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View: Mahagathbandhan standing like a wall between Modi and his second term

UP, or rather the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, is standing like a wall between Mr Modi and his second term as PM.

May 15, 2019, 03.20 PM IST
By Sanjeev Srivastava

As elections 2019 approach its last lap — seventh and final phase of voting is scheduled for Sunday — only the very brave or the very foolhardy or the very partisan are sticking their neck out to call this election one way or the other.

So what’s the chatter thus far in the market. Top BJP leaders and their supporters are insisting that there is a strong undercurrent in favour of their leader and this Modi mania will see the BJP tally crossing 300. Maybe because it reminds one of a vintage gun or because an exact number lends more credence to their claim, at least two senior ministers have chosen to confide in me with the exact tally: 303!

On the other side of the spectrum are those who are reading desperation, frustration and fatigue in the BJP campaign. The manner in which the Prime Minister has chosen to train his guns on Rajiv Gandhi is being cited as one example of how the well strategised campaign of the BJP is losing both direction and steam in this final burst. This group is pegging the BJP tally at around 170-180.

I still view Mr Modi as the front runner with the BJP tally being in the 215-220 range. This number should hold if the BJP manages to win at least 35 seats in UP where, together with allies, the party had won 73 out of the 80 seats on offer in the state.

This brings me to the moot point of this piece which is that once again it is India’s largest state — Uttar Pradesh—which will decide whether or not the NDA comes within striking distance of forming the government post results next week.

UP, or rather the SP-BSP-RLD alliance, is standing like a wall between Mr Modi and his second term as PM.

I was in Uttar Pradesh for slightly under a week earlier this month with a group of journalists , writers and editors . We travelled by road from Lucknow to Allahabad to Varanasi trying to get a feel of the popular pulse in eastern UP in constituencies like Barabanki, Pratapgarh, Kausambi, Jaunpur, Machlishahr, Chandoli, Bhadohi, Phulpur and Prayagraj.

The journey was an eye opener. A common thread was running all through. There is little doubt about Mr Modi’s charisma and popularity on the ground, but his chemistry and personal appeal was being very effectively checkmated by the caste arithmetic of Yadav, Jatavs and Muslims in many of these areas.

The SP-BSP gathbandhan is really working and there is near complete transfer of votes happening on the ground. The much talked about animosity and ill will between Jatavs and Yadavs may well surface once again at some later stage but for this election, the two communities — together with Muslims — are fighting with a steely and quiet determination which would have been hard to believe had I not seen it myself. Perhaps they all realise the importance of this electoral contest which is nothing but a battle for their political existence and survival.

Nearly everyone else — non Yadav OBC's, non Jatav Dalits and upper castes— is rooting and voting for Modi. It’s almost surreal this election in UP; you just have to know the name (ie caste) of the person you are engaged in a conversation with and you can pretty much bet your last penny on who he is voting for.

In UP, at least the Modi juggernaut has more than found its match in the Gathbandhan caste calculus.

(Sanjeev Srivastava is a political & foreign affairs commentator, and also former India Correspondent, BBC News)
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of

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