Poll Drum Reverberates in UP

Due to SP scabbard, BJP is in direct contest with BSP and Congress in Western and Central UP while in Eastern UP, SP still looks strong enough to stop Lotus to bloom

By Asit Manohar

While SP feud is yet to settle down, the Election Commission of India announced the seven phase poll schedule for the India’s most important state elections. This schedule, if poll pundits are to be believed, would give further boost to the speculations that BSP and BJP may be the beneficiary of SP feud as initial phases of the poll would take place in western Uttar Pradesh, which has never been a strong bastion for the Samajwadis. In fact, the poll schedule has made the poll interesting as Western UP has now become a strong bastion for BJP after the Meerut riots with the Jats switching from Ajit Singh’s RLD to the BJP. This switch of loyalty by Jats have made BSP-BJP position at par and hence SCs, other than Jatav votes, have become decisive resulting in both the parties trying to woo this section of the voters. While BSP is confident of getting these votes, it has given maximum tickets to the Muslims who after SP entropy might consolidate behind BSP as it would be the most formidable force to stop BJP winning UP polls.

Commenting upon the BSP gamble to woo Muslim votes New Delhi-based political commentator Ram Bahadur Rai said, “Muslim candidates getting priority while ticket allocation in the BSP was obvious as Mayawati is trying to consolidate her Muslim-Dalit combination which has become a thumb rule for majority of the anti-BJP parties post 1992 incident. Since, With the Samajwadi Party still busy settling its internal matters, the. Muslim voters are feeling confused and hence Mayawati has played this gamble to win Muslim votes.” However, he cautioned Mayawati citing, “While allocating Muslim candidates in Western UP and Bundelkhand, which comprises around 155 assembly seats, Mayawati forgot that it would bring back the 2014 post- Meerut riots situation and BJP may take advantage of such ticket allocation by her. She has made it easier for the BJP to consolidate Jat votes which are decisive in more than 60 assembly seats. He also said that giving priority to Muslims over Gujjars would also irk the community and they may choose to go with SP or BJP depending upon the candidate.

If BJP or SP puts Gujjar or Jat candidates where Muslims are pitted by BSP, polarization of the Hindu votes are bound to help BJP while SP would heavily depend upon the Mulsims and OBC (which constitute around one third of the net voters) vote polarization. But, in Western UP, Yadav population is outnumbered by other OBC castes and hence SP needs to dent in the non- Yadav OBC votes. If Akhilesh Yadav’s development formula works then they can capture the required OBC votes, otherwise it’ll be a clear advantage to BSP or BJP in Western UP and Bundelkhand even if the SP is able to make truce in its family feud.

However, Abhay Kumar Dubey, Director, CSDS said, “Underestimating BSP would be a blunder because by garnering mere 17 percent of the Brahmin votes helped Mayawati to form the government on her own in 2007. So, while BJP is busy wooing other than Jatav SC votes, it has a hefty task to keep its upper caste votes intact, especially Brahmins. A chief ministerial candidate from the Brahmin community by the Congress party would also create problems for the BJP in Western and Central UP.”

Dubey went on to add that an estimate of the BJP’s social base in UP on the basis of the 1998 general election data shows that every hundred votes cast for this party comprised this combination of voters — 13.1 Brahmins, 15 Rajputs, 17.3 other upper castes, 2.5 Yadavs, 30.4 non-Yadav OBCs, 8.4 Scheduled Castes, and 10 others. Obviously it was an impressive rainbow of Hindu electoral unity under the dominance of dwijas, where some Muslim votes were just incidental. The colors of this rainbow appeared fluorescent when we look at figures in terms of the total votes poled for BJP — 82.5 percent Brahmins, 71.1 percent Rajputs, 83.8 percent other upper castes, 9.4 percent Yadavs, 46.6 percent non-Yadav OBCs, 15.5 percent Scheduled Castes, and 59 percent others. In every election this configuration would give BJP more than 50 Lok Sabha and around 170 Assembly seats.

Comparing this trend of votes garnered by the BJP in 2014, its share in other than Yadav OBCs went up to 43 percent, almost equal to the forward caste votes it polled. Its SC votes also went into double digits, which could happen due to the Khatik and Passis switching loyalty from BSP to BJP. Sticking to the 2014 stats, around 90 assembly seats are such where BJP polled more than 50 percent votes while around 180 seats are such where BJP polled more than 35 percent (IndiaSpends research data), which means even all the three parties forge an alliance, it would be difficult for the opposition to stop BJP in two digits.

But, Dubey of the CSDS expected hope for the opposition citing, “BJP’s performance in 2014 improved because the upwardly mobile Dalit voters had also chipped in with gusto to propel the Modi bandwagon. This larger catchment has been gradually contracted due to bouts of thoughtless politics, first at the national level by an unnecessary bellicose of the HRD Minister, and then at the State level by a loose-tongued party functionary. These episodes have forced the BJP into recovery mode and the violent enthusiasm of gau-rakshaks all over India has made it painfully longer.” This indicates that Mayawati is consolidating her traditional vote bank. If she is able to improve her Muslim vote bank, even by 25 percent, it would be enough for her to repeat the 2007 results.

However, there is one more angle that can bring changes into the poll dynamics and that’s alliance between Congress and the SP led by Akhilesh. The incumbent chief minister of UP has been vocal that if SP-Congress goes to poll in alliance the alliance would won more than 300 seats. If the internal reports are to be believed, the Akhilesh camp has already sealed the alliance deal with Congress, Ajit Singh’s RLD, Dr Ayub’s Peace Party, Lalu’s RJD, Nitish’s RJD and Mamata Banerje’s Trinmool Congress. In this arrangement, Akhilesh camp would leave 128-130 seats for its alliance partners in the assembly polls out of which Congress would get around 85-90 seats while Ajit Singh’s RLD would get 20-25 seats. Rest of the seats mentioned above would go to JDU, RJD, Peace Party and Trinmool Congress.

 

Casting light on the voting pattern by Muslims that can take place in Uttar Pradesh in coming UP polls an independent political commentator NK Singh said, “Traditionally, Muslims have voted for SP in Eastern UP while they votes for Congress or BSP in Central UP and Bundelkhand while in Western UP, their first choice is BSP. They vote for Congress or SP when they found BSP lagging behind on third or fourth position.” Similarly, he pointed out about the SCs vote pattern in UP citing, “SCs are a divided house. They have a feeling that Mayawati is Jatav and hence she is biased towards her community. This sparked hatred among Khatik and Passis who are almost in equal number with Jatavs in Western UP. Since, they want to defeat BSP, they vote for either BJP or Congress as they hate SP for its hooligan tag.” He said that since this election, BJP and BSP are in direct fight, these other than Jatav votes are expected to consolidate behind BJP in Western UP while in Bundelkhand and Central UP, and these voters are expected to remain loyal with Congress.”

Asked about the Eastern UP voting pattern NK Singh said, “Eastern UP has always been a string bastion for the SP as it provides its strongest M-Y equation. Muslim community in this region is in the range of around 22 percent while Yadavas are in the range of near 15 percent. However, this equation depends on some vote share of the OBCs as Muslim votes can be pared by the forward caster votes while Yadavas are in equal number of other OBCs. So, a small tilt of SC in favour of BJP makes it difficult for the SP to get going.”

Singh went on to add that in 2014, SP candidates won maximum votes of the Muslims and Yadavas but they failed to win other than Yadavas OBC votes and SCs went on to vote for the BJP. If the pattern continues to remain same then, given that the Samajwadis who are already under the stress of internal feud, BSP is expected to create the Muslim-Dalit combination here but it would succeed only when it dents both in SP and BJP vote bank as in this area Jatav voters are outnumbered by other than Jatav SCs and OBCs. Since, OBCs are sticking with the BJP, they may help BJP to shun away with the floater SC votes in the Eastern UP but for this they need to make strategy that can negate the ill effects of Rohit Vemula suicide case and other motor-mouth leaders. BJP also needs to control the Gau-rakshak sena which is continuously misbehaving with the SCs.

On net vote share required to get absolute majority in UP assembly polls; NK Singh said, “It has been found in 2007 and 2012 that 29 percent of net votes are enough to win absolute majority but it’s for SP or BSP. As these parties are concentrated in different pockets of UP. Votes around 29 percent are enough. However, for BJP which has presence in all pockets of UP, it would require not less than 32 percent of the net votes polled, if it is a quadrangular contest.”

However, Samajwdi leader and strong Akhilesh supporter Naresh Agarwal declined to accept NK Singh’s comment on caste combination working for various political parties in coming UP assembly polls citing, “Coming UP elections would be fought on the development plank and UP under Akhilesh Yadav has moved ahead of caste and creed politics. In 2014, Narendra Modi had promised lot of developmental plans but in more than two and half years, he has completely failed to fulfill those promises. In coming polls, anti-incumbency against Modi is going to favour Akhilesh Yadav as he has done a lot of developmental works in his five year tenure.” The Rajya Sabha lawmaker went on to add that Lok Sabha polls and Assembly polls are different and it would be mistake if people create any opinion taking cue from 2014 Lok Sabha polls citing, “In 1984, Congress party under Rajiv Gandhi had won 83 out of 85 Lok Sabha seats in UP. But, in 1985 UP assembly polls, they could win only 269 seats. So, replicating Lok sAbha results into the assembly polls is incorrect.”

Asked about BSP supremo Mayawati wooing Muslims to take advantage of the Samajwadi scabbard Naresh Agarwal said, “Mayawati is nowhere in the race. Voters of UP are street smart. They can’t afford their vote to go wasted. They know it’s SP under Akhilesh which is in direct contest with BJP and only Akhilesh can stop BJP in UP. Since, I have already told that this poll would be fought on the development plank, there is no question of talking M-Y equation working in favour of SP. In fact, we are expecting vote from all sections.”

“Samajwadi Party under Akhilesh has reached to a level where caste and creed has become nonsensical and hence we are expecting to win more than the number of seats that we had won in 2012,” said Agarwal. On alliance with Congress party post verdict of Election Commission on party symbol Agarwal said, “Right now, such talks are not happening and we would let people know as and when alliance takes place.” However, he declined to accept that it would Congress that would be major beneficiary of this alliance rather SP getting benefit of this alliance. Feedback on:-

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‘Modi’s Anti-incumbency Would Help Akhilesh’

Electorally, 2017 is billed as the year of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) legislative assembly elections, with commentators arguing that this is a crucial election for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s most populous state. True to its billing, overwhelming narrative is that the 2017 UP state elections will be a harbinger for the general elections of 2019. Taking cue from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, poll pundits are arguing that drama aside, the only result of the 2017 UP elections that should be surprising is a BJP loss.

But, Akhilesh Yadav camp is confident of winning the UP assembly polls with thumping majority. They are of the opinion that under Akhilesh Yadav, UP has moved forward from the caste and religious politics and development will be the major issue in coming state polls. Asit Manohar talks to Naresh Agarwal, Rajya Sabha MP from the Samajwadi Party and fishes out poll strategy of the party, which is caught in internal feud just ahead of the most important assembly polls among the Indian state. Edited excerpts:

Do you think Samajwadi scabbard has put its cadre in limbo, especially when the polls are mere one month away?

Not really. We have told our party workers to go to the people in their area and ensure victory of Akhilesh Yadav. Our party leaders are in contact with Akhilesh and other senior party leaders and giving feedback of the voters at the grass root level. Those who are fighting elections are well aware and they are working hard in their respective constituencies.

It is for the first time when Western UP would be voting in initial phases of UP assembly polls. Do you think it would give undue momentum to the opposition parties?

(Laughs) In last assembly polls, it was Eastern UP that had voted in initial phases but this time it’s Western UP. But, it’s discretionary power of the Election Commission and I don’t want to comment on that. As far as the poll momentum is concerned, it won’t make any difference as people are well aware of whom to vote and whom not to vote.

Mayawati has given huge number of Muslim candidates in this election. Do you think it would help her dent into the SP minority votes or it would help BJP to polarize Hindu votes?

Mayawatijee is nowhere in the race in coming UP assembly polls. Coming UP elections would be fought on the development plank and UP under Akhilesh Yadav has moved ahead of caste and creed politics. In 2014, Narendra Modi had promised lot of developmental plans but in more than two and half years, he has completely failed to fulfill those promises. In coming polls, anti-incumbency against Modi is going to favour Akhilesh Yadav as he has done a lot of developmental works in his five year tenure.

People of Western UP have still not forgotten the Meerut Riots and hence Muslim candidates from SP or BSP may help BJP to polarize Hindu votes?

I have already said Mayawatijee is nowhere in the race. Since, the coming elections would be fought on development agenda, how come the polarization of votes on religious line comes?

Amit Shah and Om Mathur has been working hard among the most backward castes in UP. Do you think it would put SP in direct fight with BJP in Eastern UP?

Not just in Eastern UP. Coming elections it’s SP which is direct fight with the BJP in all corners of the state. BSP leader Mayawatijee has lost faith among her traditional voters because she failed to raise above the caste politics. During his tenure, Akhilesh has made his acceptability among all sections of the society because the developmental works which took place during his tenure has trickled down to all sections of the society. That’s why we are confident to foil any kind of polarization of votes on caste and religious line.

Various opinion polls are indicating that demonetization won’t be a major issue for UP voters. Don’t you think by opposing demonetization, whole opposition including SP walked into the trap of Narendra Modi?

I don’t believe in opinion polls as majority of times they have come incorrect. Black money would a major issue in coming UP assembly polls and we would continue to ask PM Modi about the black money that he promised to bring back from overseas. Rather than bringing those Indian money stashed into foreign banks, our PM cracked down on Aam Aadmi pocket by forcing them to queue outside banks and ATMs. Modijee had promised to bring black money into the main stream while announcing the demonetization. When the deposited amount is more than the demonetized amount, where is the question of black money?

If we look at 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP needs to lose around 15 percent of its polled votes to lose UP polls. Do you think Akhilesh would be able to pare that huge vote margin?

Lok Sabha polls and Assembly polls are different and it would be mistake if people create any opinion taking cue from 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In 1984, Congress party under Rajiv Gandhi had won 83 out of 85 Lok Sabha seats in UP. But, in very next year in 1985 UP assembly polls, they could win only 269 seats. So, replicating Lok Sabha results into the assembly polls is incorrect.

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