Campaign ends for last phase of voting: Ground falls silent, now it’s up in the air

Wrapping up the campaign with a rally in Rohania, Modi attacked rival parties, telling people not to “waste” their votes on the SP and BSP.

Written by Anand Mishra , Lalmani Verma | Varanasi | Updated: March 7, 2017 8:15 am
 Uttar Pradesh elections 2017, UP elections, UP polls, UP seventh phase, Manipur elections, Modi, Akhilesh Yadav, SP Congress, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, BSP, Varanasi, India news, Indian Express Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves after addressing a rally in Rohania, near Varanasi, Monday. (Express Photo by Anand Singh)

Bringing the curtains down on one of the most acrimonious and bitterly contested elections in Uttar Pradesh, campaigning for the seventh and last phase of the Assembly elections in the state drew to a close Monday with star leaders going all out one final time to woo voters before the dust settled.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who spent the last three days in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi to lead the BJP charge in the seven eastern districts that will vote Wednesday, called on the head of the Garhwa Ghat ashram, which has a sizeable following among OBCs and Yadavs, and fed puris and bananas to the cows at the ashram.

Wrapping up the campaign with a rally in Rohania, Modi attacked rival parties, telling people not to “waste” their votes on the SP and BSP. He blamed these parties for the plight of Uttar Pradesh and promised to waive farmer loans — he said he had “experienced poverty” and “wants to improve the lot of the poor” — and bring back professionalism in the police if the BJP is voted to power in the state.

He made special mention of Apna Dal and Bharatiya Samaj Party which are contesting 20 of the 403 seats in alliance with the BJP. The Apna Dal has a following among the Kurmis while the Bharatiya Samaj Party has been floated by Om Prakash Rajbhar and others who broke away from the BSP.

SP leader and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who addressed a rally in Jaunpur, targeted Modi, saying his “Acche Din film has flopped”.

A day after the Prime Minister called him and Akhilesh “ghalua” (one who gets everything in inheritance without making any effort), Rahul used a Hindi proverb to take a swipe. He said Modi’s barbs were like “khisiyani billi khamba nochay”, reflecting his frustration and desperation. “Modiji is afraid. For the last three days, he has been camping in Varanasi,” he alleged.

Akhilesh too mocked Modi when he said “he is organising one roadshow after another” and “it seems he will now do only roadshows here and not visit other countries”. Referring to the Prime Minister’s remarks about supply of electricity in the state, Akhilesh attacked him for giving it a Hindu-Muslim twist.

“Our Prime Minister is unique… He has made power Hindu and Muslim, alleging that our government used to supply more power during Ramzan than in Diwali and Holi. We have given data which proves we did not discriminate,” he said.

Akhilesh and Rahul were to hold a joint press conference in Varanasi but it was cancelled.

In Lucknow, BSP chief Mayawati attacked both the BJP and the SP-Congress alliance. Describing Modi and BJP president Amit Shah as “guru and chela”, she alleged that they held roadshows in Varanasi and visited temples in the cities of Purvanchal to give “a communal and religious colour to the elections”.

Confident that her party was all set to form the government, Mayawati told reporters: “The BJP and the SP-Congress alliance are fighting for the second and third spots… for this, the PM and Amit Shah have been doing drama to divert the attention of people… going to temples and other places… people are looking at what the Prime Minister is doing… his own ministers and MPs are criticising him.”

Unlike 2007 and 2012 when the BSP and SP won the elections respectively with each getting around 30 per cent votes, this time the contest is triangular because the SP and Congress are in an alliance. In the 2007 Assembly polls, the BSP got 30.40 per cent votes and formed the government. In 2012, the SP got the largest share (29.15 per cent), followed by the BSP (25.91 per cent). The BJP got 15 per cent, and the Congress around 11.5 per cent.

The BJP, however, recorded a sharp growth in 2014, getting around 42 per cent of the total votes in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections. And that’s what the BJP is hoping to build on. Party leaders claim they have made significant inroads into the extremely backward class segments.

The division of Muslim votes between the SP-Cong and the BSP is another factor that weighs heavily on the minds of these parties. In the Varanasi region though, the SP-Congress alliance thinks that this vote will not split and come their way.

At the bazar in Garhwa Ghat, two kilometres from the ashram that Modi visited Monday, Ramashish Yadav stood in the crowd that lined the road to watch the Prime Minister go past. “The SP and BJP are in a neck-and-neck fight here,” he said.

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  1. M
    Martha Tapia
    Mar 7, 2017 at 5:36 am
    It is one of the most difficult elections to predict accurately. BJP is ahead of the other two but by what extent is not clear.lt;br/gt;UP has seen Mayawati and Akhilesh. If you talk to informed people in UP, they will tell you that Mayawati's rule was brilliant in controlling law and order.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Now don't start abusing. This is a fact. Goons had a really hard time while behenji was in power
    Reply
    1. G
      Gerry
      Mar 7, 2017 at 8:50 am
      There are none so blind as those who refuse to see,none so dumb as those who refuse to speak,and none so deaf as those who refuse to hear. A parrot can never turn into a carrot !!!
      Reply
      1. k
        k.j.jose
        Mar 7, 2017 at 11:14 am
        If Modiji had experience poverty, He would not have worn that 10 lakh rupees Coat.
        Reply
        1. M
          Mahender Goriganti
          Mar 7, 2017 at 3:53 am
          Islamic express can sell anything to its Jihadi audience for comfit ans soothing..
          Reply
          1. M
            mohanan
            Mar 7, 2017 at 6:29 am
            ss nair sir again. please sir, can u find a single incidence of corruption in modi govt unlike all scams during upa govt. now the latest story in a majority news channelslt;br/gt;is that the italy connected currency paper worth lot of crore rs
            Reply
            1. A
              Anand
              Mar 7, 2017 at 12:42 pm
              Clearly BJP is in lead. Congress will become irrelevant after this election. Modi has no challengers left. Rahul was made to play second fiddle to Akhilesh. Party of century old is soon going to become history.
              Reply
              1. R
                raj
                Mar 7, 2017 at 12:46 pm
                BJP in lead!!!! that is why modi had to stay put in his parliamentary consuency for full three days along with all his cabinet followers. That is some lead. He is on a sticky wicket and will be clean bowled on 11th.
                Reply
                1. R
                  raj
                  Mar 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm
                  There are mega scams under the very nose of Modi. The only thing is that the bureaucrats are under tight leash not to reveal them as was the practice by the same set of spineless bureaucrats under UPA regime. The moment that leash is removed, mega scams will be unearthed and you will find no place to hide.
                  Reply
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