By Sharat Pradhan
Lucknow : With counting of votes Friday for the crucial Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, most parties are resigned to a fractured verdict – except for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that is expecting its leader Mayawati to form the next government.
Mayawati has been claiming that she is going to be state's chief minister for the fourth time.
Running her campaign sans celebrities, catchy advertisements, audio visual displays, she had concentrated on her new experiment of attracting the Brahmin vote to join her strong support base of Dalits in the highly casteist politics of Uttar Pradesh.
Ruling Samajwadi Party president and Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who until a month ago said his return to power was a foregone conclusion, looks shaken and shattered.
Highly placed sources told IANS, "Mulayam's own state intelligence reports refused to give the ruling party anything beyond 70 seats in the 403-member house." Even though all exit polls indicated a better tally for the Samajwadi Party, Mulayam obviously gives more credence to his handpicked intelligence sleuths.
Perhaps SP chief had gauged the "anti-incumbency" mood of the electorate shortly after voting commenced April 7. "Please vote me to power again otherwise Mayawati will send me to jail," was his desperate appeal to voters during his initial campaigning.
Those who have seen Mulayam through the years could not anticipate the wrestler-turned-politician's desperate tone.
"That is very unlike Mulayam Singh. I have known him for decades; he has always been a fighter who could bounce back from the worst situation," quipped an old associate who has stood by him right from his early days in hometown Etawah.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not for once claim that it could form the next government despite flooding the state with the maximum number of high-profile campaigners, including celebrities.
Assertions by its top leaders, including L.K. Advani and party's national president Rajnath Singh, were always laced with observations that clearly reflected on the party's lack of confidence.
"We will neither support anyone nor will take anybody's support; we are prepared to sit in the opposition," were the echoing declarations made by them.
As for the Congress, star campaigner Rahul Gandhi minced no words in admitting that his objective was to re-build the party's base in the state.
"I am not concerned about how many seats we get. I am concerned about the Congress party getting back to life in Uttar Pradesh. In my view, this is the beginning of a long drawn process," Rahul told a press conference at the fag end of his campaign in Gorakhpur last week.
"We have just started the process of reviving Congress and taking it ahead in the state," he said.
While all exit polls and pollsters predicted Mayawati's BSP would emerge as the single largest party, none believed the party's tally would go anywhere beyond 140 – far from the magic figure of 202.
However, Mayawati on her part still exudes confidence that the she would get a clear majority.
"BSP would form a government on its own," asserts her close confidante and party's national general secretary Satish Chandra Misra.
Another BSP source told IANS, "even if we fall short of the magic figure it would be only by a small margin which would be filled in by a few independents."