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Uttar Pradesh

As the fifth largest and the most populous state of the country, Uttar Pradesh (UP) contributes the major share in the total Lok Sabha seats. UP is always considered as the political hub in India, as it has given as many as five Prime Ministers to the country. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of members in the Indian parliament and so the election results in UP often decides the fate of the government at the center. Uttar Pradesh has a history of violent riots between Hindu and Muslims.

The BJP victory in the state increased Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modis and BJPs chances of winning a second term in the national elections in 2019. Firebrand Hindu politician Yogi Adityanath, pre-eminent Hindu Hriday Samrat (king of hearts of Hindus), was appointed to the position of chief minister in India's most populous state on 17 March 2017. Adityanath's ascent has prompted widespread questions about India's secular status, and whether Modi, himself a product of a nationalist Hindu upbringing, intends to pursue more religious policies as he pursues economic reforms.

Critics saw the elevation of Adityanath as a move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards redefining the world's largest democracy as a Hindu nation. Adityanath had a history of agitation against minority Muslims in India. Adityanath is saffron-robed Hindu priest, a five-term member of India's Parliament and has more than a dozen criminal cases pending against him, including an attempted murder charge.

Adityanath is supported by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), that provides the ideological base and recruitment pool to the Bharatiya Janata Party and other extremist Hindu groups. The RSS supports "Hindutva" or Hindu-ness as the cultural identity of India and promotes the message of Hindu supremacy in a nation that is constitutionally secular. Critics say the RSS and its hardline Hindu philosophy hardens divisions in society in order to unify Hindu opinion and votes.

After Adityanath took the reins of the state government, police deployed "anti-Romeo squads" meant to keep men and women apart in public to protect women from harassment. But they are also seen by some as an extension of Adityanath's battle against what he calls the "love jihad," or the "entrapment" of Hindu women to convert them to Islam. At one rally Adityanath vowed, "If one Hindu girl marries a Muslim man, then we will take 100 Muslim girls in return." He went on, "If they (Muslims) kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men." In 2015, he defended the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri who was accused of possessing and consuming beef. He once said that Mother Teresa was part of a Christianisation conspiracy in northeast India. On another occasion, Adityanath said that if given a chance, he would place the Hindu idol of Ganesh in all mosques. Adityanath said that those citizens who opposed yoga should leave the country and drown themselves.

In a front-page story, the Times of India called the selection of the "saffron hardliner" a "defiant assertion" of the party's Hindu nationalist credentials. "By picking him to govern India's largest state, Modi and (BJP President Amit) Shah have sent a clear message that they will be bound by neither the norms of 'politics as usual' nor the requirements of political correctness," the Times wrote.

Mohsin Raza was the only Muslim in the 50-member council of ministers who were sworn-in on a hectic afternoon. Raza's name did come as a huge surprise for all as the BJP had not cared to field even a single Muslim candidate in the recent state election.

The temple issue is no longer the election-cry of even the BJP which, in the 1990s, rose to national prominence on the temple promise. Whether the Ram temple will be built is a matter of speculation - but with Yogi as CM of a BJP government with a massive majority, the clamor for the temple was only going to increase. The dispute flared up in 1992 after a Hindu mob destroyed the mosque and nearly 2,000 were killed in rioting between Hindus and Muslims across the country. As an ascetic of the Kanphata yogis (pierced ears) or the Nath tradition of Gorakshapeeth, Gorakhpur, Adityanaths association with the dispute in Ayodhya is not just individual, its institutional. His own guru Avaidyanath, who died in 2014, was an important leader of the Ramajanambhoomi movement.

Much like Modi, Adityanath tempered his tone since the March elections: Ever since he became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Adityanath has sounded like more of a statesman than a rabble-rouser. Gone is the fiery anti-Muslim rhetoric and promotion of Hindu supremacy for which the 44-year-old is known, and in its place is a message of social inclusion more akin to Modi's language since sweeping to power in 2014. On the other hand, Adityanath's devotees at the Gorakhnath temple still say their main mission is to fight against creeping encroachment by Uttar Pradesh's Muslim community. Adityanath's fanbase is diverse: Despite his anti-Islam rhetoric, some Muslims living in his constituency and near the Gorakhnath temple praise the priest saying he takes care of everyone and provides protection regardless of caste and creed. Even though, apart from his rhetorical statements, there is no past precedent that clearly indicate Adityanaths administrative record.Those defending him say he should be given a chance. They also believe that the appointment will be a better platform for Adityanath, and that all the decisions he makes will be somewhat accounted for because he will now be under closer scrutiny. The BJP had been expected to perform well in UP, but few experts had predicted the scale of the victory in elections viewed as a test of Modi's popularity after a controversial ban on high-value banknotes. Experts said the results showed Modi had succeeded in tapping into popular anger over corruption with the move, which was aimed at tackling tax evasion but also led to widespread chaos in a country where most transactions are cash-based.

Low-caste leader Mayawati, whose Bahujan Samaj Party was in third place in UP, said the results were "shocking" and asked the election commission to investigate the possibility voting machines had been tampered with.

This win will alter the composition of the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP and its allies were still in a minority. The Rajya Sabha, Indias upper house of Parliament, has 250 seats. The BJP had 56, three behind the Congresss 59 seats. Uttar Pradesh, owing to its population size, has the highest representation in the Rajya Sabha, with 31 members. Since the tenure in the Rajya Sabha is six years, 10 of the 31 seats in Uttar Pradesh will be vacant by 2019. Even with all these gains, a majority would still elude the BJP in the Rajya Sabha. But the BJP would have more opportunity to pass laws deemed controversial by the Opposition since they would have a smaller gap to bridge to get a majority.

The BJP won close to 300 seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly. The BJP is well on the course to win close to 300 seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly. A saffron sweep is visible across the length and breadth of Uttar Pradesh, except some pockets where Samajwadi Party has done well. The Samajwadi Party had won majority on its own by winning 224 seats in 2012 but this time SP-Congress alliance were not looking to win even 75 seats. The Uttar Pradesh election results established that the "Modi wave" was still sweeping the landscape of the most populous state of the country. The Akhilesh-Rahul alliance did not work in Uttar Pradesh, where a majority of the voters are below 35 years of age.

Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India, accounting for 16.4 per cent of Indias population. If Uttar Pradesh were an indepedent country, its population of 200 million would be tied for fifth place with Brazil, trailing only Indonesia, the United States, India itself, and China.

Life in Uttar Pradesh is short and uncertain. Female expects to less than 55 years and the under-fire mortality rate is as high as 141 per thousands. In these respects Uttar Pradesh resembles Saharan Africa for with 53 years of life expectancy and 160 under five mortality rate. Further, the demographic transition of U.P. has been slow. Among all the major Indian states, Uttar Pradesh has the highest birth rate and the highest fertility rate.

Samajwadi Party dislodged the BSP from power in 2012 with its brand of social engineering. Party leader Akhilesh Yadav was embroiled in a long-drawn squabble for power with his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav within the Samajwadi Party. Shivpal Yadav, known to be the partys chief organiser, fielded rebel candidates against the Samajwadi Partys official candidates in a clear attempt to undermine his nephew.

Akhilesh Yadav made a concerted effort to distance himself from the lathi-wielding Yadav musclemen who have been the backbone of the Samajwadi Party. Critics said the partys cadres had let loose a reign of terror in the past five years that the Samajwadi Party had been in power. It was said that Yadavs "start indulging in goondagardi and grab our property, even our wives and daughters are not safe.

Goondagardi (goonadaism - hooliganism) includes physical threats, fights and violence. Right-wing mobs are allowed to attack their opponents without fear of legal action. On the campaign trail in Uttar Pradesh, in February 2017 Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah complained about goondagardi or mob rule in the state, and referred to his political opponents as Kasab Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, an acronym that is reference to the name of the terrorist who was caught in the Mumbai attacks. Yet, his own government is unable to prevent violence from an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed outfit affiliated to his party.

Akhilesh emerged victorious with the Election Commission recognising his faction as the true Samajwadi Party, assigning him the poll symbol. Mulayam and Shivpal Yadav openly expressed their opposition to Akhilesh Yadav's style of functioning. Akhilesh responded by allying with Congress hoping that his association with Rahul Gandhi would woo the youths of Uttar Pradesh. But it was said the two parties had come together primarily to woo the Muslims.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi formed an alliance in Uttar Prades, convinced that this partnership would pose a formidable challenge to the Bharatiya Janata Party and succeed in halting the saffron outfits onward march. They believed that a Dalit-Muslim combination would certainly defeat the BJP. Sceptics in the Samajwadi Party and the Congress were proved right. Akhilesh Yadavs image make-over failed to endear him to the electorate, and the Congress added no value to the alliance as the party had virtually no support base in Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP revised its strategy by focusing on Other Backward Classes [OBCs] who did not support the Yadav clan and non-Jatav Dalits. This move not only countered the Yadav vote-bank of the Samajwadi Party but gave the BJP a definite edge in the elections.

Uttar Pradesh's Jatav population had emerged the clear leader among the 66 communities listed as scheduled castes. According to Census 2011 data, the Jatav community, identified with different names cross the state, has the highest number - 2,24,96,047-- constituting 54.23% of UP's total scheduled caste population.

The victory was seen as an endorsement of PM Modi's high-risk decision in November 2016 to scrap high-value banknotes worth 86 per cent of the cash in circulation. For all the fury and helplessness demonetisation generated, it also firmed up existing identities and political choices rather than bringing radical shifts in political positions. People made their arguments to justify their choices, not the other way around. Jatavs were firmly with the BSP and the Jats agree with the BJP.

The first phase of voting in Uttar Pradesh was held on 11 February 2071. The election in the state is to be held in seven phases. A total of 836 candidates would battle it out in the first phase. Of the 836 candidates, 168 had criminal cases pending against them and 302 are crorepatis [persons whose assets are worth at least one crore or 10 million rupees - in the Indian numbering system the unit "crore" is 10 million].

A total of 73 constituencies in 15 districts would go to poll in the first phase. Voting would be held in the districts of Agra, Aligarh, Bulandshahar, Etah, Firozabad, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Ghaziabad, Hapur, Hathras, Kasganj, Mathura, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. In the district of Muzaffarnagar which saw rioting some time back had 80 candidates contesting for 6 assembly seats. 16 candidates are fighting it out in Muzaffarnagar constituency itself.

Gaurav Swaroop of SP, Kapil Dev of BJP, Rakesh Sharma, BSP and Payal Mahaswatri of RLD and 12 others were fighting the elections. The Jat voters generally dominate the western Uttar Pradesh where the voting was being held in the first phase. The ruling Samajwadi Party formed the government in 2012 when it fought the election under Mulayam Singh Yadav and dislodged Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party by winning a clear majority with 224 seats in the house of 403.

The SP-Congress combine was pitched against the BJP and the BSP in a triangular contest across the state.The BJP was upbeat after forming a government at the center and relying on the charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It did not have an impressive show in the last elections and garnered only 47 seats, four down from the previous tally of 51. Most of the poll surveys saw a fight between SP-congress alliance and the BJP, giving much less weight to Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.

Mayawati was hoping to return to power with Dalit and Muslim votes have given good number of tickets to Muslims along with Dalits but the road to Lucknow may not be an easy one as the Muslim votes are likely to split. She is also banking upon the anti-incumbency factor of the present SP government and feud in the Samajwadi Party which may work to her advantage. In the last elections held in 2012 BSP secured only 80 seats and became the second largest party though falling way back from the winner Samajwadi Party which secured an absolute majority with 224 seats.

In 2014, it was the idea of Modi as PM that delivered UP to the BJP. But having shed their core issues such as Akhand Bharat, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code, besides, of course, the Ram temple at Ayodhya, there was little left to distinguish BJP from the rest.

Prime Minister Modi launched attack at the ruling Samajwadi party in the state and said, When Shri Akhilesh Yadav won, the expectations were huge. We thought a young CM will do well but UP is disappointed. The ruling party in Uttar Pradesh has to give an account of their work but they arent doing so. Instead they are asking what Modi has done. They should tell what they have done for welfare of the state.

Modi said that corruption had badly gripped the state and BJP Government was committed to rid Uttar Pradesh of its troubles. He added, Our Government eliminated interview process for class III and IV jobs. This has drastically reduced corruption.

PM Modi hit out hard at UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and on the other he aggressively wooed two sections of the voters - Jats and small traders. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Jats had voted en bloc for the BJP, helping it win all the seats in the region. The petty traders in both the rural and urban areas have apparently turned against BJP after the note-ban move.

The elections in Uttar Pradesh were distributed in seven phases beginning February 11, the first phase. The second phase voting would be held on February 15, third phase voting would be on 19. Voting for the fourth and fifth phase would be held on February 23 and February 27 respectively. Sixth and seventh phase voting would be held on March 4 and March 8 respectively. Votes would be counted on March 11 along with other four states of Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur.

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