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UP elections: Final phase to Test Rahul Gandhi's popularity with voters

Final phase of polling is expected to test whether Rahul Gandhi's aggressive campaign to connect with the electorate is finding any traction.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Mar 01, 2012, 04.33 AM IST
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UP elections: Final phase to Test Rahul Gandhi's popularity with voters
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NEW DELHI: The final phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh is expected to test whether Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's aggressive campaign to connect with the electorate is finding any traction.

In the general election held in 2009, the party had led in 15 of the 60 assembly segments going to polls in this round on Saturday, and also won four of the 22 seats from the state. They included Moradabad, Bareilly, Kheri and Dhaurahra.

The districts that will be covered in the final phase include Bijnor, Rampur, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Budaun, Pilibhit and Shahjahanpur, besides Bareilly, Moradabad and Kheri. They form a part of western UP and Rohillakhand.

In the 2007 assembly polls, BSP, like in other parts of the state, had bagged 27 of the 57 seats that went to polls during the corresponding phase, with its vote-share touching 27.9%. The Samajwadi Party's poll percentage was only marginally less (26.2%), but it could win 17 seats only. While BJP's tally was 9, Congress could emerge victorious in only one seat.

Congress, scripting a dramatic turnaround in the Lok Sabha polls held two years later, surged ahead in 15 assembly segments, securing 20.7% votes. SP's success-rate was, however, even better. It led in 22 segments, with a vote-share of 23.3%. BSP was pushed to the fourth spot, as its leads were restricted to four seats.

The change in Congress' fortunes in the 2009 general election was attributed to the support extended by Kurmis, which comprise 5.1 % of the electorate and have pockets of strong influence in the Terai region, a section of the Muslims and upper castes.

With SP posing a stronger challenge, it remains to be seen whether Congress, aided by the hitch-pitch campaign mounted by Rahul Gandhi, can sustain the momentum of 2009. As compared to the previous phase, Yadavs, who constitute SP's core constituency, are present in larger numbers (8.6%). In constituencies such as Budaun, Kheri and Sambhal, they are in a position to influence the final verdict.

With Yadavs firmly rooting for SP, the party is expected to find it easier to attract the votes of Muslims. Among the regions going to polls in the various phases, the community is numerically stronger in the districts facing elections in the concluding leg. They add up to 27.8% of voters. In assembly seats such as Sambhal, Rampur and Amroha, they constitute over 60% of the electorate.

SP is, not surprisingly, pinning its hopes on the M-Y combination to help it post an impressive tally from this phase. Congress, on the other hand, is banking on the Muslim-Kurmi-upper caste coalition to continue the good run. BJP, on its part, is hoping that the presence of such a large number of Muslims in the region will compel non-Yadav Hindus to rally behind it.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the party had led in 14 assembly segments, securing 19.4% votes, even though it had failed to open its account in the area. Campaigning for the final round of polling will draw to a close on Thursday evening.

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