If election is a matter of crude mathematics, all political parties in the fray use all means, including muscle and money power to solve that mathematics in accordance with their capacity and experience. This banality of democracy continues unabated and perhaps, more rudely and brazenly in Uttar Pradesh, which is undergoing last phase of polls. In the name of caste and religion, votes are being sought, even as the Supreme Court and the Election commission have warned political parties to desist from seeking votes by polarizing one caste or the religion against another. This unethical practice did not remain out of bound even in the roadshows that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and duo Akhilesh Yadav-Rahul Gandhi took out in Varanasi on March 4. If media reports were to be believed, Modi’s roadshow conducted first time after he became the Prime Minister, the BJP’s followers were heard shouting “Har, Har Modi, Har, Har Mahadev” slogans. Similarly, in another roadshow that Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi took out a few hours after Modi’s one, there was brazen violation of the Election Commission’s directives on poll codes. While a poster, bearing Akhilesh and Rahul’s pictures, had been put up on a mosque near the Kashi Vishwanath temple, the roadshow displayed some factors of appeal for the minority community. Both alliance partners had also brought in their leaders from the minority community to make the roadshow a successful event in Varanasi, which has a sizable Muslim population.
Roadshows were organized strategically by both the parties; they were conducted in a way that they impact voters participating in election in Mau, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria, Azamgarh and Ballia. As many as 49 seats were at stake in this round of polls in Uttar Pradesh. While the Samajwadi Party contested in 40 seats, the Congress fielded 9 candidates under the alliance. Similarly the BJP fielded 45 candidates, its alliance partner, Apna Dal one and another ally, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party put up as many as three candidates in the sixth round of seven phase polls. Amid this, apparent presence of bitterness in the Samajwadi Party was visible. Despite being ‘Poorvanchal’ area with SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav being a Parliamentarian from Azamgarh, the party lacked enthusiasm among supporters. In fact, the SP patriarch did not address a single rally in Azamgarh, speaking volumes of the party’s internal situation. Still, this phase of election could be remembered for high voltage campaigning in which the BJP, the BSP, the SP-Congress alliance appealed voters in line with their respective poll planks. Roadshows conducted by Modi and SP-Congress alliance, loomed large on the electoral landscape of areas undergoing voting on March 4. Arguments, largely given by opposition parties, were that Modi resorted to mega roadshow as a last-ditch effort to save his party from a major defeat. But the BJP had a different argument to give. The party said Modi undertook roadshow to further galvanise the rank and file of the party towards the victory in the high stake battle of Poorvanchal, where Yogi Adityanath of the BJP and jailed Mukhtar Ansari of the BSP have their own sizable pocket borough.
Bordering Nepal on the one side and Bihar on the other, all seven districts that underwent polls in the 6th phase, have a common characteristics. Despite having large swath of fertile land, this area has, in fact, remained out of developmental arc. As a result, joblessness among youth writ large and so is large migration from seven districts of Mau, Gorakhpur, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Deoria, Azamgarh and Ballia. Those who have occupied seats in Lucknow, have hardly paid attention to the development of the area. It can be assessed from the fact that hardly any of these seven districts has any big factory. Also, there are no quality educational institutes or hospitals in this area. Often critical patients have to be transported to Lucknow or Delhi. The Prime Minister recently laid a foundation for an AIIMS in Gorakhpur. Therefore, development, joblessness and migration were major issue during this phase of the polls.
Around 1.72 crore voters, including 77.84 lakh women participated in the 6th phase of the polls where 635 candidates were in the fray for the 49 assembly seats. It definitely happened to be high stake battle zone. But, instead of going straight to woo voters, each party used all means at their disposal to influence electorate, which is though subject of interpretation. Yet it can’t be put under carpet the very polarizing methods of parties in the fray to win voters along caste, religion and community lines. Despite being fully aware of the fact that democracy sustains in the fair play of franchise, no contesting parties spare any moment to play communal, cast, religion cards. All this happens at the cost of unity of the society. Political parties should think it while conducting roadshows.