By AHAMAD FUWAD
The first phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election will be held on 7 February, kicking off the seven-phase polls in the most populous and crucial state of the country. Early surveys pit the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the Samajwadi Party (SP), with a clear edge to the saffron outfit. The BJP is clearly in a pole position, and it is its election to lose.
The elections are being held in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which, by all independent accounts, the BJP governments at the Centre and in the state, have been a failure. The law and order under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has hardly been an improvement from the previous regimes. The year 2020 recorded highest number of murder and kidnapping cases, and crimes against children and Dalits, as per the NCRB data.
These are only the cases that have found their way to the record books, not to mention various anecdotal evidence proving that it is hard to register FIRs in the state, especially if you are from marginalised communities.
BJP government’s high-handedness in dealing with rape cases, including the forced cremation of a Dalit girl’s body in the dead of the night, only proved the state government’s inability to provide security to women and brush critical issues under the rug.
2022 UP Assembly Elections: Hindutva as Key Poll Plank
Despite failures, there is no visible sentiment of anti-incumbency in Uttar Pradesh against the BJP. A series of ground reports by Scroll’s Arunabh Saikia establishes that despite its poor performance, the BJP in UP has an edge over the Samajwadi Party, its main rival in the state. One of the reasons, according to Saikia’s reports, is a brutal crackdown on criminals from the minority community as over a third of those who died in over 8,000 police encounters were Muslims. The BJP has been able to exploit the religious fault lines in the state.
Ventures such as abrogation of Article 370, construction of Ram Temple, and similar Hindutva planks have helped the BJP burnish its image.