While there are a number of states like Punjab, Goa and Karnataka going to polls before the general elections in 2019, nothing could be as politically significant as Uttar Pradesh in 2017. Elections may still be a year away, but drum-beating has already begun on the ground as well as on social media.
Uttar Pradesh, that sends 80 MPs to Parliament and 404 MLAs to the Assembly, is the biggest prize on the cards, with major stakes for national parties like the Congress and the BJP as well as regional parties like the SP and BSP.
Opinions, quite bitterly divided, and hashtags have already started surfacing on micro-blogging platforms like Twitter. Earlier today, two hashtags #SPBSPDestroyingUP and #10SaalUPBehaal were among the top trends on the platform, each generating hundreds of tweets. It is likely that both hashtags were whipped up by supporters of the BJP as they attacked the ‘deteriorating’ law and order problem in the state.
One Twitter user, who goes by the name of Gaurav Mohnot, posted a tweet congratulating everyone for making the hashtag trend on Twitter. Incidentally, he is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the platform.
Here are some other tweets:
Up has everything except for good government. Up ppl have to leave their homes for better work, education and safety #10SaalUPbehaal
— Sandip Tiwari (@sandtiw) June 26, 2016
— KavitaNamoFan (@Kavita_M57) June 26, 2016
Winning the state for the BJP is mostly about reinforcing the popular landslide vote they were able to garner in 2014. Party chief Amit Shah has already kick-started the process of consulting with district and block units and by conducting its national executive in Allahabad, it sends a clear signal of its intentions. It also senses the opportunity that going alone rather than stitching alliances with either of the two regional parties will garner more votes.
Both at the national executive and outside, the party has criticized the incumbent Akhilesh Yadav government over incidents like the Jawahar Bagh protests and the alleged exodus of Hindu families in Kairana. In both instances, the SP government has brushed away allegations calling them ‘baseless.’
On Twitter, of course the fight continued. Hashtag #UPRisingWithAhilesh was also among the top trends, this time quite possibly generated by Samajwadi Party supporters who hailed the steps taken by the UP government in different sectors.
Here are some samples:
— Akhilesh 4 Good Gov. (@Akhilesh4good) June 26, 2016
— Samajwadi Supporter (@Samajwadi_log) June 26, 2016
So far, 1840 cr. fund has been disbursed among 46 lakh 78 thousand and 474 farmers.#UPRisingWithAkhilesh
— Akhilesh Cares (@akhileshcares) June 26, 2016
It’s important to note that none of these hashtags were officially used or re-tweeted by the respective parties. They are mostly created to start a discussion on the topic, which unfortunately eventually leads to trolling of each other’s supporters and verbal abuse.
Giving a great deal of competition to both SP and the BJP is Mayawati and her BSP. They might not have a good social media presence, but the strength of the BSP’s cadre base in the state is quite well-known. Not everything’s great for Mayawati as her party suffered a humiliating defeat in the 2014 polls, drawing a blank in UP as well as across the country. The recent exit of senior leader Swami Prasad Maurya will also hurt the BSP.
The entry of Prashant Kishore into the Congress campaign has also made the election interesting. Considering Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as party president imminent, winning the state, where the party has been out of power for more than two decades, is definitely on its bucket list.