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Stage set for high stake battles in Goa and Uttarakhand– 55 seats up for grabs in western UP as well

Polling officials checking the Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs) and other necessary inputs required for the Uttarakhand Assembly Election, at a distribution centre, in Dehradun (Pic. Courtesy ANI)

The stage is set for the high stakes battle between the BJP, Congress and Aam Aadmi Party as Goa, Uttarakhand and parts of western Uttar Pradesh go to the polls today. While it would be single-phase polling in Goa and Uttarakhand, votes would be cast in 55 assembly constituencies spread across nine districts of western Uttar Pradesh.

Even as Uttar Pradesh dominated the election scenario, all eyes are also on Goa and Uttarakhand, where BJP is locked in fierce battles to stay in power. In Goa, this is the first electoral foray for the BJP without its talisman and master strategist, former chief minister, Manohar Parrikar. This small seaside state with 40 assembly seats is locked in a multi-corner contest. Pitted against the ruling BJP is Congress and AAP and Trinamool Congress among other smaller parties. However, analysts observed that the main fight would be between BJP and Congress.

If it is anti-incumbency and factionalism plaguing the ruling BJP, Congress could be hit by the division of votes in Goa. Accusations of corruption in job recruitment, Covid mismanagement and defections are issues that have hit the BJP hard. For Congress, the principal challenger. division of secular votes has emerged as the main cause of concern. AAP which drew blanks both in the 2017 Assembly elections and 2019 Lok Sabha polls have entered the fray armed with a "loyalty affidavit".  Leading AAP's campaign, Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal claimed that only his outfit could provide the "best alternative" to BJP.

The TMC in alliance with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party is looking to expand beyond West Bengal with election strategist, Prashant Kishor formulating its campaign. The BJP and Congress heavyweights ranging from Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, Home Minister, Amit Shah, Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi have crossed this state to woo the electorates. Goa chief minister, Pramod Sawant, exuding confidence had claimed that his party "would beat anti-incumbency and go two steps ahead."

With no visible wave in favour of any party, Uttarakhand with 70 assembly seats is expected to witness a close fight between the ruling BJP and the principal opposition, Congress. The duel in the hills is between Congress' old warhorse and former chief minister, Harish Rawat and BJP chief minister, Pushkar Dhami. Traditionally Uttarakhand has never voted back an incumbent since its creation in 2000. Chief Minister Dhami claimed that "BJP is on its way to make history by returning to power for the second time."

Sensing that unemployment has emerged as a major election issue both Congress and BJP have been promising lakhs of jobs. But none of the outfits has so far been able to come up with any concrete roadmap. Even though AAP might not be in a position to form a government in the state, it could eat into the vote banks of both BJP and Congress. Working in Uttarakhand for over two years, AAP has reportedly expanded its organisational base and been campaigning aggressively in the state.

Of the 55 seats going to polls in western UP, BJP had won 38 in 2017 the SP bagged 14, Congress two while BSP had drawn a blank. Muslim votes are expected to play a crucial role in this particular phase. Statistics show that of the 55 assembly constituencies at least nine have over 50 per cent of the Muslim population while it is between 40 to 50 per cent in 14 seats and between 30 to 40 per cent in another 14. The ongoing Hijab controversy is expected to play a crucial role in the Muslim dominated belts. It may be recalled that even when BJP swept the state in 2017, 10 Muslim candidates had won from among the 55 constituencies. While Samajwadi Party and RLD wagon is trying to consolidate the Muslim-Yadav and OBC vote banks, the BJP while wooing the non-Jatavs continue to rely on the polarisation mantra.

Also Read: Uttarakhand Polls: It could be a close fight in the land of Gods