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India: Power Tussle in India’s Most Populous State and a Road to National Politics

Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populous state and has always been considered the turning point for national politics. The main reason why Uttar Pradesh is considered the battleground for both state and national politics is mainly due to the large electoral influence it enjoys as compared to other states. Out of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament), Uttar Pradesh accounts for 80 seats, which are monumental in winning the general election. Since the next Lok Sabha elections are scheduled to take place in the second quarter of 2024, the state elections become a necessary stepping stone for the Modi-led government to prove their mantle, which lays the groundwork and indicates the mood of the nation in totality.

In 2014, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which comprises of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties, won 336 seats and came out as a clear winner. After the 5 year cycle, the NDA alliance proved itself again by extending the seats to 353. The same trend trickled down to the states where the BJP won in major Hindi heartland states in the north and also throughout other parts of the country. However, the trend is not only slowing down but also being willfully resisted by regional parties. In the recent state elections, the BJP and its allies weren’t able to make a mark. Whether it’s Kerela or Tamil Nadu in the south or West Bengal in the east. These setbacks even after major campaign rallies by prime minister Modi and other stalwarts of the BJP, clearly show that the exaggerated effort fell short by a highly optimistic margin.

Since it’s well established that Uttar Pradesh paves the way for the Prime Minister, it is all the more important for the chief minister Yogi Adityanath to win. However, in the recent panchayat polls, the BJP only accumulated 900 seats out of the total list of 3,050 candidates, especially for the seats of Ayodhya and Varanasi (the Prime Minister's constituency). Although panchayat elections do not project the expected performance in the state polls, the BJP's proactiveness in the panchayat polls and the lost seats out of the total candidates declared puts them in a precarious position. This has lead to some major speculations, such as the tussle between the top brass in the center (Prime Minister Modi), the Chief Minister and deputy Chief Minister, and also the COVID-19 mishandling by the Uttar Pradesh government.

“In the past 10 days, hundreds of people including two-dozen friends lost their lives due to lack of oxygen. This is the ground reality.” Arvind Giri, BJP MLA from Gola Gokarannath

The BJP's recent "Feedback" drive to gauge the strength before Uttar Pradesh polls also raised concerns over Yogi's handling of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to that, in January, over 100 Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA's (Member of the Legislative Assembly) questioned Chief Minister Yogi's claims on ‘zero-tolerance against corruption’ and questioned the attitude of police under his regime.

The BJP's top leader and RSS (ideological front) have sprung up in action to set the record right. Back-to-back meetings, policy analysis, and a plan to bring all local party leaders on the same page are a few of the agendas the party is pushing.

The oppositional parties, namely Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, and Congress have a void to fill. However, none of the parties look zealous enough to cash on the pandemic mishandling, anti-incumbency, and in-party fighting in the Yogi regime. Ahead of the elections, the second strongest party in terms of strength in the legislative assembly, i.e the Samajwadi Party (SP) released its election slogan 'Ab UP Mein Khela Hoi,' which is inspired by Bengal Chief Minister's Mamata Banarjee (Khela Hobe) call to defeat the BJP which evidently was quite a success. But whether it’ll work or not is too early to say.

Written By: Vaibhav Singh

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