As the first phase of Uttar Pradesh election kicked off in the crucial 58 of 403 assembly constituencies spread in 11 districts of western part of the state on Thursday, 60% voters exercised their franchise. Among the 58 seats which went to polls on February 10, BJP had won 53 seats in 2017.
However, unlike the past few elections BJP is facing a tough battle this time in the western UP due to the anger of the farming community which forms a major chunk of the region’s population. The peasants of Western UP were on forefront in last year’s agitation against three farm laws, which was later revoked.
Moreover, Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal which claims to represent Jats– a dominant peasant caste of the region — formed an alliance with Samajwadi Party (SP).
The Akhilesh Yadav led SP is hoping that the coming of Jats to its fold will turn the table in its favor. Political observers are also of the view the alliance is giving SP-RLD the decisive edge over BJP in the first round. Thus, BJP will try to minimize the losses in this round to keep its chances of returning to Lucknow alive.
The BJP strategy is to cash in on the 2013 Muzaffarnagar (which is a district of western UP) communal riots that happened during the SP government. Since Muslims are expected to vote for SP, polarization of votes on religious lines will go in favor of BJP as in that case a significant number of Jats will stay away from voting to SP-RLD alliance.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party tried getting maximum benefit from the caste alignment. They focused on the farmers issue and highlighted the failures of Yogi Aditayanath government such as mismanagement during COVID 19, rampant Unemployment and inflation.
The Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have stakes over 20 seats in the western Uttar Pradesh where they can influence the election result. The Congress led by Priyanka Gandhi has introduced a gender based ticket distribution by giving 40% reservation to women. Besides, BSP supremo Mayawati, who maintained 20% vote despite losing elections for consistently four terms has much to prove.