Polls opened in the Western part of the state yesterday, and participation seems to have been lower than in 2014 (Lok Sabha elections). The Western part of UP stands apart for different reasons. It is among the most developed, given the proximity to the National Capital Region or NCR. The northwestern districts of UP also have a large Muslim (Jat) community. Lastly, these districts have a history of Dalit empowerment that other districts in the state (with the exception perhaps of the main cities) do not share. It is unclear which party will pull ahead. The importance of the Muslim vote would make the SP a likely winner, but the area has also experienced communal violence in 2013 (Muzzafarnagar) and 2015 (the Dadri ‘beef’ incident), so the BJP may have a shot if able to rally the Hindu vote.
On a different note, I realized today how ironic the Congress-SP alliance was. After all, the historic leaders of the SP, such as Mulayam Singh Yadav politically emerged in the 1970s and 1980s with their challenge to Congress hegemony and their often painful experience of repression during the Emergency.