There is no confusion in UP. Mayawati is the clear winner. The collective anger of the poor and the Hindu is in full play. For the BJP it is a setback. It has touched its lowest ever. For the SP and the Congress it is total rout. Mayawati seems to have taken away a chunk of BJP votes. The BJP lost steam midway. Its campaign got stuck between half-hearted Hindutva and development governance. People have voted for change. And BSP took away all the anti-incumbency votes. The Congress lost votes. The BJP too lost. There was a quantum jump in BSP vote. The BJP actually lost to BSP. Mulayam got solid Muslim backing, it seems.
The BSP gains are significant and a vital lesson in building campaign plank. For the first time in her political career Mayawati played a leveller and social harmoniser. Her campaign was largely Hindu centric. Arguably, of all the non-BJP politicians only Mayawati understood the dynamics of a united Hindu constituency. Of course, she did not play the Hindu card. But like Indira Gandhi, on an altogether different format in the eighties, Mayawati subtly advanced a soft Hindutva line, appealing to the so-called Manuwadis even as she told her Bahujan samaj that their interest rested in a unified Hindu social order rather than artificially created barriers promoted by disparate interests to keep the society mutually suspicious.
This is an interesting beginning. With all parties diluting their USP, and no party in a position to claim a moral high ground the new experiment impacted a churning. Once she realised the limit of the Dalit-Muslim vote bank, the earlier gamut of the BSP idea she made a conscious change.
A correspondent on the UP campaign trail said repeated queries on her earlier announcement to convert to Buddhism evoked a sharp reaction from her. She was embarrassed and dismissive. Moreover, her criticism of Muslims supporting fanatic leaders jelled well with her new constituency. The rich political dividends Mayawati reaped focusing on Hindu social engineering is a marvellous departure from the hackneyed political discourse of the Hindi heartland. This will make many of India'sMuslim-obsessed politicians and their Mandal theoreticians rethink. In that sense UP election is a landmark in India'sroad to resurgent nationhood.
Who lost the election in the state is clear. If the UPA has any political morality left, it should quit. The electorate in the country'smost politically sensitive state has given a damning thumbs down to the Manmohan Singh regime and the dynastic ambitions of the Sonia parivar.
The Congress is the biggest loser in the election, despite the high voltage campaign by the entire family. The launch of Rahul Gandhi as the future of the party has also proved a damp squib considering the huge hype in the media and the Prime Minister'ssycophantic appeal to the voters to see their future in the Congress MP from Amethi. It was an obvious grand standing on the part of the Congress that it pretended to be a serious contender in Uttar Pradesh. Its dismal performance in office in the last three years at the centre made voters angry. Price rise, national security and appeasement of minorities along with anti-Hindu approach of the central government were hotly debated in the poll. Like the Congress the Samajwadi Party also paid a heavy price on all these counts. Samajwadis suffered equally for their caste and communal approach, shrinking their appeal among the average voter. The biggest problem for Mulayam Singh was the image that he protected all thugs, criminals and desperados and that there was no safety for life, property and honour of the common man. Except the psephologists, any casual visitor to Uttar Pradesh could see the cycle had both the tyres punctured.
The BJP has taken a heavy beating. It could not continue its victory march, which began with its sterling performance in the civic elections in the state eight months ago. Since then the BJP won the Mumbai and Delhi civic polls and state assembly elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand. The Congress was piling up defeats and the BJP advancing with breathtaking speed.
The BJP losses might have come as a surprise for the party leadership. The best performance of the BJP was in 1990, when in the spell of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement the BJP bagged 225 seats in the assembly. Then in 1993 the party won 177 seats. The party faced setbacks in the 2002 and 2004 elections when it lost a portion of its committed vote to its rivals. In the present poll the party has not retained its base. New social groups, particularly the sections that normally went with either the BSP or the SP rooted for the BJP this time. But the traditional vote went to Mayawati. This should worry the party.
The party presented a collective leadership, though former chief minister Kalyan Singh was the icon. Kalyan Singh'sleadership along with the fact that the new BJP all India President Rajnath Singh hailed from the state did not help. The top leadership of the party led by leader of opposition L.K. Advani, former presidents of the party Murli Manohar Joshi, Venkaiah Naidu and senior leaders Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi campaigned extensively. Unlike other contenders like the Congress, the SP and the BSP, the BJP was lucky to have many effective campaigners. The BJP campaign was neither dynasty centric nor personality centric. The BJP campaigned on issues.
It focused on national security along with problems of the commoner like price rise, breakdown of law and order and promised a development oriented clean administration. The track record of Kalyan Singh was excellent and the party has the support of an active cadre base to take the campaign to the grass roots. The organisational machinery worked in tandem with the leadership. The party also benefited from the call given by Hindu leaders to vote for parties committed to national unity and cultural nationalism. But somewhere there was a mismatch in party strategy. Issues like building Ram temple were in the background. An aggressive Hindutva approach would have ensured greater success. But the party was extremely restrained.
The focus was more on the UPA'sobsessive vote bank politics.
The BJP and to some extent the BSP were the only ones that did not anchor their campaign entirely on Muslim-specific manifesto. And the BSP success in the poll marks a paradigm shift in UP politics. The BSP achieved bigger gains riding the crest of anti-incumbency against SP. The rumour that the BJP might ultimately go with Mulayam Singh battered the BJP.
The Uttar Pradesh election busted many myths. The most important and politically significant is that the Muslims decided the outcome in the state. True. There is a fifteen to twenty per cent vote share of the Muslims in most UP constituencies. But the mistake, often deliberate, promoted by the political pundits is that they vote en bloc and against the BJP to make SP victorious. This round in UP proved that this is not the case. Muslims too behave like the rest of the electorate in the country, they have their caste and religious divide, they are divided between Shias and Sunnis, as upper caste and Dalit, rich and poor, fanatic and liberal. They were not entirely swayed by the Wahabi jehadi outrage of the orthodox theology. Sonia Gandhi'sspecial appeal to maulavis and Rahul Gandhi'spenitence in Deoband did not ensure the Muslim vote for Congress. Nor the divisive Muslim first policy of Manmohan Singh. The defeat of the communal Muslim card especially the attempt of Muslim-obsessed parties to eke out sympathy in the name of a Danish cartoon or Saddam or Iranian Islamic bomb did not help them much. This gives some hope. That the Indian Muslim has a political approach just as any other Indian and attempts to emotionally blackmail his allegiance raising extra-territorial issues will not pay off.
An intriguing aspect of the Congress campaign was the party was shy of mentioning the performance of the UPA at the centre. All the three of its star campaigners, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra, relied entirely on their personal charm and family legacy. Dr Manmohan Singh, though the party Prime Minister, was largely bypassed. The party fought on a me, mummi, daddy, nani, parnana format. Promoting a personal agenda on a long, dreary, acrimonious summer election marathon failed to touch a resonant note on the voter. And the roadshows though celebrated on the obliging visual media remained a road to nowhere. Mulayam Singh prided himself the champion of crass casteist, communal and criminal segments in UP politics. Not that he had a monopoly on them. But he had nothing new to offer. Except his fear of nemesis catching up with him.
Except for the BJP, every other party ran a personalized campaign. Like the 19th century warlords of China they quarreled to preserve their turf. It did not turn bloody because of the election commission. Thankfully, this is the first poll in UP that went without bloodshed.
As for the BSP maya and Maya memsaheb completed the circuit. Remember, the Bahujan samaj had the largest number of crorepatis in the fray. But the BSP also had catchy slogans and its lustrous blitzkrieg on social empowerment worked. But there was again no hangover of ideology. Every political party had an average of twenty per cent turncoats. In many places Congress found deserters from Mahant Adityanath and the BJP its most promising candidates. So much for its antipathy to the BJP brand of politics.