New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh is with the incumbent Samajwadi Party (SP), said BJP president Amit Shah in an interview published in The Economic Times on Friday. He added that the BJP will break the cycle of SP-BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) in the state, which is slated to go to polls in May 2017.

Shah’s comments are significant as the SP is likely to face a tough fight in the election, given the one-term anti-incumbency factor and allegations of lawlessness. Also, a recent survey by ABP News-Lokniti CSDS had pointed out that as of now UP is heading towards a hung assembly, with SP as the largest party.

“These two parties (SP and BSP) have been ruling for the last 15 years and the public is tired of them. Second, because of anti-incumbency. Nikaalne ke liye voting hoti hai (people vote to throw out a government). Earlier, our organisation was weak in UP, so to get rid of SP, people voted for the BSP and vice-versa. But after winning 73 out of 80 (Lok Sabha) seats in UP, BJP is a strong contender to form the government. The work done by Narendra Modi’s government is the primary reason," Shah said in the interview.

He described Congress’s chances of a revival in UP as “very bleak".

In reply to a question on whether Modi would lead BJP’s campaign in UP, Shah said: “He is our biggest leader and he will campaign extensively in UP. He campaigns everywhere."

Replying to another question on whether there the “Modi wave in UP" is still there, Shah said there is a Modi wave across the country and the effect of the good work of the government is being felt everywhere, including UP.

The BJP is hoping to repeat its 2014 Lok Sabha election performance in the upcoming assembly elections in UP. In the 2012 assembly elections, the BSP won 80 out of the 403 seats it contested, while SP won 224 seats and formed the government.

The Congress party has moved swiftly in its electoral campaign, declared Sheila Dikshit as the chief ministerial candidate and has begun rallies of its top brass in the state.

Shah termed the Dalit protests in Una, Gujarat, as “100% politically motivated", in reply to a question on whether such protests will impact the BJP in UP. He recounted the number of pro-Dalit programmes and schemes which the Union government is running and added that he doesn’t think an attempt to create an anti-Dalit narrative against the BJP will succeed.

The BJP-led government in Gujarat, the home state of Shah and PM Modi, came under fire after a series of protests by members of Dalit communities. The flashpoint for the recent Dalit protests was the assault of four Dalits in Una for skinning a dead cow.

The Una controversy was followed by former chief minister Anandiben Patel being replaced by Vijay Rupani.

Shah cleared the air over the new Gujarat CM, saying the word “remove" was incorrect and that Patel herself wanted to be relieved of the responsibilities. He added that his relations with her are “very cordial".

On relations with the Congress after the successful passage of the goods and services tax Bill in Parliament, Shah said that he hopes the Congress party will continue cooperating, but “it’s really up to them as to how they wish to behave".

In reply to a question on whether he is confident of a second term for the Modi government at the Center, Shah said he has told party workers that the formation of this government makes sense if it gets to work for 20-25 years.