18 Feb 2002
By Javed M. Ansari
LUCKNOW, FEB. 17. As the campaign for the second phase of Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections came to an end, there were no clear winners in sight. This is despite the bold claims of runaway victories made by some political parties. The final round is scheduled for February 21, and it would take a very brave man to predict the final outcome.
Political pundits in the State capital, and highly- placed intelligence sources alike, believe that this election, unlike the previous ones, is too close a contest. It is unique in many ways, there are nearly a 100 seats which could go either way, says a senior member of the State's administration.
According to political observers, one of the main reasons for the present situation is the high level of disillusionment among the people with political parties. The State is in a morass, and none of the parties has demonstrated the ability to arrest the decline. The BJP promised to be different, but it was as bad if not worse than the others, says a retired government servant. The political impulses of voters appear to be guided largely by their caste predilections, as a result most political parties have become limited in their appeal and reach.
The current uncertainty also appears to be a result of the absence of any major issue that would charge up. The incumbency factor, evident in most of the other States, does not carry the same effect here because the BJP's main challengers, namely the SP and the BSP, have no track records of having done any better when they were in power. The Congress could have taken advantage of this situation, but it is not in the reckoning of government formation.
Even the VHP temple deadline does not appear to have charged up people. The issue does not have the same political appeal as it had earlier. People realise that it is being done to help a political party, says a former Advocate-General of the State.
For the BJP, which clearly seemed headed downhill, the Rajnath Singh factor could appear to be a saving grace. The BJP Chief Minister stands out from among the other claimants to the post of the chief ministership.
Cong. lacks coordination
The Congress' fight to regain lost ground in the State appears to be mired in confusion and a lack of coordination. The momentum built up by its early exertions through the `parivartan yatras' were frittered away by faulty ticket distribution. The party had banked heavily on Brahmins deserting the BJP and Muslims gravitating to it in great numbers.
Brahmins appear to have stuck with the BJP, as a result of which Muslims have supported the Congress only in areas where it is in the fight.
The Congress' campaign in the State did not really take off. The party president, Sonia Gandhi, had to divide time among Punjab, Manipur and Uttaranchal, and could address only a dozen meetings in Uttar Pradesh. Conspicuously, she skipped Lucknow and addressed only one meeting in Amethi.
Those charged with the responsibility of coordination, and planning in the UPCC appeared more keen on settling personal scores. Apart from the meetings addressed by Mrs. Gandhi, the campaign appeared chaotic. The campaign suffered from bad planning and mismanagement. Motilal Vora had to cool his heels for a day in Kanpur as the local unit did not have prior information about his programme. A similar fate awaited Arjun Singh in one of the constituencies in Lucknow, while Salman Khursheed was left to arrange his own transport.
As the campaign came to a stop around Lucknow for the second phase, most parties tried to end it with a bang, putting up a big show in the State capital.