How have the politics of Uttar Pradesh changed in all these years?

How have the politics of Uttar Pradesh changed in all these years?

Answer by Mayank Pandey:

OK, this will be a long answer that I am writing with all my heart so that people can understand the tricky politics of Uttar Pradesh and read between the lines.

Understanding Vote Banks of Uttar Pradesh

1. Backward Caste Vote Bank: This vote bank forms approximately 45% of the total population of Uttar Pradesh. The prominent castes within the backward castes are:

  • Yadavas: 9% (of total population)
  • Kurmi: 3.4%
  • Lodh: 2.2%
  • Mallah: 2%
  • Teli: 2%
  • Gadaria: 2%
  • Jat: 1.7%
  • Kumhar: 1.6%
  • Kahar: 1.5%
  • Kachi: 1.4%
  • Nai: 1.3%
  • Gujjar: 0.8%

Prominent leaders from this community include:

  • Yadava: Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party)
  • Kurmi: Late Dr. Sone Lal Patel (Apna Dal, founder of), Beni Prasad Verma (currently with Congress, earlier with SP), Vinay Katiyar (BJP)
  • Lodh: Kalyan Singh (former CM of UP with BJP, short association with SP, founder of Jan Kranti Party that was later merged with BJP, currently Governor of Rajasthan), Uma Bharti (currently with BJP, originally a leader of Madhya Pradesh and former CM of MP on BJP ticket)
  • Jats: Satyapal Singh (fmr Commissioner of Mumbai Police, BJP), Chaudhary Ajit Singh (founder of Rashtriya Lok Dal, son of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh)

2. Scheduled Caste Vote Bank: This vote bank forms almost 21% of the total population. It is constituted by a total of 66 castes, the prominent ones of which are listed below:

  • Jatav/Chamar: 12%
  • Pasi: 3.4%
  • Dhobi: 1.4
  • Kori: 1.1
  • Balmiki: 0.6
  • Khatik: 0.3

Prominent leaders from this community include:

  • Jatav/Chamar: Mayawati (Bahujan Samaj Party, former CM of UP)

3. Muslim Vote Bank: Muslims form approximately 18.5% of total population of Uttar Pradesh. This vote-bank functions differently than the other caste-based vote-banks in terms of voting decisions. Known faces from this community that have entered politics are:

  • Azam Khan (SP)
  • Salmaan Khursheed (Congress)

The Muslim vote-bank has a split along Shia-Sunni lines. Most of the minority vote-bank is courted by policies of minority appeasement by majority leaders and parties.

4. Upper Caste Vote Bank: This vote bank forms another 20% of the total population of Uttar Pradesh. This vote bank is highly fractured and votes mostly on a candidate basis rather than party basis although traditionally the Brahmins and Trader class have been sympathetic to the BJP which has several prominent Upper Caste leaders like Murli Manohar Joshi, Vajpayee (now retired), Rajnath Singh (fmr CM), Lalji Tandon etc. It is not, tecnically speaking, correct to consider this group as a vote bank since it does not vote en masse to any party; instead votes on a case by case basis.

Data courtesy: Caste and religion wise Percentage share in Population in Uttar Pradesh (2001 census).

Understanding some voting concepts of Vote Bank Politics:

1. Tactical Voting: Tactical voting is voting in which a vote bank votes for the party/candidate that is most likely to defeat the least favored party/candidate of the vote bank.

Example: The BJP is the least favored party of the Muslims. BSP, SP and Congress all stand in almost equal favor. So depending on the situation the Muslim vote bank will vote tactically to the party that is most likely to defeat the BJP.

2. Vote Transfer: Though not a common concept in UP, it is significant in states like Bihar where cross-caste alliances occur. In this if two parties representing two different castes ally before elections then the voters transfer vote to the alliance instead of voting on caste lines or candidate lines.

This happened in Bihar where an alliance between BJP and Ram Vila Paswan reuslted in vote transfer of Paswan's traditional vote to the BJP since the voter understood that it meant the victory of the alliance as a whole.

3. Multi-Level Identification (this is a term that I have invented for a concept that I observed): In this, a party uses multiple level of identifications to court seemingly hostile vote banks and unite them under one banner. The party image, the party candidate running for elections, the party history, the party founder etc can all be used to woo multiple vote banks.

Mayawati employs this formula to field Brahmin candidates in constituencies where they can give strategic edge. Her own image and party identification means that the traditional Dalit vote will not shift away from her. Ordinarily this is a fault line but BSP's image and the candidate's caste become two separate identification points to unite two seemingly hostile castes. Such methods are employed by the SP (Yadav and Muslim) and the Congress (Dalits and Muslims) also. The Congress formula has shattered which is the reason for its decline.

Major Ideologies and Events of Uttar Pradesh politics and their impact:

1. Mandal Commission: The Mandal commission was a political move by one of the most inept Prime Ministers India ever had, Morarji Desai. The Commission under B.P. Mandal was set up to identify 'Other Backward Castes' as we know them today and provide them reservations in education and jobs. Although the report was published in 1980, it was sought to be implemented in 1989 by VP Singh the Prime Minister at that time. This led to widespread protests by the youth and several cases of self-immolation occurred. VP Singh implemented the report not because he was committed to any social justice, but because he was hard pressed to save his Government from the trouble being caused by Devi Lal and other rebels within.

The impact of the Mandal Commission on UP politics was far-reaching and permanent. The politics crystallized heavily around caste lines and the traditional dominance of the Upper Castes was challenged. Leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav (in UP) and Lalu Prasad Yadav (in Bihar) benefited massively from this. It was here that the Backward Caste votes became vote banks.

In UP, the Mandal commission allowed Mulayam Singh Yadav to claim the Other Backward Caste votes.

2. Kamandal Politics and Babri Masjid Demolition: Kamandal is a Hindi word that refers to a pot traditionally carried by Hindu ascetics and used for storing water. It was an iconography that was invoked by the BJP and Lal Krishna Advani to unite the Hindus, warning them to not fall prey to the divisive caste politics of the Mandal. Mandal and Kamandal have since become anti-thesis of each other in political ideology.

To consolidate the people under Kamandal, Advani took out the Rath Yatra and invoked the Ram Janmbhoomi issue, an issue that had been simmering for quite some time but was now, for the first time, thrown face forward into electoral politics. The results were rich for the BJP as it quickly rose to popularity and increased it seats tally in the Lok Sabha. Kalyan Singh too formed government in Uttar Pradesh for the BJP.

The Kamandal politics, while it did lead to a temporary unison of the Hindus as one significant voter group rejecting exploitation on caste lines and minority appeasement, soon spiralled out of control when it resulted in the demolition of the Babri Masjid. This led to, in UP, the collapse of Kalyan Singh's government and the BJP was prevented from returning to power by an alliance of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party. It was during this time that SP perfected the MY formula (Muslim-Yadav).

One part of the BJP's claims to the OBC votes lies on the Kamandal politics. Most contemporary analysts, politicians and journalists have repeatedly sought to downplay or vilify the sentiment behind the Babri Masjid demolition. The truth is however that the sentiment is still both very real and very genuine.

3. Dalit Mobilization: The Dalit Mobilization movement was led by Kanshi Ram and his protege Mayawati. Initially the stance was of an acerbic movement against upper castes particularly the Brahmins. In its earlier days it employed hate-mongering  and demeaning slogans like 'Tilak Taraju Talwar, Inpe maaro Joote Chaar', targeting the brahmins of the state. The Bahujan Samaj Party had hijacked the entire Dalit vote from the monopoly of the Congress Party and this has led to a decline of the Congress in UP. Over the years the vitriolic anti-Brahmin rhetoric of the BSP has undergone one of the most hypocritical transformations in the sense that the BSP now aims to unite the Scheduled Castes and the Upper Castes (especially the Brahmins) into is vote banks.

The BSP claims the bulk of the Scheduled Caste vote bank because of this Dalit Mobilization and Self-Resepct movement.

4. The Ati-factor, a Quota within Quota: The BJP had started, during the tenure of Rajnath Singh, a new social engineering that aimed to limit the outreach of heavily casteist leaders like Mulayam and Mayawati. Their aim was to identify the Most Backward of the Backward. The social implications of this meant a shift in voting patterns as Mulayam would then become limited to the Yadavas while the rest of the Backward Castes would move towards the BJP; likewise Mayawati would become limited to the Jatavs/Chamars while the rest of the Schedued Castes woud move towards the BJP. It is worthwhile to note that both these castes, the Yadavas and the Jatavs are perceived as supremacists and oppressors within their own groups, i.e the OBC and the SC/ST respectively.

While the efforts were initiated they never reached fruition as the Mayawati government after Rajnath Singh put a stop to all such study and necessary data collection, effectively halting the project. However, this factor gave the BJP the necessary sway in voters in the 2014 elections.

The second part of BJP's claim to the Backward Caste votes comes from this factor. The BJP will also seek to unite and strengthen its appeal in the OBC vote bank by playing the caste of Modi who has risen to be the PM.

Below is a diagram to understand the caste and religion dynamics of UP.

The Future

We have all the data and a cursory understanding of UP politics. Of course there are a lot of complexities that have not been covered in this explanation but they are at best micro-level effects. The macro-politics of UP has been, in my opinion, adequately covered.

The battle in UP is turning towards a tri-angular contest now.

The Congress Party appears to have lost all sense of direction and will be a non-factor for the foreseeable future, unless of course something drastic happens. It has lost both its traditional vote banks, the Dalits and the Muslims, to regional players and is unlikely to regain them. It is, thus, the party that I feel needs to be removed from the previous quadrangular UP battle-ground.

The Samajwadi Party, is in disarray. Its poor governance will not go unnoticed or unforgiven by the people of Uttar Pradesh. In any case, its traditional MY formula will be under stress too. The Muslims are disenchanted with the Party and the Yadavas are also slowly being inclined towards the BJP. Of course only time will tell as to how much these two factors work to erode the party's base. If things go well, then it is possible that SP may too become redundant in UP just like the Congress but that will require spirited campaigning by the BJP (for the Yadavas) and BSP (for the Muslims) and perhaps, some behind the scenes collaboration too.

The Bahujan Samaj Party, in spite of its humilitaing performance in the Lok Sabha elections seems to me, to be the party with the most stable vote bank. The Dalits are not going to desert the party in favor of either a decaying Congress or a perceived upper caste party like the BJP. Of course the BJP's Ati-Dalit card may well be a threat but there really is no Dalit icon equal to Mayawati to precipitate a mass-desertion of this vote bank.

The BJP, riding on its stellar Lok Sabha Performance, aims to secure its resurgence in the Hindi heartland and secure the strategic advantage that it had lost long ago. Many factors seem to be working in its favor. The blatant appeasement of the minorities by the ruling SP government in the face of shocking human rights violations give strength to Hindutva and the Kamandal sentiments. The MBC and the Ati-Dalit cards seems to be the BJP's share in the 'Social Justice via Reservations' pie. Above all charismatic leadership at the centre and brilliant strategists and orators at the state level may well ensure that the BJP is able to turn around the fortunes of UP.

The battle will be definitely BJP vs BSP.

Interestingly, the BSP had refused alliance with the SP; it can be read in two ways. That the BSP is confident of weaning the Muslim votes away and does not want to associate with the ailing SP or that it wants to keep its options open for a possible alliance with the BJP later on. I favor the first explanation.

The question for the BJP will be: Who should be projected as a Chief Ministerial Candidate?

Originally written: Uttar Pradesh: Strategic Political Dynamics by Mayank Pandey on Bharat Swabhimaan.

For more such pieces follow my blogs
on Quora: Bharat Swabhimaan
on Blogspot: Resurgent Hinduism

PS: Thanks for the A2A; Sorry for such a long answer.

How have the politics of Uttar Pradesh changed in all these years?


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