New Delhi: How ironic is fate, more so the political fate? The biggest stake in Indian elections always comes in the country’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh. Fragmentation of the electorate has in more ways than one broken the equilibrium between caste, religions, individual leaders and political parties.
Yogi Adityanath was a major surprise by the BJP in 2017 after the polls. Uttar Pradesh is thus a puzzled state. A few years can make a lot of difference in politics. Five years back around 2017 armed-chair political experts spoke about Varun Gandhi as a probable BJP-face little mindful about the likes of Yogi Adityanath.
A decade back in 2007, it was a year of BSP supremo Mayawati, who worked out social engineering between Brahmins and Dalits and stormed to power. Even by the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, she was a key stakeholder and a PM-aspirant.
But by the 2012 assembly polls, things changed and there emerged ‘Chhota Nawab’ Akhilesh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh politics. But his days of glory too were short-lived and the 2014 general elections marked the triumph of the Moditva phenomenon.
The BJP won 71 Lok Sabha seats and two additional seats for Apna Party. The BJP again did well in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now in the run-up to the 2022 assembly polls, the battle line in Uttar Pradesh is crucial for the BJP and also for ‘Behenji’ of BSP. The outcome of UP polls would have some spill-over effect in other states like Gujarat (in December 2022) and certainly in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
For Mayawati, the stakes cannot be higher as the BSP has been pushed to the margins since 2012. The BSP scored zero in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and gained some ground winning 10 seats in 2019. In the 2017 assembly polls too, it could win only 19 seats -- the tally dropped from 80 in 2012.
Even ardent critics of the BSP would like to give credit to her for improved law and order between 2007 and 2012.
The Samajwadi regime under Akhilesh Yadav actually saw the throwback to the culture of ‘goondas'. Now the BJP – always keen for a serious electoral contest – has set the ball rolling and the party chief J P Nadda has started meeting important leaders from the state and others who could be involved in the party’s poll strategies.
A win in the Ganga plains and the country’s largest state coming after West Bengal polls would be vital in more ways than one. A lot of other things are happening around as well.
Gujarat cadre IAS officer, A K Sharma, who is known for proximity to PM Narendra Modi, joined the BJP in January this year.
By July 2022, there would be another round of political one-upmanship between different parties.
There would be crucial polls to elect India’s new President and Vice President.
In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had won both the key contests. What is at stake in 2022? Thus, Uttar Pradesh – with 80 Lok Sabha seats and 403-member state assembly - certainly roots for the future of India.
In the 2017 assembly polls, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party worked out a formula but much to the chagrin of the social network operators and a section of media, the efforts did not bring the expected results.
The Muslims of UP – who have relied heavily on the Samajwadi Party and partly on BSP – are not sure whom to vote and how to vote. In the just-concluded assembly polls in West Bengal, the Muslims deserted the Leftists and the Congress and embraced Mamata Banerjee.
In UP, there is no clear choice. 'Dalit politics' would also be important, and so would be the roles of other caste groups including Brahmins and Thakurs. Yadavs have stuck to the Samajwadi Party and Jatav Dalits have backed Mayawati chief BSP. These two communities account for about 22 per cent of votes. But BJP’s growth since 2014 has been significant. Even in the 2017 assembly elections proving the prophets of doom wrong, the BJP won a landslide victory picking up as many as 312 seats in the 403-member assembly. Some estimates suggest BJP’s growth has come at the decline of both BSP’s Samajwadi’s support base among non-Jatav Dalit and non-Yadav sections – the smaller caste groups.
BSP’s support also declined among Jatav Dalit voters from around 80 to 65 per cent and even around 60. Valmiki caste’s support for Mayawati also declined from around 70 per cent to 40. Some of these drifted to the Samajwadi and also to the BJP camp. Mayawati’s downfall also came with the decline of the Muslim support base. One argument was that her ‘social engineering’ has contributed to this decline.
'Behenji' took Dalit and Muslim support base for granted and tried to woo only the upper caste groups. The Samajwadi Party is largely banking on anti-incumbency against the BJP. The saffron party strategists have to also focus on retaining and winning caste groups like Mauryas, Kushwahas, Shakya and Saints.