Two events were significant for the future of Uttar Pradesh today. First, the inauguration of UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s dream project Agra-Lucknow Expressway. This is the longest Expressway in the country. The new road will make it possible to reach Lucknow from New Delhi via road in just around six hours. Second, the announcement of a new alliance between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Rashtriya Lok Dal led by Ajit Singh.
In the last few weeks, there were several reports and rumours suggesting that UP may witness a Bihar-like grand alliance.
The reports seemed plausible for several reasons Such as: a) The future of the ruling Samajwadi Party appeared bleak due to the feud for power among members of party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family. b) Growing closeness of now former Congress strategist Prashant Kishor with Samajwadi Party leaders suggested that Bihar-type grand alliance was not impossible. Kishor was the brain behind the Bihar ‘mahagathbandhan’ among JD(U), RJD and Congress that thrashed Amit Shah’s BJP. c) In the wake of surgical strikes against Pakistan terrorists, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personality cult has reached a new high in UP. This also necessitated the coming together of the opposition parties.
However, the events on Monday made all such possibilities futile. And for the good. While Mulayam’s family appeared united for the first time in months during the inauguration of the Expressway, JD(U)-RLD alliance has made the UP election more interesting. RLD has considerable influence in Western UP, while the JD(U) has some supporters in the eastern UP. Uttar Pradesh politics is important for Kumar’s future agenda. However, the alliance could also, in effect, make the upcoming Assembly election in the state a triangular battle.
The BJP would contest as the dominant party, but Akhilesh’s clean image and successes would keep him in the contention for a re-election. The BJP perhaps won’t mind it much if Akhilesh wins again with full majority. A strong performance by the Congress or Mayawati’s BSP may cause some worry to the saffron party, which is likely to get new voters because of the recent demonetisation.
In the wake of the ban on old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, it remains to be seen how Mayawati’s party would perform. In past, she had been accused of taking cash for ticket seekers.
The battlefield in UP is now wide open. To this writer, the real contest appears to be between the BJP and SP’s Akhilesh Yadav.