UP Election - A Postmortem
By Syed Ali Mujtaba
While doing the postmortem of the Bahujan Samaj party’s victory in Uttar Pradesh, many writings have analyzed the electoral verdict in terms of the subaltern movement in the state. There is no denying of the fact that a great deal of Dalit resurgence taking place at the grass root level in India's heartland, but there is little evidence to suggest that the victory of this pro low caste party owes to any revolutionary trend in the making.
The victory of Bhaujan Samaj party was more due to default rather than any calculated design. In the triangular contest, the other two high profile parties; the Samajwadi Party and the BJP both had lost the husttings even before the electioneering had begun. Congress on the fourth place had never been in the political fray in any big way.
So there was nothing startling about the UP electoral results. Every thing has been on expected lines as the script that written well before the elections. Those trying to read too much into this result are basically those who are fond of blowing the trumpet when the procession has hit the road.
As far as the BJP is concerned, they had lost the election, the moment they distributed the controversial CD. Its poll managers thought that through the CD they would be able to polarizing the society to the 1990 level and win the election hands down. The Muslims did not violently reacted to it and instead kept cool and so their strategy miserably failed. In fact the CD dissuaded many people who might have initially thought of voting for the BJP.
Even the “caste arithmeticians” of the BJP could not save their boat from sinking. The party remained silent spectators to the breaking of the Brahim-Banya alliance in spite having stalwart upper caste leaders like; Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Murali Manohar Joshi, Rajnath Singh, all from the state in its ranks. Their strategy of patching up with, Kalyan Singh the estranged Dalit leader, too did not work. The former Chief Minister could not to steal a single vote from the SP or BSP's kitty. On the contrary he presided over the loss of both upper caste and lower votes to the BSP and the SP.
The BJP owes its ascendance in Indian politics to the Uttar Pradesh. It had a dream run from 1986 to 1992 when it generated a mass hysteria among the innocent voters promising them the Ram Raj by constructing a Ram Temple at Ayodhya where stood the Babari masjid. The gullible and religiously emotional people got enticed by their high profile campaign; Saugandh Ram ki khate hain, Mandir Wahin Banayenge (I vow in the name of Ram to construct the Mandir at the same spot where the Babari Masjid stands). The "Chalaks" (intelligent) who could sense the pulse of the time joined BJPs ranks because for them it was; "Ram Naam ki loot machi hai, loot sako to looto" (there is a loot going on in the same ram, if you can loot, can loot).
In 1989 the BJP had 89 seats, thanks to its temple campaign, its tally shot up to more than 200 seats in 1992. However, after the destruction of the Babari Masjid in 1992, its fortunes have started tumbling down. The party since then has been witnessing a free fall. Currently it holds just 50 seats in the new assembly.
The UP election results must be a day of rejoicing for the party’s rebel leader Uma Bharti, who had openly called some of the BJP leaders as "Sata ke dalal" – ‘Pimps for Power’.
The outgoing Samajwadi party had lost the confidence of the people and its rule had become synonymous with rampant corruption, nepotism and lawlessness (goonda raj). The Samajwadi party failed to address any of the pressing developmental issues and got embroiled into many things that dented its poor- pro dalit, and pro minority image.
The SP leader Amar Singh, who actually held the strings of power, had become an eyesore on the TV for his flamboyant life style. His close proximity with actress Jayaparadha, actor Amithabh Bachan, industrialist Anil Ambani and the owner of Sahara group of industries, left the people wondering whether the Samajwdi party was the championing the cause of the poor or it’s a party of the rich. The Nathiri killings were the last nail in its coffin of the Samajwadi Party. They had lost the elections even before the dates for the polling was announced.
As far as Congress is concerned, the party was no where in the political race. It still has not been able to recover its lost base that it enjoyed during pre 1980s phase. Traditionally, Congress was favored by the Upper castes and the Muslims and in combination of certain other backward categories, it was able to cobble a majority during successive elections since independence. Congress support base got totally demolished when religion verses pro poor politics (Kamandal vs Mandal) came into play in Uttar Pradesh. The upper castes vote went to the BJP, the Muslims opted for the Samajwadi party and Bahujan Samaj party and the other backward categories and schedule caste too flocked to the SP or BSP ranks. So the Congress party was left with nothing to fall back on.
Given such background, no matter how much Gandhi Privar may have toiled their sweat and blood electioneering in the heat and dust of the Indo- Gangetic plains, they could hardly make any difference on the electorates. People may have flocked to the road shows of the Gndhi family, but when it came to voting, they had their own preferences. These days voters just do not vote for the name sake, they analyze the elections in terms of their own cost-benefit.
The Congress’s tally of 22 seats and its paltry vote percentage speaks volumes about the poor organizational strength of India's oldest political party. If this trend continues, the fear is Congress may be reduced to a mere symbol on the electronic voting machines.
If we analyze the victory of Bahujan Samaj party in this context, the picture becomes crystal clear. The people of Uttar Pradesh had to choose between SP, BJP and the BSP. The SP had been thoroughly discredited during its rule and people wanted a change of government. Now their choice was reduced to the BJP and the BSP. The BJP had shot itself in the foot by releasing the controversial CD. So the people had no other choice then to vote for the BSP. Its simple story, that’s been made complex.
The only great thing about BSP’s victory was that it gave up its strident political campaign against the upper castes. Its direct attack on them saying; BJP ke Teen Dalal; Tilak, Tarazu aur Talwar (the BJP has three pimps; Brahmins (Tilak) Banya (tawazu) and sword (rajput) was a very powerful piece of sloganeering that sums up the entire Indian history in terms oppression by these three symbols of power all through its civilization.
The BSP having realized that such sloganeering could not catapult it to power in the previous elections, decided to drop this up this time and made friends with the upper castes. By giving tickets to the upper caste candidates the BSP was able to get a comfortable majority.
The people of Uttar Pradesh must be complimented for giving a decisive mandate to a political party. Their collective effort saved the state from the ordeals of post poll alliances and horse trading that has become a hallmark of the Indian polity these days. This also shows the signs of maturating of the Indian democracy.
The people of Uttar Pradesh have had four core demands; road, water, electricity and job (sarak, paani, bijli aur naukri). They tried all the three political formations before; the have lived under the Ram Raj of the BJP, the Mulyam Raj and the Mayawait Raj, but none had been able to address their basic demands. They have again brought the BSP to power. Will the new government change the ground realities? Well this is a tough call and no marks for guessing it right!
However, one great lesson to learn from the Uttar Pradesh elections is that the voters these days just do not vote for the name sake, they judge the party’s performance in power and select or reject them in the next poll. The next election is a long way from now, till then the people of Uttar Pradesh have no other go than to face the Maya Raj!
Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org