The result of the election held during April-May 2007 for the XVth UP Assembly has exploded many myths such as, among others, the myth of Hindus rigidly voting on caste lines. The central message of the Bihar Assembly election is revalidated in this UP election that Hindu in his voting behaviour is not as much shackled or conditioned by caste considerations as limousine liberals and psephologists portray. All psephologists predicted a hung Assembly, no one predicted that BSP will get full majority, and, no one predicted that national parties [BJP and Congress] will further shrink in UP. The fact that bulk of voters of UP and Bihar has moved on economic lines is still not fully acknowledged.
Another myth shattered in this UP election like that in Bihar is the Muslim-Yadav (MY) axis. Mayawati has got 26 Muslim legislators elected compared to 21 by Mulayam Singh. This data shattered another myth that all Muslims vote en bloc and that in UP they were with Maulana Mulayam. Indian Muslims are divided on Shi?a-Sunni lines and Sunnis are sub-divided among four main groups i.e. Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi?I and Humbali. Hanafi are subdivided into mutually hostile groups i.e. Barelvi and Deobandis. Shi?a are sub-divided into many groups [Ithna-aseri, Ismaili, Bohra etc]. Shi?as and Sunnis are killing each other especially in Iraq and in Pakistan. They do not offer namaj in each other'smosques. In India, Shi?as generally do not vote for Sunni candidates and vice-versa. Some orthodox Sunnis derisively call Shi?as as rafizi (rafidhine) (the forsakers of the Truth).
Similarly, Shi?as claim that they are the al-mu?minun i.e. true believers in Islam. A website (www.allaahuakbar.net) operating from Thane, Maharashtra claims that Islam and Shia?ism are indeed different religions. Division into ashraj, ajlaf and arzal are their social stratifications. Many Indian psephologists are not even aware of these differences.
The message of social harmony among Hindu Samaj so assiduously being promoted by the Hindu religious leaders, the VHP and the RSS is making impact and it, in turn, facilitated Mayawati'sefforts to promote her social engineering. Mayawati, by her foresight and tenacity to keep close to ever evolving ground realities became the first political leader to take advantage of this new wind of Hindu samarasta. Principles of samarasta, on the one hand made her engineering ?feasible, saleable and acceptable? and on the other hand, effectively prevented any Hindu backlash against her attempts to bring Brahmins and other upper-caste Hindus under her political banner. A Brahmin or an upper-caste Hindu no more feels reluctant or embarrassed to work under a Dalit leader which, in turn, is the direct result of this samarasta movement unleashed over the last few years by the RSS and VHP.
All communities and all religious denominations are affected by price-rise, law and order, unemployment, taxation and corruption etc. therefore, whatever psephologists may say, their voting behaviour is conditioned more by these factors rather than by their religion or caste.
Tactical voting by Muslims, especially Sunnis, against BJP candidates is a reality which BJP should try to overcome not by appeasing but by increasing its access and appeal among other sections of population while retaining and strengthening its grip over its ?core constituency?. A party without a ?core constituency? is a paper tiger and is bound to crumble sooner than later.
In UP, Bahujan Samaj Party [BSP] won 206 seats out of 403 seats contested. The Samajwadi Party [SP] won 97 seats out of 393 seats contested. Congress won only 22 seats out of 393 seats contested and the BJP won only 50 seats out of 350 seats contested. Left parties for the first time failed to win any seat in the UP Assembly though CPI contested 21 seats, CPM 14 seats, Forward Bloc 12 seats and the RSP 9 seats. JD(U) won only one out of 16 seats contested and Apana Dal, another pre-poll ally of BJP could not win any seat out of 37 seats contested. Notwithstanding media hype, Jan Morcha of Shri V.P. Singh could win only one seat [Dayalbag] though it contested 118 seats. Another important feature of this election is the shrinking role of independent and others in the new Assembly.
While trying to consolidate her grip on Dalits, BSP initially relied upon provocative slogans: ?tilak, tarazu aur talwar, maroo inko jute char? and; after having consolidated its grip over its core constituency of Jatavs and Dalits, BSP tried to expand its appeal and access to other communities beyond the scheduled caste reserved constituencies by relying upon: ?hathi nahi ganesh, Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh.?
BSP has been raising its share in votes polled in UP by grass root work: 9.44 per cent in 1991, 11.12 per cent in 1993, 19.64 per cent in 1996, 23.06 per cent in 2002 and finally 30.46 per cent in 2007. Brahmins constitute about 14 per cent, upper castes constitute about 30 per cent and Dalits are about 21 per cent of electorate in UP. So it was an electorally advantageous combination compared to MY of Mulayam Singh or MD of Ram Vilas Paswan. Mayawati has wisely kept out mulla-maulavi lobby who are mostly patronised by the secular lobby comprising the Congress, Communists and socialists like Mulayam Singh.
BSP's206 comprises 62 Dalits [out of 89 reserved constituencies], 51 Brahmins, 51 OBCs [including four Yadavs], 24 Muslims and 18 Thakurs [Rajputs]. This shows broad-based social rainbow coalition carved out by her, which she is expected to try in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. In the last UP Assembly, BSP had only 98 MLAs.
The BJP Chief Ministers of these provinces will be well advised to give practical shape to principles of samarasta, speed up implementation of local development projects, and stand firm against terrorists and all goonda elements. They should not dilute their ideological commitments as it would erode their ?core constituency?. The UP election shows that a sizeable chunk of Hindu voters has moved away from the BJP. They should innovatively and aggressively guard against this possibility in other states.
The Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh could win only 97 seats as against 143 in the previous Assembly though SP marginally polled higher percentage of votes, 25.45 per cent in 2007 as against 25.37 per cent in 2002. There are 27 OBCs, 22 Thakurs, 21 Muslims, 13 Dalits, 7 Brahmins and 7 others in the legislative wing of SP, again a good social distribution. Mulayam Singh lost mainly because his administration was widely perceived as goonda raj. The Amitabh Bachchan advertisements, being so devoid of reality on ground, succeeded more in inviting wrath of educated voters.
The Congress Party has been shrinking in UP despite all its Muslim appeasement policies. No Muslim got elected on Congress ticket to the UP Assembly which shatters the presumption of ?secular Hindu politicians? that appeasement of minorities will bring votes. Rather reverse is the case, as adverse implications of the Sachar Report, Rangnath Mishra Commission, and Dr Manmohan Singh'sspeech in Gorakhpur promising more jobs to Muslims alone, Muslims? first claim on resources etc against educational & employment opportunities of all categories of Hindu youth sinks in minds of the Hindu middle class, they will electorally move away from Congress sinking the boat of Rahul Gandhi.
Thus, Congress became willing victim of Sachar Committee in Punjab, Maharashtra municipalities, Delhi MCD and in UP. About 30 per cent of electorate in UP are upper castes so it was unwise timing on part of Arjun Singh to have pushed for OBC reservations as UP started inching towards elections. Rahul Gandhi paid the price in UP for these follies of Sachar and Arjun Singh.
The BJP was hoping to perform better than 2002 but ended up with its worst performance. Percentage of votes polled by the BJP has been continuously declining: 31.45 per cent in 1991, 33.3 per cent in 1993; 32.52 per cent in 1996; 22.08 per cent in 2002; and, only 17.93 per cent in 2007. If votes polled by its allies [JDU and Apana Dal] are excluded, it may further come down.
In 2002, the number of BJP MLAs fell from 174 in 1996 to 88 when Shri Raj Nath Singh was the UP Chief Minister, and now, it has shrunk to 50 when he is the National Presidnet. Shri L.K. Advani told the Parliamentary wing that the Party lost because it was not able to convince voters that it could form the government on its own, and, that there was need to strengthen the organisation.
Advaniji is right in his assessment; firstly, entering into pre-poll alliance signalled that BJP was not confident of forming alternative government on its own. Secondly, BJP had to carry some burden of Mulayam baggage because of a general atmosphere that the party'sopposition to SP was not strong enough.
Election results are decided by the ?floating voters?. Floating voters never subscribe to personality cult of any leader.
In 1990s BJP had worked out an agenda [Article 370, Bangladeshi infiltrators, Uniform Civil Code and Ram Mandir in Ayodhya] which had appeal across castes, appeal across linguistic and provincial barriers. This agenda had pan-Hindu politico-emotional appeal which propelled BJP to power in the Centre. No tangible progress on any point of this agenda during the six long years of the NDA rule set disappointment among traditional supporters of BJP.
As the BJP started de-emphasising the mandir issue, Hindus started returning into their ?caste cocoons? giving new life and vigour to SP and to the BSP and setting into motion slow but steady decline of BJP in UP which is still continuing.
As the same cheque cannot be encashed again and again, the BJP urgently needs an agenda which should be political-economic in nature and should have similar pan-Hindu appeal across the caste lines, across the linguistic and provincial barriers. Fortunately the UPA government has provided such points which could be woven into such an agenda having potential not only to make BJP as the ruling party in the next Parliament but also to save all its four state governments in the coming state elections.
The UP debacle is not the end of road but only a wake-up call to re-group and to select correct priorities and policies which should be implemented without blowing hot and blowing cold.
[The writer recently retired in the rank of Secretary to the Govt of India in the Indian Foreign Service (1971 batch). He has served as Ambassador to Finland, Estonia, Jamaica, Tunisia and Tanzania and; as Consul General, Dubai (UAE) and Birmingham (UK).]