India Today - - UP FRONT -

may con­vince vot­ers that the party’s as­so­ci­a­tion with crim­i­nals has been re­placed by a fo­cus on progress.

Un­of­fi­cially, and de­spite the re­cent Supreme Court rul­ing, the UP elec­tion will be fought on the old bat­tle­ground of com­mu­nal ten­sion and iden­tity pol­i­tics. Re­li­gious vote-catch­ers loom large on each side. Azam Khan, a mas­ter of get­ting out the Mus­lim vote, has been given a ticket by Akhilesh, as has Khan’s son. The BJP’s most bold­face cam­paign­ers in­clude Yogi Adityanath, San­jeev Baliyan, Sangeet Som and Suresh Rana. The lat­ter three are in­fa­mous for their al­leged roles in in­cit­ing the 2013 Muzaffarnagar ri­ots. A BJP leader who pre­ferred to re­main anony­mous says, “Cow slaugh­ter, love je­had, the par­ti­san be­hav­iour of UP police in favour of Mus­lims, and the SP’s ‘goonda raj’ will be ma­jor is­sues.” Sources close to Amit Shah say that “when the SP is play­ing the Mus­lim card be­hind the scenes and Mus­lim lead­er­ship openly talks about ‘tac­ti­cal vot­ing’, there is no al­ter­na­tive for us but to turn to Hin­dutva, based on spe­cific is­sues”.

Party in­sid­ers are con­cerned that the BJP has yet to put for­ward a chief min­is­te­rial can­di­date. Four can­di­dates have come to the fore: Ke­shav Prasad Mau­rya, the party’s state pres­i­dent; Manoj Sinha, the cur­rent com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter; Yogi Adityanath and Ra­j­nath Singh, the home min­is­ter. Adityanath and Ra­j­nath Singh are the most im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able. But Adityanath is a po­lar­is­ing fig­ure and was re­cently re­ported to have dra­mat­i­cally walked out of a na­tional executive meet­ing in Delhi.

Given the mar­gin of the BJP’s 2014 gen­eral elec­tion tri­umph in UP, its po­si­tion is strong. But de­spite the lip ser­vice to ‘good gov­er­nance’, it re­lies heav­ily on the prime min­is­ter’s pop­u­lar­ity and Hin­dutva. Faced with a rein­vig­o­rated SP and Congress al­liance, the stakes are high, and the path to vic­tory, tor­tu­ous.

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