Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populated state with the largest state assembly (403 members) is currently in the midst of its general election.
With the federal government besieged by a raft of allegations, with the threat of midterm elections a distinct possibility, the UP elections are considered the semi-finals of the national election due in 2014.
Uttar Pradesh, which has given India eight prime ministers, has 125 million registered voters, who voted the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) led by Mayawati to rule with an absolute majority in 2007, based on a successful alliance it formed with Backward castes and Brahmins.
It was the first time in more than two decades that the state had a stable government for five years. Mayawati’s regime has seen improvement in the law and order but the opposition parties have enough ammunition to target her and her ministerial colleagues and officials.
Corruption charges are surfacing, while economic development has lagged behind. Statutes of the chief minister have been erected throughout the state at tremendous cost to the taxpayer. The electorate has not lost sight of such wasteful expenditure and extravagance.
The Congress party has been out of power in the state for the past 22 years and is putting up a tough fight this time. Buoyed by its success in the 2009 parliamentary elections in which the Congress Party won 22 seats, general secretary Rahul Gandhi is seeking votes on the plank of development.
With many in the political circles anointing him as the next Prime Minister of India, these elections will be a litmus test for him as a politician.
But the virtual absence of the organisation at the grass root level would be a deterrent to the Party.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) led by former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav is also seeking to reclaim the seat of power.
Its last regime was marred by proven and unproven allegations of corruption and lawlessness. Changing with the times has been a major focus of the party’s campaign led by Akhilesh, son of Mr Yadav.
The Australia-educated young man is seen as the softer, polite and savvy personality of the party.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) realises the importance of these elections as a springboard for 2014 elections, since its performance in the UP state elections have always influenced its fortunes in the parliamentary polling.
But since the retirement of its former Prime Minister and post the retirement of its tallest leader and former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and former state chief minister Kalyan Singh, the party is bereft of leaders to reclaim the lost ground. The party’s leadership is hopeful that the anti-incumbency factor would work in the UP state elections this year and in the general election in 2014.
The onus lies with the people of the state to rise above parochial voting patterns based on caste and creed, and choose a stable government, which would work for the common good.
The first three stages of polling have shown a high voter turnout; always a good sign in a thriving democracy.
March 6 would be the day of judgement, when the results are declared.