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Political pundits predict doom for BJP in UP
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

Crucial assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are round the corner and poll fervor is engulfing the whole state. Amid war hysteria and the massive Indo-Pak build-up on the borders, the elections are being given unprecedented importance. It is also being billed as the referendum for the BJP and its alliance government at the centre, though of late the BJP has stopped making any pronouncement of the sort given its pathetic poll prospects.

Elections in the state have acquired unprecedented importance as it is being seen as a referendum for the BJP policies and its performance in the state. The state that sends around 80 parliamentarians to the national Parliament is being taken quite seriously by all the important national parties. Though elections are also being simultaneously held in Manipur, Uttranchal and Punjab as well, stakes are nowhere so high for any party as in this most populous state of the country. All major political parties including the BJP, Congress, Samajwadi Party and the BSP besides small regional parties have deployed their top of the rung leadership to canvass for them in this crucial electoral battle. Anyone who could catch the electorates' attention is being deployed including the stars from tinsel town to pull large number of people in the election rallies. 

For the BJP the stakes are very high as it has been in the power in the state for the last five years. It is also the ruling party in the centre for more than two years. The party has been trying hard through various ways to retain its vote bank. It party has already tested three chief ministers including Rajnath Singh during the last five years and has almost played every card to attract more and more people towards it, though with little success. The chief minister has made host of announcements for almost every segment of the population. He has announced packages for OBCs, Most Backward Castes (MBCs), besides teachers, students and every conceivable section of the state electorate including the Muslims. 

The BJP is also trying to satisfy its cadres by Ram temple by talking in ambiguous manner. It has been simultaneously denying and then admitting that it will include Ram temple issue in its poll manifesto. Its state president Kalraj Mishra has made it known that that issue will appear in its election manifesto. It has devised an elaborate plan to appease the Ram Temple segment too. There are reports that the VHP intends to change its temple construction deadline, by revising the dates for the construction of the temple in Ayodhya. It is due to the fact that the Election Commission announced dates for polls earlier than it was anticipated by the saffron bosses. Earlier the VHP had announced to commence the construction of the temple any day after 12 March. It has now announced that due to the looming war over the Subcontinent it has decided to commence the construction in advance. 

These steps are certainly aimed at increasing the Ram temple fervor when the preparations for assembly elections are on its height. The saffron brigade even eight years after the Babri Masjid demolition is not prepared to give up its most prized weapon and wants to stick to it anyhow. It is notwithstanding the repeated assurances of the BJP leaders including the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of not keeping the Ram temple issue on its election agenda in the assembly polls.

It is also trying every bit to get maximum mileage out of the current stand-off between India and Pakistan. It has been trying hard for quite some time to whip up the national sentiments in the state and turn this nationalistic tide in its favour for political gains. Though it has been denying this allegation levelled against it by all political parties, it has been misusing the current Indo-Pak tension for its political benefit. It has announced its plan to make terrorism its main electoral plank and it has been trying hard to vitiate the atmosphere on the eve of elections in the state. 

These desperate announcements are clear indications that the BJP is struggling with its tarnished image to anyhow win the assembly polls and if not possible, win at least maximum number of seats. The BJP is well versed in the art of engineering defections from different parties and has played this card very often including in UP itself. 

Notwithstanding all its efforts and surcharged environment every political pundit is predicting doom for the saffron party. Political analysts are saying that the BJP has done so miserably in the state during its stint in power that it is next to impossible for it to win even a hundred seats in the state. They say that no section of the populace in the state is satisfied with the functioning and the performance of the BJP government in the state. Several known BJP loyal communities have got disillusioned with the party due to its misgovernance. Vaishyas, Jats, Kurmis and Agrawals have almost got alienated from it and are largely supporting either the Congress or the Samajwadi Party. 

Meanwhile there has been a considerable consolidation of Muslim and backward castes votes behind Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh and the Congress. The rumours doing rounds of an electoral understanding between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party are also turning out to be true. Though officially both the parties are denying that they are in any agreement on seat sharing, but indications clearly show that there is some agreement on quite a few seats between the two parties. It is being seen that the Samajwadi Party has avoided posting strong candidates where the Congress candidate is in a winning position and vise versa. Muhammad Yusuf, the Congress candidate from Meerut when contacted by this correspondent confirms this and says that it had become necessary in the given circumstances. 

There are some strong indications that Muslims too are trying to go for tactical voting. Muslims are going to support the stronger candidates of the two parties. If there is no formidable candidate of the two parties, they will be backing BSP. 

'Muslims for quite some time are trying to go for tactical voting', says Reshma Afroz, chairman, Municipal Board, Rampur. 'This tactical voting gave unprecedented success to Muslim candidates in the local bodies elections in the state last year. At no point of time so many Muslim candidates won elections for chairman of municipal corporation and municipal boards besides other local bodies in the state' says she. 

These elections provide an opportunity for the secular community to throw out the BJP and its misrule enforced on the state through defections and manipulations. The BJP is trying to go for its poll manifesto alone and wants to include all its poll planks in it to forcibly implement them if it comes to power. It is going for separate manifestoes for it and its allies.

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