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Musings on the Election Campaign Trail from Uttar Pradesh -March 01, 2022

During the journey through the villages in Tulsipur Assembly constituency of Balrampur District in the last week of February 2022, what striked me first was the enthusiasm of small children running towards any vehicle that passes through their village. They almost sing in chorus like ‘Billa de diyo’ or Please give us the badge. It seems they feel proud to display the metal badge in their dress, regardless of the party, candidate and the community. As the metal badges get exhausted quickly owing to huge demand, many children have to satisfy themselves with the stickers which could be seen lying across the village. This was a common sight in every village during my brief visit, as I could find children from 2 or 3 years up to 10 -12 years that include girls and boys, rush to the vehicle with this appeal. This is despite the fact that the vehicle belongs to the election campaign team of any political party or with any other purpose. This crowd becomes uncontrollable if the vehicle happens to display the flag or symbol of the political party. I could see that they do not even spare the police men who move with the candidate for protection. And, it was hilarious to find police men struggling to keep their fire arms safely and search for cover. Quite significantly, police men also seem to enjoy these circumstances, which is unconventional from their routine work patterns.

The voting percentages in five rounds of elections in the State do not show any significant sign of anti-incumbency wave where the percentage never exceeded more than two-third of the registered voters. However, ‘awaara pashu’ or stray cattle seems to be a potent issue which bothers the prospects of ruling party, BJP. The effect of cattle slaughter ban and its strict enforcement by the Yogi Government may be larger than expected in the socio-economic-political spectrum of Uttar Pradesh. Probably, this is a common issue which is spread across the State from the West to the East. While the voters are fairly fine with the law and order situation, the plight of rural roads in the visited area is a matter of serious concern expressed by many.

Cattles moving in the field in Tulsipur, Balrampur District, Uttar Pradesh. (Photo Courtesy: Rangan Saha)

Significantly, the election campaign and voting in the State so far has been more or less peaceful which is a positive sign. Based on the interactions with the rural community about their priorities and preferences of different candidates, a gradual shift in voters’ approach has been noted from the religion/caste preferences to development issues, past performance and accessibility of the candidate. Though this shift may be minor and localised, it raises hopes for the changing priorities of voters towards a peaceful, productive and progressive days ahead. It may be viewed as the sign of emergence of ‘competitive politics’ in the State where ‘development issues’ assume the central space of political spectrum and influence the electoral decisions, beyond religion, caste and other factors.

- Dr. K Gireesan
Director, MIT School of Government, MIT World Peace University, Kothrud, Pune – 411 038.
E-mail ID: gireesan.k@mitwpu.edu.in; Mobile: (0091) 9445400855