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In UP they play for a draw

Mumbai (2012-02-20): It is the seventies revisited, when our cricket team would play to draw matches, never even aspiring for a victory. In Uttar Pradesh, politics today is all about numbers and caste. In the final lap, one can safely bet that no political party is playing for a win. Their arrogance stems from an insecurity of confusion and fear of loss.
Mayawati's rallies are mammoth where her cadre based set up choreographs every move. Our bags are checked for bottles of water, just in case somebody in the media would hurl a bottle at her. After all, we are positioned closest to her, 60 feet away. On the media platform, beefy security personnel keep a check on every movement, just in case a hack attempts to hurl a shoe at the dais.

Mayawati arrives at her rallies only by chopper and is always fashionably late. She sits alone on a large white couch after imperiously waving to the crowd. They go delirious with excitement on seeing Behenji. These are people who survive on one meal a day, haven't owned land for generations, and never had exposure to education, sanitation or health care.

 Although little has changed in those areas during Mayawati's reign, they still come to see her. Ramkali says, "Every body from our village will vote for Behenjee. Because she is the chief minister, Brahmins and Thakurs don't treat us like scum. We are poor but because of her, we have dignity." But Mayawati does not interact with the people whose lives she has supposedly changed. She stays in her marble castle and reluctantly gets out for campaigning. Her party workers do not share her over-confidence. They feel the party is set to lose many seats this time around.

 The Samajwadi Party rallies and town hall meetings are a rowdy affair. The rich brats zip through the countryside in their SUVs, hop off to the dust and grime of a 'nukkad' and ask people to vote for them to rid the tyranny of Mayawati. But many of the candidates chosen by Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh have dubious credentials. The SP will improve its tally this time at the cost of the BSP but not enough to form a government on its own. Keep those red caps, guys; you may need them again, soon.

Rahul Gandhi has probably worked the hardest for UP 2012. "UP is not just about elections, it is a mission," he says. He slogged at building the cadre similar to the BJP and the BSP, first chipping away slowly, and then aggressively. He is the darling of the media. TV cameras chase him every inch of the way.

The Gandhi siblings work in tandem. Rahul holds road shows, rallies, stays in homes of the poor ¦ in short uses a variety of tactics. Priyanka, a natural, stays only in the family bastion of Amethi-Rae Bareilly and works on the 'gaon ki beti' line. It works in some villages, in others it doesn't. Other Congress leaders, from Sonia to Salman Khurshid to Dr Manmohan Singh, play the support cast. 

 Congress didn't fight to form a government on its own, hoping at best to be a coalition partner. But even that has been ruled out now by none other than Rahul himself. So the Congress too is fighting for a draw, which could result in President's Rule, as Digvijaya Singh hinted last week. The BJP snuck in Uma Bharati last month to work some wonders but it is still seen as a tired old party dependent on its traditional vote bank. Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh came in a bit too late to galvanise the cadres.

 The energetic youth wing of the party has to toe to the line of feeble and aged Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon. At a rally in Kapurthala, where I have covered Atal Behari Vajpayee's rallies and seen multitudes listen with rapt attention, now they sniggered at fumbling speeches by Tandon and Mishra. Half way through Advani's speech, people started walking away and there were barely fifty people left in the audience. Although the committed BJP voter still gets to the polling booth, the party has frittered away Vajpayee's legacy in UP. There are no winners in this four-cornered contest. UP seems to be sliding towards a hung assembly at best or President's Rule at worst.

© copyright midday

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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indias leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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