Wednesday, March 07, 2012

UP election 2012: Samajwadi Party Wave Or Voters' consolidation against Mayawati's BSP?

Akhilesh Yadav: Thank you UP!
The results of Uttar Pradesh Assembly election have thrown a surprise. Though everybody expected Samajwadi Party to do well, the landslide majority has astonished even the party's most ardent supporters.

Once the elections are over, everyone worth his salt can write an analysis and spell out reasons for Congress' debacle, BJP's poor show and Mayawati's failure to hold on to her vote. But the truth is that anyone who travelled in UP, would have sensed a wave.

It [the vote] was not for Samajwadi Party. It was more for a party that was best suited to defeat the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Of course, Akhilesh proved himself as an affable alternative. Even though law-and-order front was not at all as bad as in the previous regime, there was a growing sense of disenchantment towards the BSP government.

Can it be blamed for caste prejudice? The Upper Caste and even a section of Muslims who wanted Mayawati to lose power, wanted the regime to go anyhow? Not exactly so. Just five years back Muslims had wholeheartedly supported Mayawati and so did the Upper Castes.

Then what happened in the last five years? The complaints about unnecessary spending on statues to an extent smacked of inner prejudices. Even in the past, when Dr BR Ambedkar's statues were erected in UP during BSP's initial regimes, one could sense the Upper Caste's [even so-called 'elite' Muslim] discomfort.

When King George Medical College's name was changed, even Muslims seemed apalled. Though it was a colonial name that had been replaced with that of a Dalit icon Shahuji Maharaj, a move that shouldn't have been opposed. After all, post-independence, Muslim poets, writers and personalities were forgotten in UP.

Hardly any building, park or monument was named after Muslim freedom fighters or minority leaders in the six decades and even whatever had remained was either changed or destroyed. Still, Maywati's creations seemed to cause more heartburns.

Just like in earlier election, when everybody was fed up of 'Goonda Raj' and people on the street openly talked about Mayawati's arrival, on this occasion there was a clear consolidation against BSP. The reasons, even not too convincing, were aplenty.

People talked about her 'aloofness', her 'arrogance', her 'lack of interaction', her 'narcissism' in the same breath. What did it stem from? After all, the law-and-order situation wasn't as bad as it is often projected. People on the ground said that there was corruption.

A Dalit auto-rickshaw driver told me that it was his dream to buy a three-wheeler of his own. But couldn't do it because the rickshaw cost Rs 2 lakh. However, for its permit, he needed another Rs 3 lakh apart from a ruling party politician's recommendation in RTO [Transport department].
4.5% quota was not just for Muslims but all Minorities 

People in all walks of life had similar tales to tell. They claimed that earlier 'kaam to ho jata tha', now much more money was needed apart from political connections for your work to be done.

Either it was getting recognition for your primary school or starting a sawmill [a person spent Rs 10 lakh for re-starting his own saw-mill as the licence had expired].

It was such tales of corruption that perhaps hit Mayawati. The stories about the corruption kept on spreading. Urban legends spread fast. Maya's aloofness and 'attitude' probably made it sound more credible. MLAs complained she was inaccessible.

The honeymoon between Upper Castes and Dalits was over. Brahmins felt they had been totally neglected after the government was formed with their support. Was their grievance genuine or it was the gradual decline in their traditional influence in rural UP [and urban] that perturbed them.

Was it Maya's overconfidence that did her in or it was part of strategy to consolidate Dalit voter, which backfired? One thing is sure, as voters realised that SP is the only party in position to convincingly defeat BSP, the indecisive voters also supported it.

Though Yadavs are not a big block compared to Dalits, Mulayam managed to get the backing of the powerful backward castes. Though incumbency could be a factor, Mayawati didn't lose her hold over the Dalits. But the party was no longer evoking interest among other caste groups.

Even the huge number of young electorate that came out to exercise franchise for the first time, seem to have supported SP, which is no less surprising. As far as BJP is concerned, it had been marginalised long ago. Apart from infighting, Uma Bharati's import from Madhya Pradesh failed to enthuse it.

Veteran BJP leaders couldn't instill any confidence in its workers. Rahul Gandhi worked hard but people wanted to vote for a party that would form a government in the state. It was not a union election and hence there was no need to waste the vote.

The promise of 4.5% reservation for minorities that included all religious groups including Sikhs, Christians, Jain and Buddhists further angered Muslims, because Congress touted it as a Muslim reservation, which it was not.

Salman Khurshid, who is not a politician of grassroots, again had to face his wife Loiuse Khurshid's defeat. Even in its bastions, Amethi, Rae Bareli and Sultanpur, its candidates performed badly and the party lost at most of the places.

The remarks on Batla House issue had angered Muslims. The party twice won Maharashtra over the promise of implementing Sri Krishna Commission report but never did that. It couldn't even order a judicial inquiry in the Batla House encounter. What use is such party?

The anger over Kalyan Singh's entry to SP, which was evident last time, was a thing of past now. A new record was created as far as victory of Muslim legislators is concerned. Even a Muslim contestant won from Lucknow where communal polarisation and Shia-Sunni dispute [causing division of votes] was reason for lack of Muslim representation from the City for decades.

At least 69 Muslim candidates won the election, with SP's Muslim contestants emerging victorious in 43 seats. This is the highest ever number of Muslim MLAs in Uttar Pradesh Assembly. The positive aspect is that SP has got majority and there would not be any horsetrading.

Akhilesh Yadav had made many promises. It is his personality that helped the SP and drew the electorate. He must get the credit for changing the public perception about SP. A section worries about decline of national parties in UP, India's most populous state that has a population of 200 million.

But it is also a healthy aspect for Indian democracy. The checks and balances would make it more vibrant. SP has to deliver on governance and development. Ajit Singh's RLD is getting further marginalised in the state politics.

Just for the record, the difference in Assembly composition in 2007 and 2012. In the 403 member UP legislative assembly, a party needs 202 for absolute majority.


Parties' tally in UP Assembly

Year    BSP   SP   BJP  Cong  RLD              Others/Independents
2007   206     97     51     22     10                             17
2012    80     224    47     37 [Cong+RLD]               15

Congress and BJP can't be complacent and need to rework their strategies. Electorate won't reward them just because the are 'national parties'. SP's victory will do well to keep UPA's arrogance in check. Similarly, BJP leaders also need to do lot of introspection.

Sound bytes and articulation in TV studios won't fetch them power in the cow belt, which is the route to power at Delhi. After this result, BJP leadership would surely have realised it. Will anlyze more in coming posts on this blog.

For the list of names of winners and losers in all the constituencies in UP, check the Election Commission's website. And another link that tells name of all the winners on one page is HERE