Lucknow: The guns have fallen silent and the armies are back in their camps. With campaigning over for one of the most keenly watched assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in recent times, political heavyweights, as also their foot soldiers, now have their eyes set on which way the last phase goes on Wednesday and then the vote count on March 11.
More than a dozen helicopters and private planes that were used by the bigwigs of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have gone back to the hangars and leaders of all parties have had a “good night sleep” after an arduous campaign of more than two months.
Sources told IANS that Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav spent quality time with his children after a long time on Monday and got a long sleep after a hectic campaign that saw him heli-hopping across most parts of Uttar Pradesh. Desperate to retain his chair against a resurgent BJP and BSP, Yadav addressed a whopping 221 rallies in 36 days, spending almost five-six hours flying.
“He has led an amazing campaign without showing any signs of being tired or irritated and we are hopeful that the toil will reap us a good electoral harvest on March 11,” a close aide said.
The chief minister’s wife, Dimple Yadav, and also the Lok Sabha MP from Kannauj, also hit the campaign trail like never before.
Playing a quiet role, she was occasionally seen in public and government functions in the last five years but didn’t speak much. This time around, the electorate saw her transformation as she campaigned with a flair, taking on the BSP’s Mayawati and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Accompanied by senior party leader Juhi Singh, she addressed 33 rallies to drum up support for her husband.
Missing from the scene, however, was former SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who, unlike last assembly elections in 2012, just addressed four rallies. Of these three were for family members who are in the fray and one for old colleague Parasnath Yadav. In the last polls he led from the front and addressed 100-plus rallies.
Modi, after a hectic back-to-back roads shows over three days in his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi and a visit to various temples, is back to his daily chores. Having addressed 23 rallies in the state over the two months, the prime minister flew to his native Gujarat on Tuesday to inaugurate India’s longest cable bridge and for many other engagements, that include a visit to the Somnath temple.
The BJP chief Amit Shah, who had a whirlwind campaigning schedule, is also out for some quiet moments, away from the hurly-burly of politics. After addressing more than 200 rallies in a two monthlong campaign, Shah is back to his bungalow in Delhi and is monitoring development at the BJP’s Ashok Road office.
Keshav Prasad Maurya, the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit chief, has been driving in his SUV for almost four months now and has taken a small break, a party leader said. But he is marshaling the party cadres for the last round in Poorvanchal, which goes to polls on Wednesday. At stake are 40 seats.
Party general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak, who also travelled extensively during the election campaign, says he is “back to normal”. Resuming his morning walk at the Lohia Park in the posh Gomtinagar area of the state capital, he is hopeful of a BJP majority in the assembly and is now awaiting the March 11 vote count.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, who has been the chief minister four times, fiercely tried to regain lost ground and romp home to power.
Ably assisted by party leaders Satish Chandra Mishra and Naseemuddin Siddiqui, she led a brave campaign amid reports that the “elephant [her party symbol] was a poor third” and held sway over her Dalit vote bank. She addressed 52 major rallies across the state and logged more than 60 flying hours.
“Behenji [as Mayawati is addressed] has envious stamina and she has worked very hard for the comeback,” said a staffer at her sprawling, heavily-guarded bungalow at Mall Avenue in Lucknow. She skipped campaigning on the last opportunity on Monday and is learnt have relaxed at her home with a warm water and salt foot massage. She spoke to the second rung leaders of her party and made an internal assessment of her party’s performance at the hustings.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi also worked hard in the staggered seven-phased elections and addressed 45 big and small public rallies, took out four road shows and went ‘proactive’ after the party stitched up an alliance with the ruling Samajwadi Party. He has gone back to Delhi and is learnt to have called on his mother, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and briefed her over dinner about the potential outcome of the “sweat and toil”.
Sources say the Gandhi scion was “pretty sure of the alliance victory”. Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee chief Raj Babbar also worked hard and addressed 45 rallies, along with Pramod Tiwari and other senior leaders.