Tuesday, January 24, 2012

[ZESTCaste] New formulations



New formulations

in Lucknow

With old alliances coming unstuck and new ones being tried out, Uttar
Pradesh seems to be heading for instability.


STATUES OF ELEPHANTS, the BSP party symbol, after they were covered on
the Election Commission's orders, at the Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan
Sthal in Lucknow on January 11.

UTTAR PRADESH, the country's most populous State, seems all set to
return to the time-tested pattern of hung Assemblies and coalition
governments after a five-year stint of single-party government under
the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The verdict of the 2007
Assembly elections was perceived as a watershed in the contemporary
political history of the State, for a variety of reasons. To start
with, the victory of the BSP in a majority of seats meant that the
State had a single-party government after a gap of 15 years. This
government was supposed to provide political and administrative
stability to the State and thereby bring in peace, progress and
development. The fact that the victory was triggered partially by two
antithetical groups in the caste hierarchy – Dalits and Brahmins – was
also seen as a salutary factor that would dilute the caste-based
identity politics practised in the State.

Five years later, as the campaign for the next round of Assembly
elections gains momentum, the electorate does not display any
overwhelming predilection to vote to power any single party. In fact,
the prevailing voter sentiment in the early stages of the campaign was
that single-party government by itself had not helped usher in peace
or improve the lot of the people of the State.

Apart from the anti-incumbency factor against the Mayawati government,
many traditional and also new factors are impacting the election
scene. The most prominent among the traditional factors is the
caste-based political orientation. Parties in the contest are trying
their best to consolidate their traditional support bases and
supplement them with tie-ups with other caste and community groups.

The second most important factor is the emergence of a large number of
young voters. During the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the number of
voters in Uttar Pradesh was 11.06 crore. In a span of 18 months since
then, the Election Commission of India undertook extensive awareness
and enrolment campaigns, which led to the addition of more than 1.4
crore voters. The rough estimate is that every third voter in the
State is less than 39 years old (that is, 4.37 crore voters). Out of
them, 53 lakh voters are in the 18-19 age bracket. Political parties
and election officials expect them to exercise their franchise in
large numbers, pushing up the voting percentage.

Third, the element of communal division that has time and again
weighed down electoral battles in Uttar Pradesh is virtually
non-existent, with even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) refraining
from highlighting issues with communal overtones. Fourth, the
emergence of smaller parties like the Peace Party of India (PPI) and
the Ulema Council from within the Muslim community, with significant
influence in certain areas, is causing discomfiture to the three big
secular parties in the contest – the BSP, the Samajwadi Party (S.P.)
and the Congress. Over and above all is the impact of delimitation,
which has changed the complexion of several constituencies so
drastically that seats once considered the bastion of one party or the
other do not fit the description anymore.

Brahmin disillusionment

All parties are pursuing caste- and community-based politics on
predictable lines. The caste alliance that the BSP had formed in 2007
to craft a famous victory no longer evokes strong reverberations in
the State. The slogan Dalit-Brahmin bhaichara (Dalit-Brahmin
brotherhood) symbolised this alliance and at that point of time it was
considered that the coming together of these communities would have
medium- and even long-term implications for the State's polity and
also for the country as a whole. However, large sections of Brahmins
across the State have got disillusioned with the BSP regime as well as
with the slogan over the past five years.

While travelling across a dozen districts in the central, western and
eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, this disillusionment was one of the
most palpable socio-political factors that Frontline could sense. So
much so that the slogan evokes derisive reactions every time it is
uttered. The slogan now is, " Brahman shankh bajaayega, haathi aage
jaayega (the Brahmin will blow the conch and the elephant will march


CHIEF MINISTER MAYAWATI releasing the list of BSP candidates in
Lucknow on January 15.

Obviously, the BSP leadership has realised this. And that is exactly
why the party is seeking to work out different caste combinations this
time. The effort is to rally round significant sections of the
non-Yadav Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Muslims as a powerful
supplement to the core caste support base of the party, the Dalit
Jatav community, which accounts for nearly 14 per cent of the State's

The caste- and community-wise break-up of the party's list of
candidates makes evident this change in strategy. The list contains
113 candidates from the OBC communities and 85 from the minority
Muslim community. Upper-caste Brahmins have got 74 nominations and
Thakurs 33. The BSP's campaign managers, including senior Minister
Naseemuddin Siddiqui, told Frontline that the BSP had a core Dalit
vote base of around 18 per cent and that, along with the votes from
candidates from other communities, would help the party win a majority
or near-majority this time . Mayawati has sought to overcome the
fairly strong anti-incumbency sentiment by dismissing as many as 10
Ministers who face corruption and criminal charges and also by denying
the ticket to over 100 sitting legislators. This, in turn, has led to
a revolt-like situation in several districts.

Advantage Akhilesh

The principal opposition, the S.P., is clearly the biggest beneficiary
of this anti-incumbency sentiment. It scores over other opposition
parties such as the Congress and the BJP on account of a variety of
factors. The party has a large support base in the OBC Yadav
community, which accounts for nearly 8 per cent of the State's
population. In 2007, some sections of the Yadav community had moved
away from the ruling S.P. in the context of the general resentment
against it. This time, however, the community is overwhelmingly
rallying around the party. The S.P. also has a more structured
organisational presence across the State than the Congress.


BJP PRESIDENT NITIN Gadkari releasing the party's vision document for
the U.P. election in Lucknow on January 16.

The "Kranti Rath Yatra" carried out by S.P. State president and Lok
Sabha member Akhilesh Yadav over the past four months has generated
tremendous goodwill for the party. This campaign, along with a number
of other factors, has resulted in an "Advantage Akhilesh" situation,
says a prominent BJP youth functionary. Akhilesh Yadav has
successfully managed to create the impression that he represents a new
phase in the history of the S.P. – a phase where it seeks to put
behind it the links with criminal-mafia sections and work towards the
creation of a new Uttar Pradesh that will fulfil the aspirations of
the agrarian community as well as the emerging middle class. A number
of personal factors have accentuated this effort. These include the
educational background of Akhilesh Yadav, his sense of moderation in
political and social interaction, his connect with the S.P.'s core
support base, and the young blood that he has been able to infuse into
the party's organisational structure. The four-month campaign and the
strong position Akhilesh Yadav has taken on issues such as the
re-entry of tainted politicians like D.P. Yadav, generated the
impression that his dynastic succession does not involve any
compromise on political merit. The Akhilesh Yadav factor is expected
to help attract a sizable section of first-time and youth voters to
the party. In the matter of caste combinations, the party is following
the time-tested tactic of seeking to integrate the OBC Yadav-Muslim
communities along with a section of upper-caste Thakurs and Dalit
communities like Pasis.

Kushwaha and the BJP

A BJP functionary in Ayodhya, the town that is at the core of Hindutva
politics, pointed out that the Akhilesh Yadav campaign has created the
impression that parties, like people, can try to change for the good.
The BJP's induction of Babu Singh Kushwaha, a Minister dismissed from
the BSP on corruption charges, generated much controversy in the
saffron party as well as the Sangh Parivar, even leading to
announcements that senior leaders like Uma Bharati would withdraw from
campaigning. The party's central leadership finally forced Kushwaha to
repudiate his membership in the BJP.

Many BJP functionaries in the State said the party would have come a
close second in the electoral race had it not been for the Kushwaha
episode. "There was a clear plan to build up once again a caste
combination of the OBC Lodh and Kurmi communities, and Brahmins and
Thakurs. The leaders rallying these communities were Uma Bharati,
Vinay Katiyar, Kalraj Mishra and Rajnath Singh respectively. This was
having considerable impact on the urban and semi-urban constituencies.
But the Kushwaha episode spoiled the plan. Barely 24 hours after
Khushwaha was inducted, Kirit Somaiyaa, the BJP's main protagonist in
exposing corruption under the Mayawati regime, released documents
highlighting the Minister's complicity in several scams, pointed out a
senior party functionary.

Congress prospects

Until the emergence of the Akhilesh Yadav factor, the Congress had
hoped that it would garner the support of the majority of the youth.
The response evoked by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi's
sustained campaign across the State had made the party optimistic.

The party had also drawn up a formula to bring together Kurmis,
Brahmins and Muslims as its support base. Beni Prasad Verma, a former
S.P. leader who is now a Cabinet Minister at the Centre, was projected
as an important leader of the party at the State-level. The Congress'
calculation was that Verma would attract to the Congress fold the
Kurmi community, which forms around 6 per cent of the State's
population. A sizable segment of the Brahmin community has already
moved towards the party since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. It also
calculated that a significant section of the Muslim community –
constituting 18 per cent of the population – would move towards the
party once the Kurmi-Brahmin combination was in place. The Congress
campaign managers point out that as many as 305 constituencies in the
State have Muslim populations of over 20,000 while 95 constituencies
have about 20,000 Kurmis in each. The calculation further showed that
in 100 seats, the Kurmi-Muslim combine would be decisive, while in 107
seats the two communities accounted for over 50,000 votes.


RAHUL GANDHI AT a campaign rally in Gorakhpur on January 8.

By all indications, the 9 per cent sub-quota for Muslims within the
existing 27 per cent OBC reservation in government jobs was announced
by Union Minister Salman Khurshid in order to cement this combination.
But, on the ground, there are no concrete signs of this resulting in a
big electoral gain for the Congress. In constituency after
constituency, the move is being perceived as an election gimmick. "If
the Congress was serious about minority welfare, the Congress
government at the Centre would have implemented the recommendations of
the Justice Renganath Mishra Committee, which advocated 15 per cent
reservation for minorities, of which nearly 10 per cent would have
been for the Muslim community. The Centre has also not taken any steps
to alleviate the socio-economic conditions of Muslims, highlighted in
the Rajinder Sachar Committee report," pointed out Khaliq Ahmed Khan,
the Faizabad-based social activist belonging to the Babri Masjid
Action Committee.

Obviously, armchair calculations and mere announcements are not enough
to draw the Muslim community to the Congress. The discussion within
the Congress branding sections of the Muslim community as jehadis and
extremists is also creating a negative impression about the party
among Muslims. Central to this is the argument between Union Home
Minister P. Chidambaram and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh
on the police encounter of 2008 in Batla House in Delhi. Digvijay
Singh had maintained that the encounter in which suspects from
Azamgarh district were killed was a false one. He had demanded the
reopening of the case. But Chidambaram firmly held that the case could
not be reopened. The Prime Minister supports the Home Minister's

Muslim vote

It is in the context of such debates that the presence of parties such
as the PPI and the Ulema Council acquires significance. These parties
argue that the mainstream politicians have given a raw deal to the
Muslim community and hence the community has to assert a political
role of its own. The PPI, led by Dr Mohammad Ayub, has advanced the
concept of a Muslim vote base and its deployment in the way the BSP
uses the Dalit Jatav vote, the S.P. uses the core Yadav vote, or the
Congress uses the Brahmin-OBC vote.

The PPI leadership is already seeking to implement this strategy by
putting up candidates belonging to Hindu communities and giving them
the support of the core Muslim vote base. A striking case in point is
former Congress legislator Akhilesh Singh, a powerful leader in Rae
Bareli district, who recently joined the PPI. Rae Bareli is considered
to be the pocket borough of the Nehru-Gandhi clan. But the impact
created by the PPI-Akhilesh Singh association is such that retaining
its supremacy in the region is an uphill task for the grand old party.
The PPI is apparently causing similar discomfiture to the BSP and the
S.P. in other areas. On its part the PPI hopes to win about 25 seats,
which its leadership claims will decide the ultimate ruler of the

Whether this projection comes true or not, there is little doubt that
the PPI factor will have a role in throwing up an unclear verdict and
a hung Assembly.

Clearly, Uttar Pradesh seems destined for political instability. The
elections are held in seven phases from early February to early March.


Get all ZESTCaste mails sent out in a span of 24 hours in a single mail. Subscribe to the daily digest version by sending a blank mail to ZESTMedia-digest@yahoogroups.com, OR, if you have a Yahoo! Id, change your settings at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ZESTMedia/join/

On this list you can share caste news, discuss caste issues and network with like-minded anti-caste people from across India and the world. Just write to zestcaste@yahoogroups.com

If you got this mail as a forward, subscribe to ZESTCaste by sending a blank mail to ZESTCaste-subscribe@yahoogroups.com OR, if you have a Yahoo! ID, by visiting http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ZESTCaste/join/

Also have a look at our sister list, ZESTMedia: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ZESTMedia/Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> Your email settings:
Individual Email | Traditional

<*> To change settings online go to:
(Yahoo! ID required)

<*> To change settings via email:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive