Opinion: From faces to issues, voters expressed their feelings, understand what is going to happen in 'Lok Sabha's Mahabali' UP?

Ananya Shroff
7 Min Read

Author: Abhijit Ghosh
Shine of the caste:
The everyday struggles of life and livelihood – food, clothing and employment – ​​are integral to every election discussion in eastern and western UP. But caste and community remain central to the electoral discourse. Broadly, the social coalition of the BJP (upper castes + non-Yadav OBCs such as Patels, Nishads and others) and the Samajwadi Party (Yadavs + Muslims) remains intact. SP’s ally Congress gives this combination farsightedness and a certain assurance in urban constituencies. The BSP is still the preferred party of most Dalits, but a section of non-Jatav Dalits may migrate.Daughters are safe: Deepak Mishra is a cab driver and a Modi supporter. He lives on the outskirts of Allahabad. The father of four daughters, two of whom are in their teens, says 'law and order' has improved under the Modi-Yogi regime. For him and many like him, 'law and order' is synonymous with the safety of women in their daily lives. Shamim, a fruit vendor from Ghaziabad, criticises the Centre's new law on citizenship and uncomfortably says that the only positive thing from the regime in recent years is that 'daughters are safe.' Law and order is a state subject. The public does not discriminate in praising the law and order established in the state. People are experiencing the robust security system firsthand.

Temple flags everywhere but…
Until not long ago, it was common to see party flags fluttering on rooftops in UP. BJP flags were dominant in towns, but this diminished as we moved towards mofussils, towns and villages, where SP and BSP flags were fluttering profusely. Now party flags have disappeared. Ram Mandir and Hanuman flags of various kinds are most visible even in the homes of non-BJP Hindu voters. Ayodhya Ram Mandir has earned a lot of goodwill for the BJP, but religion is not the main issue of discussion among people.

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Tempted by free grains: Of all the schemes of the NDA government, the 5 kg free foodgrains per person proved to be the most effective and far-reaching. Most of the people we spoke to in remote areas agreed that they had received free foodgrains. The needy praised the government a lot for this.

Brand Modi remains intact but… Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still at the center of election discussions. There is no discussion of BJP or its candidates anywhere. It seems that the party has become secondary to the leader. Yadavs are most devoted to SP. But Manu Yadav, a railway porter from Varanasi, says that he will vote for the Prime Minister only. He asks about the opposition alliance, 'There should be only one head of the house. Who is the head of his house? Even those who are not voting for Modi are praising him. Jai Singh Yadav, a voter from Chandauli Lok Sabha constituency, says, 'It is difficult to find a person like Modi, but to form a strong opposition, I will vote for SP only.'

Supporters believe that Modi has enhanced India's prestige abroad (Rashtra Samman) and protected national interest (Rashtra Hit). But some also feel that Modi has done more publicity than work. They feel that the image of Brand Modi is getting tarnished. Santosh Singh, a voter from Chandauli, says, “He may get his revenge in 2024, but not in 2029.”

Yogi's fame is spreading: Pawan Sharma, a former soldier from Ghaziabad, travelled to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat last month. He found that people were associating UP with 'Yogi' and asking, 'Do you come from Yogi's place?' It is not often that a state is known by its CM's name only in his second term. Sharma found that Yogi's name has spread beyond his state as well.

Akhilesh and Rahul's stature increased: The image of both Rahul and Akhilesh has definitely improved among voters and supporters. The Congress has paid special attention to unemployment in its manifesto message. This has had a positive impact on a section of urban youth. Unemployment is a big issue and for most people 'employment' means government jobs.

Would you send ED: ‘Ask too much’ was a common saying for journalists covering elections. This saying has now disappeared. People from every community still speak openly. But villagers often ask that their names be kept confidential. ‘Why do you want to know my name?’ asks one of them jokingly. ‘Do you want to send the ED after me?’ It is interesting how the word ‘ED’ has entered the vocabulary and psychology of India’s hinterland, just as Bofors did four decades ago.

Doubts on EVMs persist: There was a heated debate on EVMs before the elections. The Supreme Court had ruled out any possibility of tampering in EVMs. After this, the hue and cry over the stigma on EVMs subsided. But, doubts about the integrity and vulnerability of EVMs remain among non-BJP voters in both rural and urban areas. The desire for ballot papers is very strong, while memories of the days when ballot papers were looted and thrown into drains and rivers are completely missing.

We will press NOTA: On the other side of the river in Prayagraj, a group of students preparing for competitive exams did not want to talk about the student elections. One of them said, “We don't like politics. There is no benefit in it. When asked 'Will you vote?' he said, “I will. But NOTA.”

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