The verdict of the electorate of U.P. is surprising in so far as no political pundit had predicted majority for a single party. Media hype of Ms Mayawati'svictory is presumably to hide media'sacute embarrassment over its dismal failure to read the public mood and realignment of caste loyalties in the state. Media is now talking of a massive wave, though it failed to see any before the results were out. Anti-incumbency wave and a sentiment in favour of the BSP were there for anyone to see. Mayawati had worked hard to stitch a multi-caste alliance and managed to retain its share of Muslim votes despite several hick ups. A simple majority?that no one expected?with less than 1/3rd votes (30.45 per cent share in the votes polled, to be exact) is not an earth shaking development. It is no landslide victory as many a commentator would like us to believe. Electoral successes are termed as massive or landslide when a party gets more than 2/3rd majority of seats as was the case with the Congress in 1984 in the parliamentary elections in the wake of Indira Gandhi'sassassination or by the BJP in Gujarat and M.P. in the last assembly elections.
Surprises thrown up by the electorate are a mixed lot?pleasant as well as bitter. Emergence of a party with a clear majority in the Assembly after a span of 16 years is indeed a pleasant surprise. It was in 1991 that BJP won a clear majority in the Assembly but its Government didn'tlast long. Kalyan Singh Government was dismissed following the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya in December 1992. President'srule, unstable governments, defections and splits marked the political history of the state since then. Unstable coalitions came and went in quick succession. BJP came to power for the second time in September 1997 not on its own strength but by engineering defections and welcoming criminals. That Government was bound to be unproductive and unstable. Three Chief Ministers?Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta and Rajnath Singh?came and left in quick succession in less than three years. After the elections in 2002, Mayawati again became CM with the BJP support but lost power to Mulayam Singh after 16 months who managed defections and desertions to remain in power for the remaining tenure of the Assembly only to lose power in 2007.
One perceived positive of the verdict is that BSP'sstrategy to win over Brahmins to its Dalit-dominated party, may reduce social tensions in the state tormented by caste and religious conflicts. It will be a big gain for the society if this happens. One will have to wait and see how BSP leader runs her Government. She has managed a social alliance of Brahmins, Dalits and Muslims that kept Congress in power till 80s. But there is a big difference. Brahmins dominated the Congress alliance while the one stitched by Mayawati is Dalit-dominated. Will she deal with all sections of the society even handedly, as she promised after assuming power? Will responsibility of power mallow her? Answers to these questions will decide whether or not there will be social harmony in U.P. Expanding a social base may be a strategy but it may become her compulsion if the social engineering works. Strategies lead to policies and may evolve into ideology. Let us hope for the best.
Public outrage against ?goonda raj?, arbitrariness and vindictiveness cost SP the power. Will BSP prove better? Ms Mayawati'strack record is not inspiring. She is yet to prove that she has changed and will allow the law to take its own course. She may have already shown that she is arbitrary and abrasive and care too hoots for rules by suspending officers for their failure to maintain Ambedkar Park. Her action will be applauded by her supporters as a ?proof? that she is a strong administration but that doesn'tnecessarily mean she is a good administrator. She was won the election against criminalisation of administration. Will her administration be any better? She is under the scanner for her role in the Taj Corridor Case and almost 50 per cent of her ministers have criminal background. One is not sure that the new Council of Ministers will prove less corrupt and arbitrary than the one booted out by the people.
BSP is the only party that surged ahead with about 7 per cent increase its vote share and a gain of 119 seats despite the fact that many of its legislators in the last assembly were weaned away by SP in 2003. It showed remarkable resilience by retaining 64 of its seat and wrested 19 from SP, four from BJP, five from Congress and five from others. The party had declined tickets to many of its sitting MLAs and gave tickets to non-Dalits in large numbers to expand its social base. It also retained all the three LS seats to which by-elections were held. These seats had been fallen vacant following the involvement of MPs in cash for questions case. Two of the new MPs are Brahmins while the third is a Dalit. Mayawati'shard work during the past three years, keeping her ears close to the ground and selection of winning candidates with great care have paid dividends.
SP made a slight gain in its vote share?25.37 per cent to 25.45 per cent?but lost 46 seats. This is a confusion phenomenon that is hard to explain. Like the BJP, it committed the blunder of re-nominating almost all its sitting members that resulted in the loss of several seats. The only rational explanation is that it lost seats despite retaining his vote bank because BSP made big inroads in the vote banks of other parties?BJP, Congress and smaller parties. Poor governance and deplorable law and order management were the major factors against the party.
The Congress party'shigh hopes of revival miserably failed despite vigorous and ?popular? road shows by Rahul and Priyanka. There was a marginal decline in its vote share?from 8.96 per cent to 8.56 per cent?and loss of three seats. Bigger failure of the party is that it could retain only seven of its 25 seats it had in the last Assembly. What is more demoralising for the party is that it has shown no sign of revival since 1991. Independents and smaller parties too have been marginalised. Their vote share fell by four percentage points and seats from 49 to 27. ?Others? could retain only 8 of their seats. JD (U) could win one seat and Apna Dal failed to open their accounts despite an alliance with the BJP. CPM, CPI and VP Singh'sJan Morcha that made a lot of noise in the election couldn'twin a single seat.
BJP has suffered a big set back for the second time running. In 2002, its seats were reduced to half and in 2007 it has suffered another loss of 38 seats. Dr M M Joshi has gone on record that the party'sstrategy and management of the campaign were faulty. Unfortunately, the BJP refuses to learn from experience. The party lost a large number of seats in 2004 parliamentary elections simply because voters were not happy with the sitting MPs who were re-nominated. Yet, it re-nominated all its sitting MLAs in the recent elections. Consequently, more than 2/3rd of sitting MLAs belonging to the party lost. Several party leaders resented its alliance with Apna Dal because the latter had no mass base worth mentioning. Most importantly, it was busy talking about social engineering forgetting what was happening in its backyard. It made no serious attempt to prevent desertion of a section of Brahmins?about 40 per cent, according to one estimate?to BSP. No party can expand its social base without fortifying its vote bank. Has BJP learnt this lesson the hard way? Although party cadres worked hard, there was no clear and sharp political line. The party was pushed to the third position five years ago and remains there. It will have to reinvent itself if it has to prove wrong the prophets of doom who say BJP'sfate is beyond hope and redemption. It has a mass of cadres that are ideologically inspired and selfless. All it needs is a leader with vision and credibility.