New Delhi, Feb 11: Uttar Pradesh will vote in the phase 1 of the assembly elections today at 8 am. The first phase covers 15 districts of the state and has 73 out of the total 403 assembly seats in it. The 15 districts which are going for polls today are Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Baghpat, Meerut, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Ghaziabad, Bulandshahr, Mathura, Aligarh, Hathras, Meerut, Agra, Firozabad, Etah and Kasganj. The rest of the phases will vote on February 15, 19, 23 , 27 and March 4 and 8.

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In terms of security, as per ANI, Mohan Kumar, a polling official said that paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been deployed at polling booths.

“Vehicles have been arranged for polling officials. They will be sent through buses. Heavy security arrangements have been made to ensure polling officials reaches their respective booths on time,” said Mohan Kumar.

Considered as one of the most decisive phases of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Phase 1 is mostly important because of the presence of various communities which are expected to have great influence in the overall tally of votes for the parties. The communities present in this West UP area, like the Jats, the Muslims and the Dalits are quite a mass, channelising of whom can either make or break government.

The primary contenders in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections 2017 are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the recent alliance of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress and Chaudhary Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). Notably, the BJP and the BSP have come up as the most divisive in this election. The RLD on the other hand is looking for a way back to gain support of the Jat community, which it has lost in the recent years.

The reason the BJP and the BSP has been named divisive is that the vision they have kept forward is more inclined towards a particular section of people. While the BJP has evidently, showcasing their ‘Hindutva’ ideology has marked the issues of Ram Mandir and banning of cow slaughter houses as those of priority, the BSP has been similarly targeting as always, the Dalit votes. However, taking advantage of this overtly saffron manifesto of the BJP, the BSP has attempted to take the Muslim voters under its wings. As a matter of fact, the BSP has also reportedly got the support from many Muslim organisations as well.

Anyway, apart from that the BJP has continuously criticised the SP-led Government and the previous BSP government of looting the state for the past 15 years. The whole ‘Vikas ka Vanvas’ (Exile of Development) is a jibe on this. And now that the SP has joined hands with the Congress, the BJP has found another reason to make fun of the two parties. However, post demonetisation, this will be the election which will act as a yardstick to measure the sustained popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. Notably the SP-Congress is still critiquing the Modi Government for the demonetisation drive.

The SP-Congress alliance and its impact on the strength of the two parties is highly questionable. Firstly, in 2012 elections, SP won 24 seats out of 73 in the West UP area and Congress only 5. More than that, Congress had a considerable strength at that point of time in other states. But times have changed now and unfortunately for Congress, the change is not a welcome one. Evidently, the Congress party is losing ground in many states of India, Assam and Delhi being the recent ones, and in its alliance with the SP, it seems the Congress is trying to rebuild its stature under the shadow of the Akhilesh Yadav led party. So with these facts in hand, it can be assumed that SP has not much to gain even if it has joined hands with the Congress.

Whatever, might be the outcome of the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections this year, the point that will remain is that the ugly face of divisive politics has not been exposed anywhere else but in Uttar Pradesh this year.

After today’s election, the rest of the phases will vote on February 15, 19, 23 , 27 and March 4 and 8. The counting of the votes will be conducted on March 11, 2017.