Recently 64.22 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in 73 assembly constituencies in the first of the seven-phase UP polls. First phase voting in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh has begun with 15 districts of the western part of the state.. The Western UP has always been a sensitive part of the state and incidents like Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, Dadri mob lynching in 2015 and Kairana ‘exodus’ along with Mathura’s Jawahar Bagh incident in 2016 kept the communal cauldron of western UP on the boil.
The region is crucial to the BJP because it swept all the 12 Lok Sabha seats in Western UP in the 16th general election. The other important thing to be noted is that BJP-led NDA government has three Union Ministers from the region..Also, most of the issues highlighted by the saffron party in its manifesto – triple talaq, sugarcane dues, the closer of slaughterhouses, anti-romeo squad have a direct connection with the vters of the region.
The ruling Samajwadi Party, who won a maximum number of seats in 2012 Assembly elections (24) would like to repeat its performance even this time. The SP is banking on Muslim voters (around 40-45 lakh in numbers) of the region because to an extent it has managed to convince large sections of the Muslim riot-affected area that they had no role in mishandling the riots.
Although Congress has failed miserably in Western UP by winning just five seats in 2012 Assembly elections, an alliance with the ruling party in the state will definitely consolidate their Muslim vote bank in favor of the SP and Congress.
Similarly, Mayawati’s BSP is banking on Jatav community which forms a major chunk of the vote in the region are considered to be traditional voters of BSP. Also, BSP is trying to polarize Muslims voters in its favour through Dalit-Muslim ticket distribution tactic.
It’s the most important phase simply because rumours about how people voted in this phase will be used to influence further phases.