Electoral pundits often say that it is Western Uttar Pradesh that actually sets the trend of voting in the state. They appear to be right as around 65 percent voters participated in the first phase of election, held across 73 of the total 403 assembly seats in the state. A total of 839 candidates belonging to the BJP, the BSP, the SP-Congress and the RLD were in the fray. Significantly, the region is dominated by Muslims and Jats and hence, each party tried to play its card to woo them. Incidents like Muzaffarnagar riots weighed heavily among members of the Muslim community of the region. Clash between two communities in 2013 had led to the death of 62 people and injuries of 93 others while displacement of as many as 50,000 residents of the district. Parliamentary elections held soon after the Muzaffarnagar riots saw the BJP sweeping the polls in the Western Uttar Pradesh. The BJP had won all 12 parliamentary seats in the region in the 2014 Lok Sabha. Almost three years since then, embers of discontent and enmity are still burning among members of majority and minority community of the region, but whether they could be as much fractious and polarizing during the assembly polls as seen in the 2014 parliamentary election has been the subject of discussion on television channels and the print media. However, in the 2012 assembly polls, of the 73 seats in Western UP, the SP had won 24, the BSP 23, the BJP 12, the RLD 9 and the Congress 5 seats.
One interesting fact which should not go missing while analyzing the first phase of election in Uttar Pradesh is that the region has a bellwether seat, called Kasganj assembly seat. For 43 years, in each of the 11 assembly elections since 1974, a party which has won this assembly seat has been able to form a government in Uttar Pradesh. The Emergency was imposed, coalition era came and waves of Mandal and Mandir wafted the nation, but Kasganj remained stable. The BSP’s win on this seat in the 2007 assembly election, proved omen for the party as for the first time it was able to form a stable government in the state. In 2012, the SP captured the seat, leading it to form on its own a very stable government. Thereby, everyone’s attention would be on this seat when the election results are declared on March 11.
Whatever one may say about the Western UP, it has been Mayawati’s stronghold. Though her party performed worst in the 2014 parliamentary polls, she has ruled the roost notwithstanding. Her electoral formula based on Dalit and Muslim combination has worked wonder for the party. In the background of appeal by Shahi Imam of Delhi’s famous Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmad Bukhari and popular Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad to Muslims to vote for the BSP during the election, it has to be seen how far their appeal have gone in favour of Mayawati-led party. But it should not be forgotten that Akhilesh remained priority among sizable number of youth belonging to Muslim community. Amid this, how far pitching of Asaduddin Owaisi-led All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen(AIMIM)in the election impacted the electoral chance of the SP and the BSP has to be seen. The AIMIM had fielded 35 seats in the Western UP. Overall, high turnout of voters in the first phase of election in the state, has set the tongue wagging among political watchers and they now say the outcome could be different from pro-Akhilesh narrative.