babri Masjid and have gone over to SP, and Brahmins and other upper castes have gone over to BJP. So the entire vote bank of Congress is largely lost.
7. The tllting factor are the Muslims, who are about 18 to 19% in U. P. which is a huge block, and if allied unitedly to any of the above 3 parties gives it a decisive victory. Some say that the Muslim votes will be split. I do not think so. The Muslims perceive BJP as their main enemy, and they have been scared by ‘ghar wapasi’, hate speeches, the Ikhlaque murder, the Muzaffarnagar and Ballabhpur incidents, ‘gau rakshaks’ etc. So it is most likely they will vote unitedly to defeat BJP.
8. Earlier I had thought the Muslims might vote for BSP.This was because under the SP govt, the.law and order was bad, and Muslims were aggrieved because of the incidents in Muzaffarnagar, etc
But now after the recent dramatic developments in U.P.and emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as the sole leader of SP it seems clear that the Muslims will vote unitedly for the SP led by Akhilesh, and will not split their votes. This is because.the party under Akhilesh has emerged as a new party, a new SP without the tarnished image of the old. Till now Akhilesh was perceived as a Chief Minister whose hands were tied by his father, uncle, etc. and he was not a free man. But now he is free of those constraints. Moreover, Akhilesh is a young modern minded man ( he has an M.Tech. degree from Australia ) and has a clean image.
Some say that the split in SP will damage the party., but in my opinion it will benefit it. Almost the entire party is with Akhilesh, so there is hardly any split. Also, the party now has a new image, with a young, dynamic leader with a clean image, and free of the party’s constraining elements
10. With its own 20 to 22% OBC vote bank, and with 18 to 19% Muslim votes, the SP will get about 40% votes, which will give SP a clear majority, possibly even a two third majority.
Alliance of SP and Congress is being discussed these days. This will not increase the votes of SP alone much, since Congress has hardly any vote bank ( as mentioned above ). But it may create an impression of a secular ‘gathbandhan’, thus attracting Muslims even more.
(Justice Katju is a renowned former Supreme Court judge and noted commentator on political affairs)