Demonetisation can help Akhilesh give BJP a run for its money in UP

If people still have to stand in long queues without getting the bare minimum, the voter may see the UP CM as a ray of hope.

 |  4-minute read |   14-12-2016

Pangs of cash crunch notwithstanding, demonetisation may eventually prove to be a political boon for Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, who was otherwise as rattled by prime minister's Narendra Modi's move as his other rivals.

While everyone may be bearing the brunt of the currency shortage, what it may arrest significantly is the drift of the Muslim vote from Samajwadi Party.

Until a month back, a shift of the Muslim vote, which forms nearly 19 per cent of the UP electorate, seemed imminent as a direct fallout of the unabated feud in the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP).

Apart from anti-incumbency, Samajwadi Party was clearly losing out on the Muslim vote owing to the blatantly sharp divide in the ruling Yadav clan, which had rendered it "weak".

When the message that a "weak" SP is in no position to combat the BJP starts doing the rounds, Muslims are bound to switch loyalties to an outfit that could take on the saffron brigade.

None other than the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) seemed to fit the bill at that point of time.

After all, it is no secret that the BSP has always enjoyed the towering advantage of a massive, committed vote bank that none of its rivals can boast of. Thus, even a shift of 50-60 per cent Muslim votes from the SP could make all the difference.

Sure enough, Mayawati left no stone unturned to exploit the situation. She made it a point to repeatedly remind the Muslim electorate of how their precious votes would be rendered "wasted" by the SP.

akhilesh-demoo_121416043456.jpg If the currency flow improves over the next one month and things ease out for the common man, it may be a win-win for Modi. Credit: Reuters

"With the Yadav family a divided house, you can be rest assured that your vote will get wasted - whether you vote for Akhilesh's nominee or that of his uncle Shivpal Yadav's. The warring leaders of the ruling SP will make it a point to run each other down, so your vote is bound to be wasted in the bargain," Mayawati would declare at all her rallies and press meets.

Needless to say, demonetisation had affected all such political players. But that it seemed to have hit the BSP harder than the others was spelt out in Mayawati's oft-repeated manifestations following the November 8 declaration by Narendra Modi.

When the BSP supremo read out a bulletin attacking the PM on demonetisation virtually every day, she publicly displayed how rattled she was on account of the move.

A weak BSP was unlikely to attract the same number of Muslim votes as earlier when the SP was seen as the weaker contender among the two.

On the other hand, some damage control was being carried out by the entire Yadav clan. SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief minister Akhilesh as well as his otherwise warring uncles Ram Gopal Yadav as well as Shivpal Yadav were busy impressing upon all and sundry that they had now mended their fences and all was now well within the ruling clan.

The idea behind this displayed bonhomie was to disprove Mayawati's well-orchestrated campaign to label the SP a "divided house" and, therefore, a "weak" party.

This surely helped prompt Muslims to do some re-thinking on switching loyalties to the BSP, especially in the light of Mayawati making her "weakness" apparent.

Even as the Congress had been eyeing the Muslim votes, without which its revival seemed unlikely, the party leadership had, so far, failed to establish itself as a potentially meaningful player in the 2017 elections. As such, it did not appear to be in any position to attract a sizeable chunk of the floating Muslim vote.

Before demonetisation was announced, a portion of the Muslim votes appeared to be moving towards the BSP, which was seen as the only political outfit with the desired potential to combat the BJP.

However, a month down the line, apart from Mayawati appearing to be completely rattled by the announcement, it was also the Muslim aversion to Modi and his policies that appeared to be compelling the community to once again fall back on "Maulana" Mulayam and his Samajwadi Party.

Son Akhilesh's appeal and the more recent success of his "dream" projects like the Lucknow metro-rail and the Lucknow-Agra expressway - as well as the implementation of several welfare schemes - also contributed in re-building the lost credibility of his government and party.

So, it could be Akhilesh Yadav leading the SP to give Modi's BJP a run for its money at the 2017 Assembly election. A lot would but, of course, depend on how demonetisation plays out for BJP in the days to come. 

If people still have to stand in long queues without getting the bare minimum, the voter may see Akhilesh as a ray of hope. But if the currency flow improves over the next one month and things ease out for the common man, it may be a win-win for Modi.

Yet, there could be no denying that SP's Muslim support base is now unlikely to get eroded, albeit by default, since none of its rivals could rise to the occasion to attract the minority community's votes.

Writer

Sharat Pradhan Sharat Pradhan @sharatpradhan21

The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst based in Lucknow.

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