This time, however, UP is devoid of any election fever. The buzz is missing even in state capital Lucknow.
During previous elections, Lucknowites could be seen huddled outside paan or tea stalls, discussing the political fortunes of those in the fray. These small groups are back at their old haunts, but politics is not the topic of discussion.
Taxi driver Ram Lakhan seems uninterested when you ask him about the ‘political scene’. "Is baar kuch bujhait nahi hai. Koi mahaul nahi hai (This time around nothing could be forecast. There is no election fever).”
Newspaper hawker Suraj blames the ongoing feud in the Samajwadi Party. “You keep flipping channels, but the fight in one family is the only news. Lucknowites are fed up… There seems to be no other issue this election," he says.
Many echo Suraj’s opinion but Rajmani, who works at Charans Hotel on the Vidhan Sabha Road, believes political parties are also to blame. "The election dates have been announced. There is hardly a month left for polls, but people are not even aware of candidates in their constituencies. So, what should we discuss about? I have never seen such an approach…”
Not just voters, the lack of excitement is palpable even among party workers. Though the BJP’s state office looks like its most active war-room, lower-level party workers admit they are focussing on a solid pre-poll organisation structure right to the booth level.
The party is going big with demonetisation, surgical strikes and its anti-dynastic politics approach. A worker, however, says the party is facing a “peculiar situation”. “We have sharpened our weapons, but are still unaware of their (BSP and SP) game plan. In a war, it is very important to counter the enemy's strategy. That is missing mainly due to the drama in the Samajwadi Party.”
It is, however, the Congressmen who form the most confused lot. One party worker points to a blue BMW car and says Adwait Vikram Singh is behind the wheels. He was driving into the Congress office. His name recently figured in Steve Jarding's purported e-mail, which allegedly mentions faking a split in the party to shore up Akhilesh Yadav’s image.
Another young Congress worker points to the party's hoarding and says, “Hum ‘27 saal UP behal (dishevelled)’ chala rahe the. Ab ghataa ke ‘dhai saal Center se UP behal’ karna padega. (We had been banking on the slogan ‘27 saal UP behal’, now it seems we will have to change it to ‘2.5 saal Center se UP behal’).” He was apparently referring to the possible alliance between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.
The place that wears the most deserted look is the BSP office. No one, except the security men, is visible in front of the palatial office. A vendor who had been selling party flags during elections for the last two decades has also closed down his tented shop.
“No one is here to buy party flags and symbols. So he decided to shut shop. Earlier, Behenji (Mayawati) used to stay here during elections, but there is no sign of her till now. She is happy in Delhi,” says a shopkeeper nearby.
On January 15, BSP supremo Mayawati is celebrating her 61st birthday, albeit in a simple way as the Model Code of Conduct is in force. For now, the election buzz will likely get more space on social media as the BSP plans to launch its digital campaign ‘Behenji ko aane do’ on Mayawati’s birthday.
The election fever is likely to gain momentum in a couple of days. The Election Commission will deliver a verdict on the Samajwadi Party symbol feud on January 16. On the same day, the BJP is set to announce its first list of candidates in the state. With the nomination for the first phase of polling on January 17, the state is likely to finally flaunt political hues.