UP and 'untruthful' political players

by Chandra Bhan Prasad

Now that the Election Commission (EC) has decided to hold the UP Assembly polls in February, the accompanying trauma is all set to begin. Political parties will spend many sleepless nights while political analysts, in particular psephologists who seem to do brisk business via the electronic medium, will certainly also have their share of nightmarish moments.

I recall a moment from the early 90s when, during a late night discussion at JNU's Sutlej hostel, I was sharing the dais with a now well known psephologist. The BJP-backed BSP government had just collapsed and elections could take place any minute. My co-panellist took every pain to arrive at the conclusion that the BSP's game was over. That the Dalit masses may even desert the BSP for it had committed a sin without any parallel. How could the Dalits of UP continue to back a party which had joined hands with the forces of Hindutva? I had very politely countered his argument, saying the BSP might even grow further because the Dalits in UP think of the BJP as just another face of the Congress - a party of the Upper Varnas. The growing challenge from the Upper OBCs threatens both the Upper Varnas and the Dalits. Thus, an electoral tie, pre or post-election between the two, was a social alliance of the two minority social groups and not of the two ideological systems - Ambedkarism and Hindutva. We had both agreed to disagree.

After the JNU discussion, another Assembly election took place and at least two Parliament elections. The BSP and BJP came together once again in 1996. And with each election, the BSP went from strength to strength, garnering more and more votes. It is, however, another question that the BSP's growth has now stagnated and is unlikely to improve unless some pre-poll alliance takes place or a miracle happens.

In UP's political landscape today, none of the three major political players- BJP, BSP and SP-is able to get hold of a majority (although all three of them seem to have consolidated their respective constituencies). None is able to expand beyond what it already has a hold over. Despite the fact that the three players aren't able to transcend their respective constituencies, they are not prepared to confront the truth nor be truthful to their own social bases or the state.

The BJP has always been harping on its "Hindutva" identity and often celebrates charges levelled against it by the English speaking secular intelligentsia - that it is indeed a Hindutva party. The party has advocated its Hindutva commitment ever since the formation of the Jan Sangh itself, although it got its breakthrough only in 1977 with the help of the anti-Indira Gandhi plank. Its next breakthrough came after a decade, in 1989, courtesy the anti-Rajiv Gandhi "corruption" plank. And the third breakthrough occurred in 1991 when it took out its Ram Rath, essentially an anti-Mandal plank. The party celebrated, if not destroyed, the Babri mosque, thinking the "Hindus" would now back the BJP en masse. But that didn't happen. And after the "13 day wonder", the party began dropping its Hindutva agenda and looking for a social coalition. This is what has sustained the BJP. For about five decades, the party was not able to come to terms with India's social realities: that a person in India is his Varna/Caste first and religious identity later. Which Dalit or Yadav will prefer the Lotus over the Elephant or Cycle unless a close family member or friend is contesting. Which non-English speaking Brahman or Kayastha in UP will put his stamp on the Cycle because of secular rhetoric? How can the BJP bank on 20.50 per cent of the (upper caste) population in UP to get itself a majority?

Like the BJP, neither can the SP ever be truthful to its voters. The BJP can never admit the fact that it is an upper caste party or that the Ram Rath was an anti-Mandal drive. The SP can never admit to the fact that it has nothing to do with secularism and that it is a party of upper OBCs. The OBCs constitute about 44 per cent (undivided) of UP's electorate and the SP has never got the support of the MBCs, who constitute about 60 per cent of the total OBC population or 26.8 per cent of UP's total electorate. How can the SP bank on 24.4 per cent of the population (Upper OBC + Muslims; ie Yadava 8.7 + Gujar 0.7 + Muslims 15) to get hold of a majority.

Neither has the BSP come out of its "ideological sickness" about Bahujanwad who, according to them, constitute 85 per cent of UP's total population?

The BSP refuses to learn the simple lesson that it is identified as a party of the Dalits and that no matter how progressive or radical a non-Dalit voter may be, he/she will refuse to vote for the Elephant on one pretext or the other unless his or her own community's very political existence is threatened.

What will then these major players do over the coming February? And what will the "ideologically charged" political analysts do in the print or electronic media? Will it once again be nightmarish moments for UP's politics!

[ Courtesy: The Pioneer, January, 2002 ] 

July 30, 2011.