As the last phase of voting took place on Wednesday, senior leaders of all political parties tried their level best to woo voters, trying everything from “Babua” to “Bua”, from “Sapa ki Bhabhi” to even “Gujarati Bhai” and “Samdhi” to convey their messages, effectively. Prime Minister Modi made his electricity remark regarding Ramazan and Diwali in the third week of February but “bijli” remained the main focus of both the PM and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav till the end of the campaign with allegation and counter allegation.
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While Akhilesh and BSP chief Mayawati tried to target Prime Minister on “demonetisation”, Modi chose to target Akhilesh on absconding minister Gayatri Prajapati who had been booked in a gang-rape case. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, tried to convince voters of his desire to promote local industry by turning “Make-in-India” into “make-in-Jaunpur”, “make-in-Varanasi” and “Make-in-Mirzapur”.
Road shows of the PM, who camped in his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi for three consecutive days became a talking point for the Congress, SP and BSP and after campaigning quietly in regions untouched by Akhilesh, his wife and Kannauj MP Dimple Yadav became more aggressive towards the end asking the crowds whether they wanted a “Gujarati Bhai” to become CM of UP.
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There were also regular exchanges of “Bua” and “Babua” in the allegations between Mayawati and Akhilesh.
Here are some of the main messages that senior leaders of each party tried to convey to the public:
While the first three phases of campaigning were low key, as the campaign moved towards eastern UP and the region neighbouring Varanasi, the PM became much more aggressive. The campaign was already a contest between Modi and the others and though the PM avoided any more controversial statements like his `kabristan’ reference and “Harvard versus Hard work”, he sent out a strong message about how the SP was trying to help a certain segment of the population. Also, he repeatedly targetted Akhilesh for allegedly trying to save “rape accused minister” Gayatri Prajapati.
From Jaunpur to Varanasi, Modi used the phrase “Kuch ka Sath, Kuch ka hi Vikas” and said Akhilesh had failed to give justice to a “beti” by not punishing Prajapati. He also stung the SP-Congress alliance, saying they chanted the “Gayatri Prajapati” mantra like others recited the Gayatri mantra. The PM also tried to tell the crowds wherever he went that after the March 11 verdict, he would waive farmers loans in the very first cabinet meeting.
“Bijli” was another constant source of currency between Modi and Akhilesh with the UP CM telling BJP MP Yogi Adityanath to touch electricity wires if he wanted to judge the current in electricity wires. Prime Minister reminded Akhilesh that his “naya yaar” Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi had said only a few months ago that there is no electricity in UP. At a public meeting in Jaunpur, he asked, “Mujhe ab taar chune ki jaroorat hai kya?” adding “SP-BSP-Congress, teeno ko current lagne wala hai”.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, on the other hand, continued his focus on his development work like the Lucknow-Agra expressway and pensions. But he reminded the public of the Prime Minister’s statement regarding electricity on Ramazan and Diwali: “Yeh to Pradhan Mantri kamaal ke hain, jinhone bijli ko bhi Hindu Musalman bana diya”. Referring to BSP chief Mayawati as “Buaji” and her government as “Patthar wali sarkar”, Akhilesh also told the crowds that there is possibility of future “rakshabandhan” between the BSP and the BJP as they had come together in the past.
Interestingly, the BSP was barely attacked by Rahul Gandhi. He concentrated on promising a government of the youth and targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on issues like demonetisation and waiving loans of “50 industrialists” rather than of farmers.
Mayawati referred to the BJP as “dagi-bagiyon ki party” and said that the “SP ka kaam kam, aparadh jyada bolta hai”. She was also the only senior leader to have dragged Dimple Yadav into her speeches. Mayawati repeated at almost every public, “SP ke babua ko, SP ki bhabhi bhi nahi bacha sakti”.
Dimple was quite aggressive in her speeches in the last phase and shifted from largely focusing on the “good work” of the Akhilesh government to attacking the BJP and the BSP. Like Akhilesh, she referred to Mayawati as “Bua” and told the crowds that she could well tie a rakhi on the BJP. In her last speech at Jaunpur, Dimple asked the crowd if they wanted a “Gujarati Bhai” as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh: “…soch lijiye, Gujarati bhai aa gaye mukhyamantri banke to kya hoga…”
Amidst all this rhetoric, former chief minister of Bihar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav campaigning in the region touching Bihar said that he was a “samdhi” of Uttar Pradesh (referring to his relation through marriage with Mulayam Singh Yadav’s family) and repeatedly compared Prime Minister Narendra Modi with American President Donald Trump.