Uttar Pradesh's voters and their four choices
Hindustan Times Delhi|January 16, 2022
The outcome of the election in India’s most populous state will depend on whether the electorate decides to support a party or a person, vote on the basis of their caste or faith, and whether a majoritarian order is successful in papering over local grievances

Who will win a majority in the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP)? The question, which is animating all those who inhabit the universe of Indian politics is important for the outcome will determine the fate of over 200 million citizens, affect inter-caste and inter-religious ties in the heartland, illustrate whether the political theatre remains governed by the hegemony of a single party or is opening up, and shape national politics in the run-up to the 2024 general elections. And, in this particular case, the result will also affect leadership dynamics within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the future.

Notwithstanding all the speculation, the answer will only be known on March 10, for, as the late Pranab Mukherjee once said, one can only understand an election after it is over. The state's social landscape is fragmented and the interplay between micro and macro factors in each constituency is hard to judge. The practice of Indian political parties, the science of Indian psephology, the discipline of Indian political science, and the craft of Indian political journalism, for the most part, has been unable to keep up with changing voter preferences. That makes it more challenging to answer the question with any certainty.

What we now know, however, is that the poll result will be shaped by four decisions that UP's voters take in the course of the next month.

One, will voters choose their legislator, or vote for the party irrespective of the nature, caliber, and background of the prospective legislator? In the last five elections in UP (encompassing both assembly and Lok Sabha polls), voters largely decided to pick the party. That is why the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 2007, Samajwadi Party (SP) in 2012, and the BJP in 2014, 2017 and 2019, swept the polls comfortably.

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