UP polls: Which way is the wind blowing in a three-cornered contest?

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) [India], Mar. 10 (ANI): The high-voltage campaign for the last round of the seven-phased Uttar Pradesh assembly elections for 402 seats ended on Monday. The voter turnout during these phases was an average 60 to 61 percent.

The major contenders -- Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) -- left no stone unturned to woo voters.

The final phase witnessed mega roadshows and back-to-back rallies of top brass leaders, including by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and BSP supremo Mayawati.

The crucial question now is which way the wind is blowing? This baffling question has not one, but many answers, contrary to the 2007 and 2012 assembly elections when the outcome was far clearer before the poll results were out.

The state's political landscape is making it tough for the people to predict who takes charge eventually in Lucknow, as adversaries are changing from constituency to constituency.

This time too the result is expected to be fractured in the absence of a wave in favour of any one of the major players.

The SP-Congress alliance faces an acid test as they have pitted candidates against each other in the Payagpur assembly constituency.

The BJP looks fighting fit in 2017, but the fact remains that in 2014, when it swept the state on an appeal from Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the Samajwadi Party and BSP polled 19.77 percent and 22.35 percent of the votes respectively. Mayawati failed to open her account in the Lok Sabha and Mulayam won four family seats.

Mayawati, who is contesting this year's polls alone, has so far been cornering both the BJP and the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance in the hope of ensuring that the elephant has the last laugh in this politically vital state. Popularly addressed as 'Behenji', Mayawati has also been vocal against both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. This year's polls will also decide whether the four-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh continues to enjoy the support of Dalits and minorities.

Mayawati's rise from humble beginnings has been called a "miracle of democracy" by former prime minister P. V. Narasimha Rao.

After losing the 2012 assembly elections to the rival Samajwadi Party, she resigned from her post as party leader on March 7 that year. Later that month, she was elected by acclamation to a seat in the Rajya Sabha.

In 2008, Forbes placed Mayawati in the 59th place on its list of the 100 most powerful women in the world

While the BJP has tried hard at polarisation, the SP-Congress alliance has played the development card and the BSP banking on Dalit-Muslim vote consolidation.

The Highs:

• No violence was reported from any polling booth during the seven phases.

• No leader was banned from campaigning for hate speech despite certain controversial statements.

• Akhilesh Yadav's wife Dimple evolved as a leader, addressing independent meetings and holding roadshows.

The Lows:

• The BJP did not field any Muslim candidate. It also asked the Election Commission to deploy women at polling booths to check burqa-clad women.

• The politicians used animal references to attack each other; like gadha (donkey) followed by bhains (buffalo), kabootar (pigeon), magarmachh (crocodile), machhli (fish), sher (lion), etc.

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to kabristaan (graveyard) and shamshaan (cremation ground) and drew parallel between Diwali with Ramzan to underline 'disparity' in power supply during festivals.

As it still remains unclear as to who will ultimately sit on the throne of Uttar Pradesh, the March 11 verdict will not only script new chapter for Prime Minister Modi and Rahul Gandhi, but also for Indian politics. (ANI)