Ring in the old, ring in the new… It is a pacy beginning to 2012 with five states–Punjab, Manipur, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh–going to the polls in the first quarter. It has been interesting to watch political alignments and shifts and methods of wooing voters, especially in the most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.  Keeping with the times, politicians have started using the social media to give their message to the voters. Facebook and Twitter are flooded with messages. As always there have been lavish promises of job quotas, loan waivers and development to entice the elector.

Also interesting has been a change in the political scenario in UP. Like a lot of corporate and royal families, politics has become an heirloom, passed from generation to generation.  In this changing landscape, we saw the Yadav scion, Akhilesh, pushing his Samajwadi Party workers to defeat the Dalit queen, Mayawati. The Gandhi brother-sister duo, Rahul and Priyanka, once again came together to strengthen the Congress base in the State. And a storm blew up in the BJP when Pankaj, son of senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister of UP Rajnath Singh, was promoted as the seventh general secretary of the UP unit of the party. Amongst the major party leaders, only Chief Minister Mayawati has not added an heir to this political whirlwind. Her party has probably not sensed the public mood and shown a young face or used the social media extensively to attract the voter.

Traditionally the road to Delhi has been through UP and the 2012 Assembly poll in the State is not going to be any different. Observers say a lot is being prepared for Lok Sabha elections 2014. If the Congress manages to get a stronger vote bank, it may help establish the credentials of the suave Gandhi and make him a stronger prime ministerial candidate and head of the party. Early UP elections may increase the chance for the Congress adding to its tally in the Rajya Sabha and the BSP remaining status quo or even getting less. If the SP gains political power, the Yadavs will once again establish their reign in UP. Rajnath Singh is back in the ring with his offer of socio-economic progress to all, irrespective of their caste, creed and colour.

Like Bihar, the results of battleground UP may be decided by the minorities, especially the crucial Muslim voter. As the Congress and smaller outfits like the Peace Party gain ground, alliances could be in the offing. But there might be a surprise from the sidelined BJP. This surprise factor came out in a poll conducted on this magazine’s website www.bureaucracytoday.com. The poll was to know how the participants were responding to a mood for change in government. The choice was between the BSP, SP, Congress and BJP. At the beginning of January, the visitors preferred the current BSP regime. As the month progressed, the SP went to the number one position and the BJP was edging closer to the Congress. By month-end, the BJP came to the third position and was close on the heels of the BSP, leaving the Congress at the bottom. The gap between the BJP and the BSP became narrower, with the former getting 22.99 per cent response and the latter 26.44 per cent.

So who will be the next CM of UP? Expect the unexpected as the gates to the UP arena open this February.

By Suhaib Ilyasi

Bureaucracy Today