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Third phase of elections–tough for SP and a close fight in Punjab

All eyes on the Northeast

With the completion of the first two phases of polling in Uttar Pradesh and single-phase polling in Goa and Uttarakhand the stage is set for the voting for the third phase in UP and single-phase polling in Punjab on Sunday. While Punjab with 117 assembly seats is set to witness a multi-corner contest between, BJP, AAP and Congress, as many as 59 assembly seats going to polls in the third phase in UP will be crucial for the BJP and Samajwadi Party.

Even though the 59 assembly seats spread across Bundelkhand to the Awadh were being viewed as the traditional stronghold of the Yadava clan, the BJP had swept the region by winning 49 seats during the 2017 assembly polls. The SP had managed to get only nine while BSP and Congress had to settle for just one seat each.  One of the keenly watched contests in UP's third phase will be the Karhal assembly seat in Mainpuri from where the SP leader and former chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav is contesting.

In its bid to repeat its performance, the BJP had aimed all its firepower in this belt during the last few days of campaigning. Star BJP campaigners including Home Minister Amit Shah moved from one constituency to another trying to consolidate the vote bank.

Also read:  How crucial will be the voting in the first two phases in Uttar Pradesh?

While the Yadav vote bank is estimated to be nearly 35 per cent, the Muslim vote bank is only eight per cent. Realising that the party's much flaunted Muslim-Yadav(MY) combination might not work here, the SP has been focussing on the non-Yadav OBC vote bank.  The majority of the population which is upper caste and non-Yadav OBC had voted in favour of the BJP in 2017.

What could work in BJP's favour yet again is that the seats going to polls in the third phase have no major Jat domination. What could hurt the BJP is "usual anti-incumbency", a senior BJP functionary said. Apparently, the SP would be relying heavily on Kurmis, Mauryas and other OBC to make a dent in the saffron vote bank.

Interestingly, even though the Bahujan Samaj Party managed to bag only one seat, it clung on to nearly 20 percent of the vote share. The saffron poll pundits believed that the SP would have to make a considerable dent in the BSP vote bank for a game-changing scenario. To make his party tick in the region, the SP chief, Akhilesh Yadav had called for the consolidation of "Samajwadis and Ambedkarwadis" to defeat the BJP.

Also read:  Why Punjab CM Channi’s 'UP, Bihar ke Bhaiye' remark may prove costly for Congress

In Punjab, unemployment, illegal mining drug issues have emerged as the main election issues. In this multi-corner fight, opinions are divided between a hung assembly and an Aam Aadmi Party sweep. Infighting, factionalism and charges of corruption have hit the ruling Congress hard.  With a chief ministerial face and rising vote share, AAP apparently is leading the race. However, on the other hand relying entirely on "brand Modi", BJP hopes to stun the doomsayers.