Brand Akhilesh Yadav is working and he remains the first choice as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, according to a recent survey conducted by ABP News and CSDS. Not only that, the survey also says that Akhilesh's personal approval rating remains higher than that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The survey estimates that if the Samajawadi Party remains united, it will emerge as the single largest party in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly, though it would remain way short of a majority. Here are the key findings of the survey:
Akhilesh is the first choice as CM
SP set to emerge as the single largest party
Akhilesh's approval rating higher than that of Modi
For SP voters, Akhilesh is the first choice by a huge margin, leaving his father Mulayam Singh Yadav far behind. His main rival within the party, uncle Shivpal Yadav, doesn't even figure in the race.
Mayawati's outreach among the Muslim community doesn't seem to be working as SP continues to be overwhelmingly the first choice for Muslim voters.
The best case scenario for the BJP is if there is a split in the SP. But the saffron party will remain far from the majority mark of 202.
It needs to be noted that the survey was conducted in December, before the spat within the SP became public. ABP News announced that the sample size was 6000, spread across 65 constituencies in the state.
ABP News and CSDS had conducted a similar survey in August 2016 and this was the project tally for all the parties:
There doesn't seem to have been a major change in the standing of the parties in these three months, except for a marginal fall in the estimate for the BSP and a even smaller rise in the estimates for BJP and Congress. SP remains where it was.
Significantly, the December survey predicts that Akhilesh will be able to offset the losses caused by a split if it goes for a pre-poll alliance with the Congress.
If the survey data is anything to go by, the combination that is likely to come closest to a majority is a united SP headed by Akhilesh, in alliance with the Congress, RLD and JD(U).
Caste wise estimates
In terms of caste wise estimates, there aren't many surprises with the BJP ahead among Upper Castes and non-Yadav OBCs, BSP leading among Dalits - both Jatav and non-Jatav and SP the clear frontrunner among Yadavs.
In terms of region, the survey stated that BJP was leading in Western UP while SP was ahead in Eastern UP, Bundelkhand and Doab. BSP had an edge in the Awadh region.
However, if one extrapolates from the survey data, it seems if the SP, Congress and RLD come together, they would be able to give the BJP a run for its money in Western UP. As of now, the BJP seems to be benefitting from the high degree of communal polarisation that the region has witnessed in the aftermath of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
SP spokesperson Rajkumar Bhati expressed satisfaction at the survey and said that the party will win a clear majority under the leadership of Akhilesh Yadav. "We will fight under Akhilesh ji's leadership and with the blessings of Netaji (Mulayam). Your subsequent surveys will show that our popularity is only rising," he told ABP News.
BSP leader Munkad Ali, the party's in-charge for East UP, dismissed the findings of the survey. "Each and every election survey in the past has underestimated BSP. This survey is no different," he told Catch.
BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi, too, criticised the survey findings. "This survey was conducted before the tussle within the SP became public. If there's a split, people would realise BJP is the only option. It is only the BJP which has been consistently rising in the state," he said.
The survey findings make it clear that the SP has no option but to unite under Akhilesh's leadership. He is clearly the most popular leader in the party and this is something that Mulayam will sooner or later have to realise. The BSP campaign seems to have petered out and the party is struggling to even reach second place.
The BJP, on the other hand, appears to have squandered all the gains it had made in the Lok Sabha elections in which it won 73 seats out of 80 - leading in over 300 Assembly constituencies, along with its ally Apna Dal. Now the party is even struggling to maintain its lead in even half those constituencies.
As of now, Akhilesh or 'Tipu' as he is fondly called, is best placed to become the Sultan of UP. But he won't be able to do it alone.