A Congress worker for four decades gives a homely example about electoral fortunes and fluctuations. He says that if there are 300 people in a neighbourhood, and three "baraats" (bridegroom processions) take place the same day, the same 300 participate in all the three processions, with a few more ending up in one of the baraats. He compares this to the election result where the winner, the baraat with a larger procession, has only a few more people than the other bridegrooms' processions.
He hopes the party's candidate Rita Bahuguna Joshi will win, and like a good Congressman he lays emphasis on lineage and experience. Joshi is the daughter of Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and a tall leader in the party at the time. Then he offers a second reason why he thinks that the people ought to support Joshi. She is an experienced leader and can get things done compared to the inexperienced and unresponsive BJP leaders. He says that even if she is not in power, he receives requests and applications, and he calls bureaucrats and gets people's work done. That is the Congress culture, he boasts. The underlying theme is that the Congress has reconciled to the idea of a defeat and sit in the Opposition. This is the mood in the Congress camp in central Lucknow.
A Samajwadi Party (SP) functionary sitting in the near-empty party headquarters at Vikramaditya Marg, in the official centre of the city, scoffs at the BJP claim that it will win 58 seats in the state. He bases his argument as much on partisan fervour as on logical analysis. He says that even if the BJP's PM candidate were to win the Varanasi seat, his victory will have no bearing on the neighbouring Bhadohi constituency, says the functionary. SP sources argue that each and every one of UP's 80 constituency is different from the other, that a victory in one will have no impact on another. They are countering the BJP argument that Modi contesting from Varanasi will impact 15 Avadh constituencies, 29 in eastern UP and nine in western Bihar.
At the other end of town, in the older neighbourhood on the other side of Gomti, Shamil Shamsi, president of the Hussaini Tigers, a Shia youth organisation, asserts that the 1.5 lakh Shia voters will opt for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate and Hindi film star Javed Jaffri because he is a Shia. SP men disagree and predict that at the most Javed Jaffrey will get 5,000 Shia votes. Asked if Shia intellectuals are favouring BJP, he says that is not the case. On the issue of favouring a BJP without Modi, he quotes Kalbe Jawad, his uncle and a popular Shia cleric, saying that Muslims will consider a BJP with a secular prime ministerial candidate.
A retired professor from Lucknow University is of the view that if Shias were to go one way and vote for AAP, then the Sunnis, who form the majority Muslim segment in the city, will go the other way and consider either SP or Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates.
The UP electoral scene is resistant to any kind of profiling and analysis. The common assertion is that UP will decide on its own without following any other state's diktat. The argument is that UP is complex, and that what holds good in western UP does not hold true in the eastern parts of the state. "There is Hindu-Muslim polarisation in Muzaffarnagar and other parts of the state. Muslims are likely to vote either with SP or BSP, but the Hindus will vote for the BJP. But this will not be the case in the central eastern parts. Sectarian divisions will split the Muslim vote this side, and the Hindus too will not all vote for the BJP," says the professor.
Rajnath Singh, BJP
Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Congress
Javed Jaffrey, AAP