The mother of all elections since the 2009 parliamentary battle
starts in Uttar Pradesh Wednesday, with the outcome bound to cast
a long shadow on national politics. After this first phase of
polls, the fate of 109 Muslim candidates will be saved in the
electronic voting machines.
Although only one of five states going to the polls in
February-March, the fight for Uttar Pradesh's 403-seat assembly
has overshadowed the entire staggered balloting.
The run up to the crucial state
elections saw a strong tug-of-war to grab Muslim votes by
Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Congress - the
three major players in the state. As a result there are a total
109 Muslim candidates in the fray for the 55 seats which will go
to the polls February 08 in the first phase.
About half of these 109 Muslim
candidates are from three major parties. While Samajwadi Party
(SP) has fielded 28 Muslims for 1st Phase, ruling Bahujan Samaj
Party (BSP) has given 18 tickets and Congress 12.
Among others, Peace Party has 10
Muslim candidates for this phase while Rashtriya Ulama Council has
fielded 5. Muslims fighting as Independent candidates are 24. Rest
are from smaller parties like RPI, NCP, JD (U), Communist Parties
Among the 109 Muslim candidates,
Saiyada Khatoon is the only lady candidate. She is contesting
Doomariyaganj seat in Siddharthnagar district on Bahujan Samaj
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which
is hoping that a split in Muslim votes due to overwhelming number
of candidates from the community in the fray has not fielded any
Muslim candidate in the first phase.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari has called
the Uttar Pradesh election a "semi-final" ahead of the 2014 Lok
With Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati
facing a splintered but aggressive opposition, most pundits fear a
split verdict -- and a possible coalition government.
Similar fears in 2007, however, were unfounded, with Mayawati
pulling off a veritable coup: she led the BSP to an outright win.
On Wednesday, 55 of the 403 assembly constituencies will see
polling in the first phase, with 1.70 crore people eligible to
The areas which will see balloting include Pilibhit, Lakhimpur
Kheri, Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Siddharth Nagar,
Maharajganj and Kushinagar along the Nepal border.
The rest of the sprawling state, India's most populous, will go to
the polls over six more rounds, the process ending March 3. The
votes will be counted March 6.
Although a state election, the Uttar Pradesh battle is vital for
every major political party, in particular the scandal-hit
Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
A poor showing by the Congress will weaken it nationally and trip
its general secretary Rahul Gandhi, who has been leading a
spirited campaign across the length and breadth of the state.
He has aggressively taken on every other player -- BJP, Mayawati
and her BSP and the Samajwadi Party -- in a desperate bid to raise
the fortunes of the Congress that has been out of power in the
state since 1989.
The Samajwadi Party is widely considered the biggest challenger to
the BSP with the potential to emerge on top in the event of a
The BJP, whose national growth coincided with its spread in Uttar
Pradesh from the 1980s, has unleashed all its leaders in the state
barring Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Pundits admit that Mayawati's Dalit vote base remains as cemented
as ever but it will be a miracle if she wins on her own again.
A latest opinion poll has said that the Samajwadi Party was likely
to win 130-170 seats and finish on top of a hung 403-member house.
The BSP may finish with 65-105 seats, far below what it won in
2007, said the survey posted www.LensOnElections.com
The BJP and the Congress would be at number three and four place,
winning 70-85 seats (BJP) and 55-70 seats (Congress).
Congress ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) could win 15-20 seats, it
The realignment of constituencies has made poll predictions
difficult. Adding to the complexity in the state is the entry of
the largely Muslim Peace Party that has fielded a large number of