A silent wave is sweeping the Hindi heartland. Despite the brave face, an uneasiness is brewing in dominant regional parties SP and BSP in UP. No one could have predicted that Narendra Modi, the man almost entire political class of the country dismissed as a small regional leader would throw such a challenge in their own backyard.
In my extensive travel across the Hind heartland over past few months and in speaking to people there, the Modi factor is evident. What is surprising is that in the state where traditionally people have voted based on caste equations, they’ve have started talking of development as an agenda for the upcoming 2014 elections. “People talk of development in Gujarat”, says Suresh Pasi, village pradhan from Gohana in Azamgarh. He says “so many people from UP go outside for Jobs. It’d be good if we can get work near our homes.” Something Modi touched upon in Jhansi and Bahraich rallies. A discussion among villagers near primary school in Jogawa village, Mirzapur soon hots up as soon as Modi is mentioned. Shivbaran yadav, accepts they’ve traditionally voted for SP but did not get anything. Most of youngsters go out for studies and Jobs. Poor electricity supply and irrigation woes are perennial problems. He says they’ve heard Modi has done a miracle in Gujarat and they’re thinking about BJP this time. Similar sentiments were echoed in most of the districts of UP. While congress is no longer a force in UP, SP and BSP seem to be losing votes to BJP.
Leadership of Modi and presence of Amit shah seems to have galvanized BJP cadres in UP. BJP was almost a spent force till 7-8 months back. Leaders with bloated egos, inner party rivalries pushed it to the fourth place in last elections. Shah seems to have changed that. Master strategist that shah is, he has avoided public limelight and yet strengthened the party structure. Going by the success of rallies in Kanpur, Jhansi, Bahraich and Agra, he seems to have succeeded to a great extent.
Rise of Modi and declining congress has forced a rethinking in Muslim community. Perplexed and divided, the community is looking for a strong counter to Modi but the absence of a credible alternative isn’t helping. Congress is not strong enough in UP to stop BJP but its the only option at national level. Rahul Gandhi is a damp squib and the perceived pro Muslim utterances of Digvijay Singh et all have failed to impress. BSP has in past joined forces with BJP and would not be averse to doing so in future if it came to that. Hence for Muslims, SP is the only viable option. The recent reports from Muzaffarnagar riots and its aftermath has left a bitter taste for Muslims though. In absence of a Congress BSP coalition in UP, SP will gain Muslim votes by default. however, it doesn’t mean BJP doesn’t have any support. Shia community has in past voted for BJP when Vajpyee was leading and seems they’re gravitating towards BJP once again. Shia leader Kalbe Jawad has already made statements that were taken to be pro Modi. Many in Sunni community are disillusioned as well. Haji Ismail, a hotel owner in posh Hazratganj area of Lucknow says “Muslims have been strategically voting for congress and SP since long and yet they remain poor. Lets us give a chance to Modi”. His employees, all Muslims, seem impressed with Modi’s humble beginnings and his chaiwallah story.
There are numerous stories from UP that defy caste and religious equations. With several rallies planned in UP, Modi is only going to heat up the 2014 battle and charm the UP voters.UP is often called the King maker state and if the indications are anything to go by, then BJP is certainly set for a spectacular rise in fortunes.