LUCKNOW: The election drums are beating furiously in Uttar Pradesh, with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party fielding their top leaders in what is already an intense campaign even though the dates have still to be announced by the Election Commission. Mayawati has turned quiet as she tends to during the campaign working at the ground level, while the Samajwadi party remains in the throes of familial convulsions.

Demonetisation is the issue for the build up to the polls with Prime Minister Narendra Modi using his election rallies in UP to speak his mind on his controversial decision; even as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi uses his meetings to attack the move as being anti-poor and anti-farmer. The Samajwadi is caught between the father, uncles, and son to even launch its campaign, but the Bahujan Samaj party chief Mayawati is ahead, focusing on demonetisation and atrocities against the Dalits and Muslims as her campaign theme.

The BJP does not have a Chief Ministers candidate leaving it to to its star campaigner Narendra Modi to pull in the votes. His appeal has been so far, on the benefits of demonetisation so that the BJP vote extends beyond the upper caste vote, into the class vote. In the Lok Sabha elections the BJP had gained tremendously because of PM Modi’s ability to attract the youth from all castes with his promise of a new India. This has tarnished since, and ‘notebandi’ is now being projected by him and the BJP---aided ably by the RSS cadres in the districts---as the new mantra for a rainbow support.

The PM is optimistic that his strong pitch for a corruption free India as the reason for demonetisation will be believed by the voter.

Cutting into this campaign, and more effectively now than before, are Rahul Gandhi’s public meeting where he has been more categorical, and clear cut than before in rebutting the PMs claims. Accusing the Prime Minister of corruption, the Congress leader has been drawing the crowds more easily than earlier this year. However, the party is still not visible on the ground and political experts in UP are of the view that while this campaign could make a dent in the BJP support, the advantage if any would flow in the final analysis to one of the main regional parties in the fray.

The Congress is interestingly, aware of this and whle keen for an alliance with the BSP that has not responded positively, is talking to the Samajwadi party where at least Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav seems to be willing to explore the possibility. This is being resisted by father Mulayam Singh but as a state Congress leader said, talks are on.

The Samajwadi party has broken out into a new rash, after a lull, with uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav asserting his authority to make the final decision. He has given out tickets to men with criminal records, leading Akhilesh Yadav to approach his father to intervene. He has given his own list of candidates to Yadav, with the Samajwadi party workers largely desolate and desperate as known equations are falling apart in the tussle for seats.

It is becoming increasingly clear---as reported in The Citizen--- that Mulayam Singh and his brother are determined to ensure that even if the SP wins, Akhilesh Yadav is not the Chief Minister. Conversely, the young leaders popularity is surging in the state and he is seen to be in a good position to take the lead in the forthcoming polls. However, as SP legislators themselves fear, the family squabbles will ensure that this does not happen.

BSP leader Mayawati, who has taken a far stronger position in and outside Parliament against demonetisation, is quietly working to consolidate her vote bank. Her style has always been to keep out of the spotlights as far as possible, although this time she has been more vocal and more visible than before, and is speaking on three issues almost all the time: demonetisation, atrocities against Dalits, and the violence against Muslims. Her campaign makes clear the specific vote bank she is addressing, with the focus having shifted this time from the upper castes who are now seen by the BSP as being almost irrevocably with the BJP in the state.

The voter has still to make up his/her mind. Apart from the general buzz in Lucknow that changes from time to time, the voters in the rural areas and small towns are not particularly keen to share their preferences with the inquisitive journalist at this point. Let us see, remains the refrain. However, it is interesting to note that the election buzz is not centred around the BJP this time around with all the other players sharing the space.