Legislative Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Uttar Pradesh from 10 February to 7 March 2022 in seven phases to elect all 403 members of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly. The new Covid (omicron) wave has rung a catastrophic bell for election campaigns and public rallies. The hectic preparations and the election rallies which were just warming up have, all of a sudden, frozen to immobility. The Election Commission imposed a ban on rallies, roadshows and public meetings till Jan 15 in all the five states going to polls – Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, Manipur, and Uttar Pradesh. Political parties have been allowed, though, to carry out door-to-door voter outreach with maximum five workers and also digital campaigns.
Who will benefit from this arrangement? Who is going to lose? How will the digital campaigns be conducted? What will be the strategies of political parties to campaign under the Covid cloud?
More the workers (cadre), more the benefit
The politics of Uttar Pradesh is dominated by the three big bulls: Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajwadi Party, and the Bahujan Samaj Party. UP is divided into myriad classes, upper and lower castes, sub-castes, and political parties are going all out to strengthen their caste-centric vote banks. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) owns its own army – the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), which holds interactions with people all over the state and also maintains the party’s social and political plank during and after the elections. That is why there are fewer worries for the BJP, which can even ignore the recent quitting of some MLAs. The dedicated army of RSS on the ground will work to spread the campaign message and will do the most important on voting day: get the voters to the booths.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also has a committed voter base, as evident in earlier elections. These are mainly Jatav voters. The Samajwadi Party (SP), on the other hand, has the more-or-less faithful MY (Muslim-Yadav) component. Thus, BSP and SP also might catch hold of dedicated (particular) vote banks (classes and castes).
Social and print media’s turn
For personal to political publicity, media is the handiest tool. Digital campaigns may well determine the politics of the state. How many WhatsApp groups does a political party possess? How many Zoom meetings a party is going to hold? How many ads can a party spend on? How are they going to handle Twitter, Facebook, Youtube? If well manipulated, the campaigns will have a deep influence on voters. In the era of “Digital India”, there is a sea of “Digital Campaigning”. Even with door to door campaigns, digital campaigns will play their own role. Since 2014, the BJP has emphasised on digital campaigning —whether through social media or uploading rally speeches online. Having realised the importance of it, the BJP will reap greater benefits of it here in the 2022 elections. Other parties are not far behind in this race, though. SP’s Akhilesh Yadav has picked up digital campaigning in recent weeks, more charmingly and actively. The UP election campaigns will run on the slogan of “Paanch ka dum” (the 5 workers for the door-to-door voter outreach) and the actual ‘dum’ of digital campaigns.
The writer is a law student at University of Kashmir. [email protected]