The Assembly Elections officially started today, February 10, with 11 districts going to polls in Phase 1. Starting from Western Uttar Pradesh, some of the districts in the list are Meerut, Muzzaffarnagar, Gautam Buddh Nagar (Noida), Agra, Mathura, Aligarh, Ghaziabad and many others. A total of 58 seats are up for grabs as the general public battle the cold to cast the all-important votes.
The much-anticipated event is taking place in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. All the 403 seats for Uttar Pradesh will be elected within seven voting phases until March 7. Over the years, Uttar Pradesh has been the key battleground in Indian politics. A hotbed of different communities, it is the most sought after as it paves the way for a party's future ahead of the Lok Sabha elections two years later.
Come Assembly Elections, and all eyes are on Uttar Pradesh and what the state has in store for the contesting party. The Hindi heartland is known for communally-sensitive and highly polarised communities located in the Western part. Therefore, this region is known to be a stronghold, making the first phase crucial.
The Agrarian 'Jat' Belt- Farmers' Issues
While the Central Government took down the contentious Farm Laws, the issue is expected to play an integral role in determining the political future. In the past year, districts like Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat contributed to the agrarian agitation. With the laws taken back, the ruling BJP did get some respite, but there is still work.
Farmer leader Dharmendra Malik told the Hindustan Times that the odds might not all be Yogi Adityanath's favour. He explains, "Many pro-BJP voters seem to have turned against it in the region, especially in the rural areas. The year-long farmers' movement played a significant role to bring about the shift in opinion." The farmers' protest garnered a lot of attention, and their distress has helped the community become more aware of their votes. Apart from the issue surrounding Minimum Selling Price (MSP), the electoral topics include inflation, stray cattle problem, sugarcane dues and many others.
Another aspect is the anti-incumbent challenge posted by the Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal (SP-RLD) alliance that is gaining momentum in the area. However, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson, Rakesh Tikait, has denied support to any political party.
Uttar Pradesh and identity politics go hand-in-hand. Polarisation has been the course of action when it comes to political parties vying for the attention of specific communities. The Ram Mandir 'promise' fulfilled by the BJP further vows to continue the same in Varanasi and Mathura.
Along with them, the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 have made an unfortunate comeback. The BJP and the SP-RLD alliance are bringing up the issue in their rallies. The former played this card in the Assembly Elections 2017 that made them victorious. With Akhilesh Yadav fighting fiercely, it was a matter of time when Yogi Adityanath brought out the big guns in the polarised state.
Over the years, religion has been the BJP's trump card that they have gone back to time and time again. Despite this, it will not be easy for the party to snatch another landslide victory. In 2017, the Jat community were responsible for the party's victory in Uttar Pradesh. This time, disillusionment is evident when the farm laws come into existence. During the protests, communal harmony was the order of the day s Jats, and Muslims came together to fight the common enemy.
Therefore, the current dynamics will lead to a nail-biting finish in the elections. Only the results will tell if religion influenced the voters, or will it be back to focus on the daily needs put on the back burner some time ago.
Also Read: '80 vs 20' Is A Reality Of Uttar Pradesh Elections: CM Yogi Adityanath