UP Will Vote for Those Who Practice New Kind of Politics: Ashutosh
Rejecting the intricate web of politics based on caste and religion, voters in UP want to move towards “vikas”. (Photo: Rhythum Seth/ <b>The Quint</b>)
Rejecting the intricate web of politics based on caste and religion, voters in UP want to move towards “vikas”. (Photo: Rhythum Seth/ The Quint)

UP Will Vote for Those Who Practice New Kind of Politics: Ashutosh

After “kabristan” (graveyard) and “gadhe” (donkey), now Kasab has entered the narrative. It’s clear that in Uttar Pradesh elections, real issues are being swept aside in the name of ‘societal identities’ This shows that either the political parties are not able to campaign for support on the basis of real issues like employment, housing education, producing livelihoods, or the state has still not matured enough to rise above the issues of religion and caste.

UP is known for securing votes in the name of Brahman, Thankur, scheduled and backward classes, Dalits, Hindus and Muslims. The caste-religion balance determines which party manages to form the government. The party which manages to maintain this balance comes to power.

UP Inhibited by Identity Politics

UP’s feudal background, undercooked urbanisation and absent industrialisation ensures that the state is still counted among one of the underdeveloped states of the country. It is in this state that the BJP-RSS Ram Mandir Andolan gained momentum and helped the BJP get closer to the Centre.

It was in UP that Mulayam Singh Yadav successfully managed to use the “pichdha” (backward) politics post group politics. It was here that Kanshi Ram’s “Dalitwad” led to the most effective experiment in Dalit politics BR Ambedkar. It is the politics of identity based on the Dalit faction, the backward classes and the Hindutva ideology.

State politics have revolved around these three identities in the last 25 years. It saw several Chief Ministers from Mulayam Singh to Mayawati to Kalyan Singh. While Mulayam championed the backward classes, Mayawati was the voice of the Dalits and Kalyan Singh of the Hindus. However, the question now arises is that if identity politics would still play an important role in 2017 elections as well.

Uttar Pradesh is Ready for Change

I believe that foundational changes have begun in UP politics. Either the state is attempting to free itself from notions of identities, or the identity politics have finally realised its limitations. The first footsteps in this direction were heard during the 2012 elections.

In 2012, Mulayam should have rightfully made the bid to be the Chief Minister. He has lived up to his reputation of being a minister for the backward classes. Owing to the same, in 1997, he almost became the Prime Minister. Instead he pushed Akhilesh into the fore, who despite the Yadav name, has still not been able to create a similar reputation for himself.

Mulayam’s earlier politics included elements of ‘goonism’. However, when right before the state assembly polls, Akhilesh evicted gangster DP Yadav, he stepped out of the narrative of identity politics and blew the bugle of its counter narrative. The same DP Yadav, who had earlier fitted comfortably within the fabric of the politics of backward classes, now became a liability. Consequently, the party had to get rid of him. This helped Akhilesh separate himself from the his father’s shadow and assert his own identity. He became the Chief Minister of UP at the age of 37.

Akhilesh Yadav gestures during a site visit in rural Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Facebook/Account of Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav)
Akhilesh Yadav gestures during a site visit in rural Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Facebook/Account of Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav)

Akhilesh’s Attempt to Separate Himself From Identity Politics

Ahead of 2017 polls, when Akhilesh ran into troubled waters with his father and uncle, nobody had expected the champion of backward classes to be sidelined by his own son. This was a major development in both the state and Centre politics. Despite being the Chief Minister for five years, Akhilesh’s image was never tied to identity politics or backward classes. He was seen as an educated, modern Chief Minister who wants to do something for the state. However, this is not what Mulayam’s OBC politics had in mind.

In UP, higher levels of bureaucracy and police stations have witnessed appointments of members of the backward classes. However at the same time, metro in Lucknow and the Lucknow-Agra super-highway were also seen in the state, something which is not particularly a factor associated with Mulayam’s politics.

There have also been attempts to modernise police stations and to improve the law and order condition in the state. Additionally, in the face of the father-son feud, the entire party decided to abandon the senior politician for his son. All of these developments were possible only when Mulayam’s OBC politics had lost the power to secure victory for the party.

Despite external struggle and internal feud, if the Samajwadi Party has still managed to stand strong in UP despite BSP and the BJP. The reason for this is that despite “anti incumbency”, Akhilesh’s appeal is separate from caste. What is the reason for this?

Middle Class Chooses Mind Over Matter

The country has undergone some seminal societal changes owing to the financial politics that followed post 1991 economic reforms in India. Additionally, there is a rapidly growing middle class in the country, which may be influenced by caste and religion in its private decisions, but when it comes to public decisions, it seeks to find options that would improve its overall lifestyle. One wonders, which party and political leader will take care of employment, housing, education, security and livelihood.

Economics has awakened a new consciousness. The incredible expansion of technology, the explosion of a revolution brought about by spread of knowledge, and the open culture of debates, has ensued an uproar in the Indian consciousness which is expected to bring about the creation of a new Indian psyche.

This consciousness uses its financial location to determine its identity, which is also termed as a “consumerist culture” by many. This is the psyche, which as compared to before, chooses to let the mind prevail over its decisions rather than the heart. The same decision making is applied even when it comes to decisions like falling in love, which by the way, is not blind any more.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right), when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in Ahmedabad on 29 October  2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right), when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in Ahmedabad on 29 October 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Public’s Call for a Progressive Government

When this new India realised in 2004 that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s slogan of a ‘shining India’ is a lie, it chose the Congress over BJP’s Hindutva ideology. The BJP refused to accept this defeat and remained in denial about it for many years.

The same Manmohan Singh, who was initially written off as someone who cannot secure a single vote for the party, was later heralded as the driving force behind the Congress’ victory in 2009.

For majority of the period between 2004 and 2009, the economy grew at 9%. Before the 2009 elections, even leaders from within the Congress were not expecting to win more than 170 seats, but as it turned out, the party ended up winning 205 seats. This was a result of an emerging wave, cues of which had been visible for a while.

Shiela Dixit winning three consecutive elections without any voter base says what? In Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, the BJP remained in power for 15 years. In Gujarat, it remained in power for 25 years. In Odisha, Naveen Patnaik remained in government for 20 years and Tarun Gagoi, for 15 years in Assam. Nitish Kumar has won three elections while the Congress remained in power for 15 years. Jayalalithaa was brought back to power for two consecutive terms while YSR also got a chance in Andhra Pradesh for a second term.

The Voter Only Chooses the One Who Works

After 1995, there has been a marked shift in the agendas of governments. There has been progress in the country. However, its still up for debate if the country has seen adequate development.

The kind of development we have seen and the change in the quality of living, too needs to be discussed. But it is beyond doubt that if the voter saw any development, then it gave the political parties another chance to form the government again.

Take Bihar for example. 15 years of “Jungleraj” under Lalu Prasad Yadav scarred the voters so much that it bought without any hesitation the developmental agenda of the Nitish Kumar government. Bihar has a history ‘backward’ politics, but the voter was no loner ready to plunge the state into backwardness by bringing Lalu Yadav back to the government. Even Lalu knows this, which is why he agreed to let Nitish Kumar become Chief Minister, even after securing more seats than him in the 2016 Bihar assembly elections.

Nobody in Odisha wants to remember the Congress’ term that preceded Naveen Patnaik’s rule. The Congress coalition in Maharashtra was success because Shiv Sena and BJP’s rule between 1993 and 1998 was a complete failure. It was therefore due to the BJP and Shiv Sena’s faults that Maharashtra let Congress limp government come to power.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi salutes the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji during an election campaign rally in Mumbai in 2014. (Picture: Reuters)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi salutes the statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji during an election campaign rally in Mumbai in 2014. (Picture: Reuters)

Running Away from Development, BJP’s Taking Refuge in Communalism

It was in 2014 when the voter brought BJP to power at the Centre. At that time, it was tired of the corruption under the Congress regime. PM Modi then wore the cloak of progress and the voters trusted him. He was brought to power with a huge majority, but in the last two and a half years, he hasn't delivered on his promises. The development he had promised is missing on the ground, and then came demonetisation which broke the aam aadmi’s back.

It is specifically the reason why he, or his party, is talking about Vikas in UP. It has either talked about Kabristan vs Shamshaan, or Holi vs Diwali in UP, and now by bringing Kasab’s name it, it is trying to tie the entire opposition to a particular community. The voter in UP is being reminded of his roots, and is being scared into voting for it by invoking the politics of religion. However, I’m sceptical of such tricks bearing any fruit for the BJP in the UP polls.

Not on Caste-Religion, but it’s Development that Will Win Votes in UP

Akhilesh Yadav, too, has stooped to speaking the language of the “Donkey”. Mayawati on the other hand is trying her best to win over the Muslim voter. Each party on its part is trying to go back to the politics of the old days. The ones who look more frustrated are falling back on caste-religion dynamics to win them votes.

But the voter in UP is looking beyond this facade. Rejecting the intricate web of politics based on caste and religion, he wants to move towards the highway of “Vikas”. And it is due to this that he will choose only the one who manages to convince it of politics that works towards development. Uttar Pradesh will move on from 2012, and not look back.

(The writer is an author and spokesperson of AAP. He can be reached at @ashutosh83B. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: Fearing ‘Vanvas’ in UP, Modi Gets Into ‘Kabristan-Shamshaan’ Mode

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)

Follow our Opinion section for more stories.

    Also Watch