LUCKNOW: As the clock ticks away in the last few days of the passing year, other than the festive air, people in Uttar Pradesh these days are exited about another impending season as well -- the assembly polls that are likely to be announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) any time now.
And so, living up to its image of being the country's most politicised state, the buildup to the crucial polls is everywhere, with different meanings for different people though! For the common man, while it is time to review the five-year performance of the incumbent party, the traders are looking for some brisk business.
The travel agencies are looking for "some business" as netas, candidates, hacks and officials of many government agencies are set to criss-cross the state over the next few months in hired taxies. Hotels and guest houses too are gearing up for an influx of people in the poll season.
People involved in printing and publishing are stacking up publicity material for parties though many admit that "with stricter ECI rules and demonetisation, things would not be the same as previous elections". The preparations, however, are in full swing and orders are being taken for pamphlets, billboards, hoardings and other publicity material.
"We have done our homework as always. The raw material and labours are in place and we are now awaiting announcements of the poll schedule," the owner of a company that supplies bulk poll material to various parties told IANS. The poll panel, on its part, seems to have completed the processes preceding the announcement of the poll schedule.
Revisions of voter lists, corrections, inclusions of new voters and the security review has been completed. Officials point out they "are now game for free and fair polls anytime they come now". At the core of the entire electoral process, the political parties are as busy as always fine tuning their strategies and "tying up the loose ends".
But despite the buzz, all seemingly is not well with all major players in the state. The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) is hit by internal strife between the feuding chacha (Shivpal Singh Yadav)-bhatija (Akhilesh Yadav) which is threatening to spike its chances at the hustings.
As party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav firefights the raging inferno in the family and the party, the party has declared 175-plus candidates while the CM has recently submitted a list of 403 candidates to the party leadership. This has set off another tug of war between the warring factions. New Year revelry, for now, has taken a back seat in the Yadav clan.
In the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), trying to make a comeback after its rout in 2012 at the hands of arch rival SP, the going so far is not as smooth as it would have liked it to be. Jolted by desertions by senior party leaders and old hands like Swamy Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak, party leaders are burning the midnight oil as they network with the people in their constituencies and strategising on winning.
Party chief Mayawati meanwhile is camping in the state capital, closeted with party aides Satish Misra and Naseem-ud-din at her sprawling, well-guarded bungalow at Mall Avenue trying to offset charges of selling tickets, hoarding ill-gotten money and cracks in her core vote bank of Dalits. She has also been regularly (more than ever in the past) addressing pressers rebutting charges thrown at her by her political opponents.
The Congress, reduced to a rump over the past few decades, initially looked to have regained some of its lost confidence, specially after well-received 'Kisan Yatras', finds itself in political doldrums yet again. Its presumptive chief ministerial candidate, Sheila Dixit, is dogged by the 'Sahara Diaries' charges of kickbacks while the high command is yet to take a final call on the widely speculated electoral alliance with the SP.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which initially seemed to have some edge after the surgical strikes on terror launchpads across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and the failure of regional parties to deliver results, is facing the jitters in the aftermath of demonetisation announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8.
And so despite the bravado, the party spin doctors are keeping "over busy" in the last few days of 2016. State general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak, generally with his family at the year-end, this time is busy taking meetings and touring the state. "It is an election year and so other things take a back seat and politics takes precedencw" he averred while claiming a 300-plus victory for the party in the 404-member assembly, which has one nominated member.
At the centre of all activity -- the babudom (bureaucracy) is also abuzz with discussions on the likely dates, schedule of the poll and the final outcome. Work has slowed down and loyalties to the throne are in for a reality check. "In election season who wants to be bracketed as some party's man or the others...we are playing it safe, awaiting first the election schedule and later the results," a senior bureaucrat chuckled.
Demonetisation having blunted the festive spirit at most places, even the people seem to prefer brief chit-chats on the forthcoming polls. RK Mishra, a teacher said he is all set to get glued to the television.
"Bas chunavi tithiyon ka intezaar hai (Ee all await election dates) he said in excitement. Everyone seems to be just awaiting that!