The Jai-Veeru Jodi of UP Polls

Friday, February 17, 2017

In this year’s elections, all three parties are beset by difficulties. The BJP not only does not have a local face to draw in voters, its leadership’s choice of candidates has sparked off mini-mutinies in many districts. The Jats, who played a critical role in the BJP’s UP sweep in 2014, have revolted. And if the intensity of Hindu-Muslim polarisation has lessened, it is still unclear how anger against demonetisation, especially among farmers and traders, will play out electorally. Additionally, the RSS and its affiliates, who played a stellar behind-the-scenes role in 2014, are disenchanted, particularly because many of their protégés have not been given tickets. 

Panicking, the BJP has now returned to its core Hindutva agenda, trying to whip up emotions with its promise of anti-Romeo squads (‘love jihad’ in a new bottle), shutting slaughterhouses, and putting the Ram Temple issue, the Uniform Civil Code and triple talaq back on its agenda. Dogwhistle politics is back, as Yogi Adityanath has been given a free run of western UP, an area he was earlier kept away from by a party leadership wary of his influence growing beyond Purvanchal. 

The BSP, missing in action for close to five years, has been sought to be revived belatedly by Mayawati. The shock of the 2014 general election results, which denied her even one Lok Sabha seat and dragged her vote share below 20 per cent, had galvanised her into action. But a resurgent BJP poached on the BSP: 2015 and 2016 saw an exodus of top party leaders — including Swami Prasad Maurya, Jugal Kishore, Dara Singh Chauhan, Brajesh Pathak, Babu Singh Kushwaha, and RK Choudhury — largely to the BJP. 

They all represent important backward castes (except Pathak, a Brahmin) and their departure sent a negative message to their respective followers. The upper castes, particularly the Brahmins, who played a critical role in bringing Mayawati to power in 2007, were no longer with her, despite the reassuring presence of Rajya Sabha MP Satish Mishra next to her. She then embarked on forging Dalit-Muslim unity, but the minority community has not thus far responded too positively to her overtures. For the Muslims today, the presence of a Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has alerted them to the dangers of dividing their votes. They are voting for the BSP only in constituencies that the SP-Congress candidates appear unable to win. 

At a recent rally in Moradabad, Mayawati drew an impressive crowd, but it was mostly the party faithful: most importantly, however, there were very few Muslims. Now, she is trying to pull in individually strong candidates whose personal popularity can override considerations of caste — hence, for instance, the entry of Mukthar Ansari, who has enormous influence in the Ghazipur-Mau belt of eastern UP, or former SP leaders Ambika Choudhury and Narad Yadav in Ballia. Reports suggest that there has been a late revival of the party in those parts as a result. The SP, on the other hand, which started out with the burden of anti-incumbency and a family feud, has succeeded in riding the storm. Most of its troubles appear to be behind it, with the Akhilesh-Rahul combine ushering in the promise of a “new generation” that would carve out a “new path” with a “new outlook”, as Akhilesh said in a recent election speech. 

Read the full article: HERE

You Might Also Like


Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter