Narendra Modi’s rally in Lucknow today drew an unprecedented response. The road to Delhi is via Uttar Pradesh. It is the largest state in the country, sending eighty members to the Lok Sabha. In the 1990s when the BJP gained strength Uttar Pradesh held the key. In 1991 General Elections the BJP won 52 out of 85 constituencies in the undivided UP. In 1996 the figure increased to 58 (+2 for the allies) and in 1998 it was 50. Since then the BJP’s strength had consistently declined. The BJP got 29 seats in the Lok Sabha in 1999. In 2004 and 2009 it was a paltry figure of ten. If the BJP is to form a government in Delhi it has to attain the strength of the early 1990s. Will that be possible?
The electoral contest in Uttar Pradesh is predominantly between the BJP, SP and the BSP. The Congress in 2009 returned with a surprise figure of 22 wins. Current indications are that it is being marginalized. The Aam Aadmi Party is generating news and catching attention. It is unlikely to have a significant electoral impact in U.P.
The BSP and the SP have a questionable track record of governance. The Samajwadi party’s governance is disastrous. When it is in power the law and order of UP collapses. The social and communal tensions have increased. Uttar Pradesh has seen innumerable communal riots. BSP’s track record was extortionist. It ran a despotic regime. Both these parties in the last 10 years are responsible for keeping the UPA in power. Their strategy In supporting the UPA was reciprocal. The quid pro quo was to get support from a pliable CBI for the cases of corruption pending against the leaders of these two parties.
There is a visible change in the popular mood of Uttar Pradesh. Caste polarizations are taking a back seat. The impact of these social polarizations will be relatively lesser though not entirely eliminated. The eight rallies which Narendra Modi addressed have drawn an unprecedented response. The issue in Uttar Pradesh today is governance. The desire for aspirational politics is now visible in UP. There is a complete change in the ground chemistry of Uttar Pradesh politics. When Modi finished his speech by reciting a Prasoon Joshi poetry today I was reminded of the election rallies of 1977 General Elections where speakers would conclude by reciting Dinkar ji’s famous lines “Singhasan khali karo Janata aati hai”.