India: Political Inclusiveness & Electoral Dividends in the State of Uttar Pradesh

2007

Dr D Tripati Rao

The elections in the politically heavyweight state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) are eye-catching for politicians and political commentators alike. The electoral results are keenly awaited for as the outcomes can make or break the power at the center. The party that unseats the incumbent in UP brings political turmoil at the center since it has the largest representation of seats in the Parliament. Recently concluded elections in UP will go down in political history for more than one reason. Bhaujan Samaj Party (BSP), a representative of Dalits (lower caste), led by Ms. Mayawati, winning 210 seats out of 402 has secured an absolute majority surpassing everybody's expectations. Beginning with a modest representation of 11 seats in its conception in 1984, slowly and steadily flourished under the auspices of its founder Kanshi Ram, and finally fully blossomed under Mayawati. She is the first democratically elected Dalit leader to get an absolute majority. In the process two main national parties at the center, the Congress and the BJP, decimated to a bizarre low level notwithstanding the play of identity politics. The congress hurried-up in implementing the of 27 per cent quota for other backward castes (OBCs) in all higher educational institutes prior to the elections in spite of Supreme Court's discomfort with the modus operandi of it. Whereas many believe that the BJP, in a last-ditch effort, wanted to whip-up the religious passions with lower rank political cadres at the state level indulging in the distribution of religiously inflammatory video contents to play on Hindu sentiments. Symbolism apart, BSP's thumping win has radical implications for the future political discourse of India.

The election results, by and large, not only in UP but all over India, seems to throw up surprises. Given that UP as a state is condemned as the big bad-land riddled with politics-mafia nexus, leaden with mass illiteracy, poverty, and social inequality as well. Erstwhile elections are fought and won on the basis of ideological divides and political fragmentation based on religion, caste and narrow local issues. This time, the BSP strategically maneuvered pre-poll embracement of Brahmins (Upper Caste) quite contrary to its earlier hatredness. It paid rich dividends suggesting that broadening the scope of political 'inclusiveness' through the 'bottom up' of political process - preserving Dalit identity without losing the Brahmin and other Upper Caste. Therefore, BSP's win is much more and far beyond 'sweeping wave', 'emotive appeals' and anti-incumbency. If somebody finds reasons, not for winning but for loosing elections, the message is very clear - political parties cannot dilly-dally with electoral promises, rather must put the 'development' agenda at the centre stage, as I have argued earlier (August 2006) in these columns. That only can address their bread and butter. Specifically, job creation, building rural roads and improving the quality of public provisioning - power, water, health and education, will convince the electoral mass. Though UP still exhibits a degree of caste-based loyalty, political parties can not afford to milk purely on the basis of traditional 'loyalty' vote basin. The voters are matured enough not to be bullied any longer with mere 'promises' or emotive appeals. A simmering of hope is beckoning!

Now that BSP has comeback with a thumping win, it has an uphill task ahead of it. Immediately it has to restore law and order giving a sense of safety and security to people. But what is more challenging in the days ahead is to design and implement a comprehensive 'development' package addressing agriculture and industrial sector for refurbishing the economically ailing state with abysmal three per cent growth against more than six per cent all-India growth. While, all along it is able to create jobs and more number of jobs to address the fast rising rural unemployment in its vast hinterland.

WATCHPOINT: The longevity of BSP government will willy-nilly depend on not merely addressing the upliftment of larger Dalits to which it represents but in satisfying the diverse interest groups under the umbrella of comprehensive development agenda.

 

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