New Delhi: The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are readying to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) once again in Uttar Pradesh, this time though in the municipal elections.
It will be the first electoral contest for the two parties after their rout in the assembly election earlier this year—in the 403-member assembly the SP’s tally is 47 and BSP’s is 19 seats. The civic polls is likely to serve as a dipstick on the public mood, and help the two parties prepare for the 17th Lok Sabha poll in 2019.
The three-phase civic polls begin on 22 November.
Both the parties are also looking to expand their social base to the BJP-dominated urban areas of the state. To be sure, the BJP had swept the previous civic polls, winning 10 of the 12 mayoral posts in municipal corporations.
Breaking away from its strategy of not contesting urban local body polls on the party symbol, BSP has fielded candidates after a gap of over two decades. A decision, party leaders say, has been taken to register the party’s presence in urban areas of UP which have traditionally not been a BSP stronghold.
“Almost all the party leaders and workers wanted that BSP should enter the battlefield. Not only will it make us more visible on the ground but it will also boost the cadres’ morale before the general election. We conveyed this sentiment to Behenji (BSP chief Mayawati) and she agreed. Since then we have been campaigning door-to-door and preparing for the polls," said BSP spokesperson Faizan Khan.
Overseeing the party’s preparations right from campaigning to candidate selection, Mayawati has been holding meetings with zonal and divisional level party office-bearers in Lucknow.
The SP, which had contested the state election in alliance with the Congress, is going it alone. While local members of legislative assembly (MLAs) have been instructed by SP president Akhilesh Yadav to campaign for party candidates, he also held a press conference in Kanpur on Monday to appeal to the trading community, many of whom have been impacted by the goods and services tax (GST).
“Kanpur provides huge employment opportunities to the people of the state and we understand the financial troubles that traders here are facing. First demonetisation crippled their business and now GST has caused them a lot of trouble. Moreover, there has been no help from the government. The trading community here should vote for SP and show the BJP the result of implementing such policies," said Akhilesh Yadav.
Not willing to take any chances, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath has been campaigning across the state. The party released its sankalp patra, or election manifesto, on Sunday, promising free Wi-Fi at prominent public places and pink toilets for women among other things.
In the upcoming election which will see 16 nagar nigams, 198 nagar palika parishads and 438 nagar panchayats go to polls, 24 districts will go to polls on 22 November, 25 districts on 26 November and 26 districts on 29 November . Counting of votes will be done on 1 December.
Political analysts said that though the election results won’t decide the fate of the 2019 election, it will definitely determine the popularity of the three parties in particular wards. “This is the first election that the BJP will be fighting under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath and will thus, be a test of his popularity since he was sworn to power. However, these elections are fought on local issues and people usually vote for local candidates instead of voting on party lines. The results will thus be helpful for these parties to decide their future course of action," said S.K. Dwivedi, former professor of political science at Lucknow University.