Indian Politics- Uttar Pradesh pre-eminence neutralised
Syed Ali Mujtaba
Uttar Pradesh is the most prized possession for any political party in the country. India’s most populous state, located in the indo- gangatic basin, that sends 80 Member of Parliament, the highest among all the states. The party which could win the majority of the seats from this crucial state has a head start to make up to the magical figure of 270, needed to form the government at the Centre.
No wonder, every political put every thing at stake to corner a large number of seats from this state. However, none have the wherewithal to weave the complex social mosaic under one banner and therefore no one can claim to have monopoly over the state. As a result, every political party have to be contended with their own electoral pie leading to the pre- eminence of UP being neutralised in Indian politics.
Uttar Pardesh has bewildering political complexities. It has 65 districts and which is divided between East, Central and Western region. The western UP comprises of the area adjoining Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan, where Jats and Muslims are dominant factor. There is sugarcane planters’ in the Rohil Khand area in western UP. The intermediary castes like Mallah, Yadav, Bindi, dominate the Central UP, while Dalits and Muslims matter most in eastern UP.
The political arithmetic in Uttar Pradesh has got a sea change since the implementation of Mandal commission report in 1989 which empowered the intermediary and lower caste group by giving them 28 per cent reservation. Congress, barring the 1977, (anti- Congress wave) had a free run in the state till 1984. Congress’s fortune swung for worse thereafter as it got decimated in its own bastion. It is because BJP from here rose like a phoenix to hold sway all over the country. The post Mandal scene also saw the rise of Samajwadi party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj party (BSP) challenging BJP’s supremacy in the state.
There are three key political contenders for power in Uttar Pradesh. The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj party, at number one and two positions while the BJP being close third. Congress remains poor fourth, while Ajit Singh’s National Lok Dal, too has its presence in the state.
Samajwadi Party has in its constituency as Muslims, Yadavs, Jat, Gujjar’s and Rajputs. It has tied up with Ajit Singh’s National Lok Dal which has Jat votes in western UP. The strength of the SP comes from intermediary castes and Muslims. Muslim comprises over 15 per cent and SP has gone all out to placate them by promising various sops in its manifesto. Muslim votes however remain divided between SP, BSP and Congress in Uttar Pradesh.
Samajwadi Party maintains a track record to keeping a distance from the BJP but it has been unsuccessful to sew up any secular or social justice alliance due to electoral consideration. It had a brief honeymoon with BSP in 1996 but both parties remain at loggers head since then. SP feels at home to take support of Congress at provincial level, but shy from aligning with Congress at the Centre. Since SP is unable to dent either the BJP or BSP’s vote base it can not improve its tally from ore than 25 to 30 seats. In post poll scenario, SP may like to call shots, if Congress alliance remains short of majority in the Parliament.
Bahunjan Samaj party (BSP) has Jatavs, Kurmis and Muslims as its constituency. The BSP rose in the post ‘Mandal era’ opposing the Upper caste politics of the BJP and the Congress. BSP’s war cry then was to demolish, the hegemony of ‘Tilak’ (Brahims) ‘Taraju’ (Bania) and ‘Talwar’ (Rajput), the three castes which exploited Indians since time immemorial. The party pledged to make the vertical social order horizontal in the country. Then BSP also attacked the BJP’s trump card ‘Ram’ and “Gandhi’, that of the Congress. It promoted Ambedkar as the national hero who belonged to down trodden caste.
However, in course of time, BSP got caught up in a strange dilemma; if it conducts itself on its ideology, it cannot come to power on its own, and if comprises its principles, it risks the erosion of its political base. BSP preferred the second option and diluted most of its stand to align with the BJP. However, compulsions of state’s politics where both; BSP- BJP compete with the same electorates make them reluctant partners. It is seen that BSP too have constant vote bank that hovers around 20 to 30 seats. BSP, in 2004 election, has chosen to go alone, hoping for an increased bargaining position in case of a hung Parliament.
BJP which had a meteoric rise in the state since 1984 primarily due evoking the religious sentiments of Hindus and linking it with national pride, cornered majority of the seats on ‘Ram wave’ in the late 80’s and early 90’s. This was primarily at the expense of Congress. Thereafter, it was unable dent into either the SP or BSP’s, vote base and reached its plateau in 1999. The party was heading for a slide due to desertion of its Dalit chief Minister, Kalyan Singh and the milk of ‘holy cow’ of Ayodhya running dry. The BJP was sure to be on the loosing side going by the ground reality. It salvaged the situation patching up with Kalyan Singh eventually. The former Chief Minister is believed to have influence over least 10 seats due to the dominance of his Lodha caste. However, in wake of lack of any definite swing in favour of BJP, the part can get not more than 20 to 30 seats.
Congress remains at the bottom of the table in Uttar Pradesh. Since mid- eighties, Muslims, Harijans and Upper caste, the three crucial pillars of Congress has deserted the party. Muslims have clung to SP and BSP, Harijans have gone to BSP, while the Upper castes gravitated towards the BJP. There is no indication of any of these groups siding with the Congress. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are the main are the main stay for the party. Congress had hit the pathetic figure of ten seats in the 1999 and in 2004 it can maximum increase its tally to five. At the end of the day it has to be contended with 10 to 15 seats. In the post Mandal scenario what is seen is that the prominence of Uttar Pradesh in the electoral politics of India has been neutralised. Earlier, Congress or BJP by winning more than 60 seats had a head start from this state. However, in a three corned fight, each party can only pocket no more than 20 to 30 seats, making Uttar Pradesh akin to any other big states of India from where an equal number of seats too can be garnered by a single party.
Another, peculiar feature of UP politics is that SP and BSP, the two social justice parties have become synonym with Yadavs and the Jatavs. This has resulted in a new consciousness developing among several other marginalised caste groups not to blindly support either of the two parties. Some caste groups have even floated their own political outfit but at the moment they remain at an embryonic stage.
The other indicator from UP is since Congress and BJP are main contender for power at the national level they have no other go to ally with either SP or BSP to come to power. At the same time, SP and BSP have to depend on BJP or Congress to come power in the state. As a result, an alliance is impetrative but no political party seem interested in forming a durable alliance. What is seen is, alliances are forged to come to power and then broken as collation partners tend to work at cross purposes with each other. All efforts in the past to sew up alliances have not yielded to any wining combination. The prime reason is, due to huge number of seats stake, no party wants to give an inch of advantage to the other political group. This makes UP the most divided political bastion in the country.
The emerging trend indicates that no political party has any decisive edge over the other in UP. SP is looking to play king maker in case of hung Parliament and too if Congress falls short in majority. BSP is looking for post poll alliance with either BJP or Congress in such situation. Both SP and BSP therefore have not entered into any pre- poll alliance. BJP on the other hand is vouching for BSP to come to its side in post poll scenario. Congress has to decide which party to align with in case if it falls short of majority. So in final analysis, political situation in Uttar Pradesh continue to remain fluid with no decisive mandate in any one’s favour.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a television journalist currently working in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org