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Phase-I may not see tilt towards any party

April 15, 2009 03:13 IST
As voters get ready to make or break candidates' fortunes for 124 seats of the Lok Sabha in the first phase of general elections, a dipstick survey suggests no particular tilt towards either any party or alliance.

Take Uttar Pradesh. The seats in around Gorakhpur have been affected by escalating communal tension and although there is little reverberation of this in the state capital of Lucknow, it is likely that these will add to the Bharatiya Janata Party's kitty. In the rest of the seats in UP, the contest is evenly matched between the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party in eastern UP, a region known as a tinderbox of communal tension.

Communal tension is already evident in Orissa, which will hold assembly and Lok Sabha elections together. The BJP's candidate from the sensitive Kandhamal constituency has been jailed for making provocative speeches. Going to the polls is Kalahandi where development and poverty are the main issues, and parts of southern Orissa, dominated by tribal communities.

Poverty and development have also been the resounding theme during poll campaigns in Maharashtra, where the Vidarbha region, stricken by farmers' suicides, is going to the polls. Here, the Congress emphasis has been on all the steps the United Progressive Alliance has taken to stabilise farmers' lives in the face of recurrent drought and indebtedness. The feeling is that the Congress will improve its position somewhat here, also because of clever choice of candidates and caste equations, after the delimitation exercise.

In Andhra Pradesh, it is mostly the Telangana areas which are going to the first phase of polls. Here the referendum is on the division of the state, a matter on which the Congress is somewhat on the defensive. In fact, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in a bid to placate voters, recently said that the party "could consider' the demand for new smaller states, an obvious reference to Telengana. However, Congress opponents say this it too little, too late. While the Telangana Rashtra Samiti's recent electoral record -- in by-elections, for instance -- has been less than impressive, the overwhelming sentiment in favour of the formation of Telengana is likely to deeply influence the outcome. The two important elements absent from this phase of polling are the impact of actor Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam Party (which has a bigger presence in coastal Andhra Pradesh) and a communal campaign.

In Bihar, the seats where voting will take place were core supporters of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Party supremo Lalu Prasad's estranged brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav had earlier represented Gopalganj, which he had to vacate after it became a reserved seat.

The region is the stronghold of the RJD chief and also the family of his wife, Rabri. How he will perform here will decide how he fares in the rest of the state. Saran, Prasad's own constituency that he is contesting for the first time, also goes to the first phase of polls. The turnout on April 16 will decide who is winning these seats in Bihar.

BS Reporter