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Why It's So Difficult to Gauge Public Mood in Uttar Pradesh

Conversations with voters do reveal a certain change seeping in, community equations being breached in some areas and caste identity gaining ground in some others.

Pranshu Mishra | CNN-News18

Updated:March 7, 2017, 8:21 PM IST
Why It's So Difficult to Gauge Public Mood in Uttar Pradesh
File image (Reuters)

Lucknow: The high-decibel campaigning for Uttar Pradesh elections has ended after almost a month. But political pundits are still uncertain about which way the public sentiment rests.‎

So why exactly is this election outcome so difficult to predict? Not only difficult, it is also risky to predict.

Conversations with voters do reveal a certain change seeping in, community equations being breached in some areas and caste identity gaining ground in some others. It also indicates that the urban middle class is not impressed by PM Narendra Modi’s massive show of strength in Varanasi, and that core BSP supporters from the Jatav-Dalit community are now inclined towards the BJP.

These observations may be not be reflective of the larger electorate, but they do indicate that voting in the state is not limited to caste and religious identities. Parties may be try to fortify their vote-bank by alluding to its caste and religious identity, but UP is witnessing a social churning, which may result in a surprising verdict on March 11.

ALSO READ: Grand Finale to UP Polls on Wednesday With 7th Phase Voting

This writer met a family of poor Dalits from a village in Chandauli. They are Jatavs. Same caste as BSP chief Mayawati. They surprised this writer they said that they 'will vote for BJP'. Shifting of non-Jatav Dalits towards other parties, including BJP, is not a surprising phenomenon. But crack in core Jatav Dalit vote is surprising. On being asked why will they vote for BJP, the women in the group said: "We got LPG connection through Ujjawala yojna." Is this breach small or is it widening.

A casual interaction with a middle class urban couple again springs surprise. Unlike many others who seem to have been impressed by brand Modi, this couple is not amused. The husband voted for Modi in 2014, but says will go with Akhilesh this time. He is a Baniya by caste and buisnessman by profession. On being probed further, he said: "Election is for UP, for my MLA. My preference will be one who can assure us basic civic ammenitites. I Think Akhilesh deserves a second Chance."

‎A tea stall owner in Varanasi who voted for BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will vote for SP this time round. They are Yadavs by caste. Their caste identity did not stop them for voting for BJP earlier but it's back to dominate their choice now.

ALSO READ: To Break Caste Frontier, Modi's BJP Hones a New Class of Its Own

In Maharajganj, a group of Muslim men at a tea stall are seen discussing politics. In Principle, they support Samajwadi Party, but suggest will vote for an independent this time around.

A group of waiters at a Hotel in Allahabad complained that demonetisation was a troubling period for them as salaries got delayed and even tips dried up. But then it's not a reason strong enough to put them against BJP. Why is it so? This group believes that demonetisation was with good intention, but execution was poor. They say their support will go to the BJP. Barring one, all these men are from non-Yadav backward castes.

In Ghosi, Azamgarh, it's the Mukhtar Ansari factor which is of interest in this part of East UP. Can it swing the community vote in favour of BSP or SP's Minority connect still holds ground? A casual off camera interaction with weavers from the community ‎indicates disillusionment with SP. Basic infrastructure issues like better power supply to region is recognised but then alleged insult to Ansaris seem to be a biger issue. BSP's Ansari card can reap some gains in this region of Mau, Gajiupr and Azamgarh.

For those of us who believe in the 'Brand Value' phenomeon in politics, the eye opener comes from Rudrapur. An interaction with a group of young ones, playing cricket at the same ground where Rahul Gandhi held his first Khat sabha, the pouring sense was to elect someone who can further improve the infrastructure in the area. Congress's incumbent MLA from here seems to have retained faith of the people, not because of alliance impact but on a personal level. Can Brand Modi be a bigger impact here? Wait for March 11th to find that.

| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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