Uttar Pradesh has always wielded political heft as it sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha and played a role of ‘king maker’ at the Centre since it came into being in 1950. The political significance of Uttar Pradesh can be gauged from the fact that it has provided the country with eight Prime Ministers, but remains one of the poorest and most backward states in what must be one of the cruelest ironies of Indian democracy.

In post-independence era, the first Chief Minister, Govind Ballabh Pant, renamed northern province as Uttar Pradesh. Pant was close to the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and enjoyed massive support in the Congress.

India's first woman Chief Minister Sucheta Kripalani remained in office from October 1963 till March 1967.  Later Chandra Bhanu Gupta took charge of the CM. He had to resign from the post of CM due to the internal bickering in the Congress. Finally, Charan Singh defected from the Congress and set up the Jana Congress, which formed the first non-Congress government in UP and ruled for over a year.

Veteran Congress leader Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna held the rein of the state from 1973 to 75. But after the imposition of emergency, Indira Gandhi dismissed him and Narain Dutt Tewari became Chief Minister of the state.

Political landscape after emergency

In a major setback to PM Indira Gandhi, the Allahabad High Court on June 12, 1975 found her guilty of electoral malpractices. She was barred from holding elected office for six years. The decision created a political ripple in the country. Disgruntled Indira imposed national emergency on mid-night of June 25, 1975 under Article 352 of the Constitution of India.

Thousands of opposition leaders and activists were arrested, press censorship was introduced and elections were postponed during the emergency. The opposition Janata Party alliance defeated Indira Gandhi's Congress (R) in 1977 general election. Indira was defeated by Raj Narain in Rae Bareilly constituency by a margin of 55,200 votes.
JP Movement

However, the Allahabad High Court verdict holding Indira guilty of malpractices helped galvanize the opposition parties, which demanded Gandhi’s resignation from office immediately. Janata Morcha leader Jayaprakash Narayan called for a campaign of civil disobedience to oust the Indira government.
Debacle of Congress

The Congress received major electoral loss in 1977 assembly elections. But stormed back to power in 1980, when Indira Gandhi handpicked Vishwanath Pratap Singh as the CM.

Demolition of Babri Mosque

The demolition of Babri Masque tarnished country’s secular image. Writing a black day in the history of India, Hindu Karsevaks demolished the disputed Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 in an attempt to reclaim the land.  The incident occurred after a religious ceremony turned violent leading to inter communal riots between Hindu and Muslim communities, claiming around 2,000 lives.

Later erstwhile Prime Minister PV Narsingh Rao imposed President Rule in four BJP ruled states including Kalyan Singh government in UP under Article 356 of the Constitution. The incident changed the entire political landscape of the state. The Hindu voters got polarized in favour of BJP, while the Muslims found their shelter in Mulayam Singh in UP. Since then the Congress performance has been on wane.

Emergence of Samajwadi Party

Mulayam Singh Yadav led-Samajwadi Party emerged after the Janata Dal split into several regional parties. The UP based regional party was founded on October 4, 1992. Mulayam has been the CM thrice in 1989, 1993 and 2003. The SP believes in democratic socialism.

Emergence of Bahujan Samaj Party

The Bahujan Samaj Party’s core vote bank is Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Class as well as minorities. The party follows the philosophy of BR Ambedkar.

Kanshi Ram founded the BSP in 1984. He was succeeded by Mayawati in 2003. The party has its main base in UP. BSP supremo Mayawati is the present Chief Minister of state. In 2007, she returned back to power wining 206 assembly seats out of 403. She applied famous social engineering formula in last assembly election by giving large number of tickets to the upper castes, OBCs and Minority in polls.

Rashtriya Lok Dal

Ajit Singh led-Rashtriya Lok Dal enjoys massive supports in the western UP. He carries the political legacy of his father and former PM, Charan Singh and the original Lok Dal. The RLD takes up the causes of landless, poor and farmers.

Present political scenario

The race for the 2012 assembly in Uttar Pradesh may be largely four cornered and there is a prediction that a fractured verdict will come out. All the four major political parties-- BSP, SP, Congress and BJP--have started massive campaign in favour of their candidates.

The ruling BSP is likely to face anti-incumbency in the ongoing polls. To avoid that, Mayawati shot the last arrow in her quiver to split the state into four parts: Paschim Pradesh, Awadh Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal. The proposed new states are currently western UP, central UP, southwestern UP and eastern UP, respectively. The proposal is now expected to be considered by the Centre.

It would be worth mentioning to see that whether the BSP repeat the charisma of social engineering which propelled her to grab 206 seats in last Assembly polls.  Miffed over the corruption charges against her own ministers, Mayawati revamped her government’s face by sacking 20 ministers from the Cabinet.

BSP’s arch rival SP is hoping to return to power in the state on plank of rampant corruption and alleged misrule. SP’s state unit president Akhilesh Yadav draws massive crowds in his rallies. It remains to be seen if the crowds translate into votes. Certainly Akhilesh has changed the face of party with special focus to youths. He took bold decision in avoiding tainted persons in joining party.

He openly opposed DP Yadav’s entry into the party fold. This episode cost senior SP leader Mohan Singh’s job as party spokesperson for backing Yadav. The junior Yadav has been declared as Chief Ministerial candidate.

The grand old party is looking forward to repeat the performance in last general elections in which Congress won 22 seats out of 80.

Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi already launched ‘Mission UP’. Star campaigner Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also considering conducting campaign outside her family fiefdom Amethi and Rai Bareli constituency. Significantly, the Congress is out of power in the state for the last 22 years. During the 2007 Assembly polls, the party finished at fourth by winning mere 22 seats out of 403 with 8.47 percent vote share.

This time, the Congress has made pre-poll alliance with RLD in UP to reap maximum political benefit. It has given 45 seats to Ajit Singh who has massive influence in the western UP.

As far as BJP is concerned, the saffron party lacks prominent face under whose leadership the election can be fought. The party won 51 seats in UP Assembly polls in 2007 with 16.97 vote share.

The saffron party hopes to regain its lost glory. It has banked on the fire brand leader Uma Bharati to grab OBC vote bank. However the party had made a mistake by inducting tainted BSP minister Babu Singh Kushwaha in its fold. Later it had to announce that the Kushwaha’s party membership has been put on hold. But the damage had already done.

The BJP failed to reach seat sharing arrangement with JD (U) in this election as the saffron party had offered only 26 seats to the second largest ally of the NDA.
The presence of another smaller parties like Mohammad Ayub-led Peace Party and Udit Raj headed Indian Justice Party are also striving hard to make their presence felt in this election.

Despite the anti-incumbency factor, graft allegations and deteriorating law and order situation, BSP is looking forward to return back to power with its traditional Dalit vote bank remaining intact. Clearly, the ruling BSP and its arch-rival SP will be the main players in these elections.

The BJP and Congress will lock horns to secure the third place, naturally the winner will be in better position to bargain with either BSP or SP in case of hung assembly. In this four-cornered contest, smaller parties like RLD, having a strong presence in western UP, and the Peace Party, which represents Muslims in poverty-ridden eastern UP, are likely to change the political landscape of the state. With the escalating support of Muslims, the Peace Party could spoil the game for all major players even if it does not succeed in winning large number of seats.