The Incumbents From 2012
The Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha consists of 403 seats, the largest for any Indian state. The current Chief Minister is Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP), a regional/state party. In 2012, the SP, in alliance with the Indian National Congress (INC), would take 246 of the 403 available seats, thus gaining control of Uttar Pradesh’s state legislature.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not historically been a power in Uttar Pradesh, only ascending to power twice in the state. The BJP won only 47 seats during the last state election in 2012. Finally, along with the SP, the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), is the other major major regional/state level party that has been competitive in Uttar Pradesh. Its current leader, Mayawati, has been Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh four times, with her last term coming to an end in 2012.
The Uttar Pradesh state elections are to be held in seven phases, with a region of the state voting during each particular phase. In the 2012 elections, 109 constituencies were won by a margin of less than 3%, meaning around 27% of the total constituencies up for grabs were closely contested. Given the fact that there are four major political parties that are contenders in 2017’s elections, this figure signals the potential for a closely contested competition this time around as well. Constituencies in central and eastern Uttar Pradesh are a relative stronghold for the Samajwadi Party. Central Uttar Pradesh includes the state’s capital Lucknow and eastern Uttar Pradesh consists of cities such as Allahabad. Western Uttar Pradesh has meanwhile traditionally been a stronghold for the Bahujan Samaj Party.
The ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party (SP), faced infighting between incumbent chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father and long time SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, with the younger Yadav ultimately winning the struggle. Caste has always played a role in elections in Uttar Pradesh, but the Supreme Court’s ruling stating that caste or religious identity cannot be used as an issue during election campaigns might cause a dent in that influence. Instead, issues such as corruption, development and demonetization have been pushed as campaign issues by all the major parties in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been campaigned frequently in Uttar Pradesh, since the elections began. Issues raised frequently during his campaign speeches include accusing the SP (and the INC) of being corrupt, promising waivers of loans for farmers and the BJP has also been promoting India’s surgical strikes on Pakistan the demonetization move in the state. The SP (along with their ally, the INC) on the other hand, have argued that demonetization was ill planned has been a failure for the common folk.
The BSP are also in the fray, with attacks on SP, as Mayawati called the past five years under the SP a “reign of terror”. The BSP have also been vehement in their attacks on the BJP, as Mayawati claimed the BJP as interfering with the “personal laws” of Uttar Pradesh’s Muslim minority as well as its potential to attempt ending reservations for backward communities.
Caste has always been an issue in Uttar Pradesh elections, but apart from the BSP, the Supreme Court’s ruling barring caste and religion from being used during election campaigns does seem to have reigned in such rhetoric at least from the other three parties in the states. Mayawati has also called for the division of Uttar Pradesh into four separate states over the past few years, and raised the issue once again on the campaign trail, arguing that the lack of development in the state can only be handled by dividing it into four separate states.
According to IBEF, Uttar Pradesh’s gross domestic product for the year 2014-15 was $161.10 million. The key industries in Uttar Pradesh range from agriculture to IT and tourism. Uttar Pradesh was the largest grain producing state in 2015-16 for instance, while cities such as Lucknow and especially Noida serve as important hubs for the IT industry. When it comes to tourism, the Ganga river flows through the state and cities and towns such as Ayodhya, Allahbad and Varanasi all based by the Ganga river. Along with the Taj Mahal in Agra, these three towns and cities serve as popular tourist destinations for the state and contribute massively to its economy.
Uttar Pradesh’s population exceeded 199 million people in the 2011 Census, making it the most populous Indian state. There were 912 women for every 1000 men in the state, with the literacy rate being 77% for men and 57% for women. The overall literacy rate of the state stood at 68%, below the national literacy rate of 74%. 79.73% of the population are Hindus, while Muslims make up 19.26% of the population.