People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 24 

June 14, 2009

 

UTTAR PRADESH

 

Unexpected Results Again

 

S P Kashyap

 

ALL eyes are fixed at the election results in Uttar Pradesh whenever people are to elect a new Lok Sabha. With its 80-seat representation in the lower house of parliament, it is Uttar Pradesh that decides which party will have its say after the elections are over. If Ms Mayawati was dreaming of becoming the prime minister of the country after the recently concluded polls, it was because her Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was confident of winning 50 odd seats out of these 80. If Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, leaders of the Samajwadi Party (SP), were hoping to play a crucial role in the government formation after the polls, it was because they too were confident of repeating their performance in the 2004 polls. What to talk of the SP and BSP, even the BJP was hoping to doubling its seat tally in Uttar Pradesh and if only this hope had materialised, it would have been a morale booster for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Thus, all the major parties were keenly watching the poll process in this population-wise largest state of the country.

 

But they forgot just one small fact. That the electorate of Uttar Pradesh have, in the last three decades, acquired an expertise in yielding unexpected, and sometimes stunning, results. In these three decades, the people of this state have often given power to a party and trounced the same party in the next election.

 

The results for the 15th Lok Sabha polls are no exception. Before the elections, during the campaign process and even after the polls but till the results were out, the general opinion was that the main fight in this state would be between the BSP and SP, who would between themselves bag most of the seats in UP. Nay more, it was thought that the upper hand would be of the BSP, that the BJP would be in the third position and that there was no chance of a revival of the Congress in the state. The results have belied all these opinions.

 

Though the SP retained its first position in the state by winning 23 out of the total 80 seats, its tally went down by 13 in comparison to the 2004 polls. Its vote share also went down. The seat tally as well as the vote share of the Congress went up approximately twice and it got the second position by bagging 21 seats while the party’s leaders were sure that they were not going to get much in these polls. The BSP came third with 20 seats, which was one more than its tally in 2004. though the party’s vote share went up to 27 per cent, it was less than what it had got in the assembly polls in 2007. This increase of just one seat was a big shock to a party that was hoping to bag 30 to 35 additional seats in comparison to 2004.

 

The BJP retained its 2004 seat tally by bagging 10 seats but its vote share has gone up, indicating that it cannot be taken lightly as an electoral force. In western parts of the state, the party benefited much from its alliance with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) whose seat tally went up from three to five. As an independent candidate, former chief minister Kalyan Singh bagged the remaining one seat.

 

Thus the unexpected success of the Congress was the biggest miracle thrown up by these polls. The substantial increase in its vote share does indicate that it has not only increased its seat tally but also expanded its mass base. A characteristic of this expanded mass base is that it is not confined to a particular caste, religious group or section; people of all sections have given it more support in comparison to 2004. For example, it received support from a big chunk of the minority voters who moved away from the SP. Similarly, a good part of the upper caste voters mobilised behind the Congress party. From among the backward castes, it received sizeable support from the Kurmi and Koiri voters in the central parts of the state. Moreover, the Congress was able to penetrate among the Dalit voters who have so far been solidly behind the BSP. A feature of the increased mass base of the Congress was it was not spread over a wide area but concentrated, and it thus got translated into electoral successes. This may explain why the BJP could get only half of the seats compared to the Congress even though its vote share was only slightly less than the latter’s.


Two facts corroborate this conclusion. First, most of the 21 seats the Congress bagged are located in the central Uttar Pradesh and, secondly, the party came second only in a few of the remaining seats it contested and its candidates were not able to save their deposits in most of the other seats. The Congress contested 69 seats, won 21, and lost deposits in 35.

 

The question to deeply ponder over is: How was the party able to attract various sections of society? In a cursory manner, one may say that some of the UPA government’s steps like the rural employment guarantee scheme and loan waiver benefited the Congress party to an extent. Then, there was also the belief that only the Congress-led UPA could provide a stable government at the centre. Its candidate selection was also much better than in the past, and it also benefited the trend of upper castes and minorities deserting the two main parties in the state, the SP and the BSP.

               

Performance of Various Parties in 15th Lok Sabha Polls in Uttar Pradesh

Party

Vote Percent

Seats

Samajwadi Party

23.26

23

Congress

18.25

21

BSP

27.42

20

BJP

17.50

10

 

The poll results have come as a big shock for the BSP. The party bagged 207 seats out of 402 in the 2007 assembly polls, that is, a majority of its own. But this time it could take a lead in only 100 assembly segments. The reasons are many. One of the potent factors behind the BSP’s success was the people’s anger with the then existing SP government in the state, and the angry voters saw the BSP as the only party that could trounce the SP. That factor was no longer there in the Lok Sabha polls. On the contrary, the two-year rule of the BSP has created discontent among the voters and there was a lot of resentment against several of the anti-people policies being pursued by the BSP government. The people also abhorred the wastage of public money on a number of statues and memorials being built up in the state, while the government has little care for the issues facing the people. Nor did the people like the way Ms Mayawati projected herself as a candidate for the prime minister’s position. Further, she put up a number of criminals and mafia-men as candidates for the Lok Sabha, and this the people thoroughly detested. Her formula of “social engineering” and “Sarvajan Samaj” in place of “Bahujan Samaj” was able to attract the upper castes in 2007, but failed to do so this time. On the contrary, dalits resented the prominence being given to some upper caste people in the party, and this impacted the poll results to an extent.
 

All said and done, however, the BSP is still the main political force in the state. Though it holds the third place in terms of the seat tally, its vote share was still the highest. Its candidates came second in 47 seats.
 

In Uttar Pradesh, if a party has suffered more than others in the Lok Sabha polls, it is the Samajwadi Party. Even if it is at the number one position in terms of its seat tally (23), the fact remains that it has lost 13 seats and its vote share has also suffered an erosion. Compared to the past, Yadav voters more openly and more solidly supported the SP in these polls while its bonhomie with Kalyan Singh got it some benefit in the Lodh belt. The party’s position would have been more miserable if only these two backward castes had not stood by it.


Despite all the efforts made by the Mulayam-Amar duo, a big section of the Muslims deserted the SP even though the minorities were considered an important support base of the party. Compared to the past, it also received less support from the upper castes.

 

One must note that Mulayam Singh’s bonhomie with Kalyan Singh had had a mixed impact upon the SP’s fortune. While it brought to the party a good chunk of backward caste votes, it alienated the Muslims because of Kalyan Singh’s role in the Babri Masjid demolition. 

   

The BJP was in a high spirit before and during the elections. It had, in a way, taken it for granted that a return of the NDA to power was imminent and that its seats in the state were going to heavily increase. It was because of this assumption that the party’s central leadership ignored the state leadership’s advice and entered an alliance with Ajit Singh. Moreover, instead of condemning the venomous communal speech made by Varun Gandhi against the minorities, the party sought to exploit it to effect communal polarisation. For the same purpose, the party sought to utilise the services of Yogi Adityanath and Narendra Modi. Though these efforts led to some increase in the mass base of the BJP, it could not translate this increase into votes. The party got about 17 per cent of the valid votes polled, its seat tally remained the same as in 2004. In fact, it was the RLD that gained more from its alliance with the BJP, increasing its seats from three to five.


Several features were noted in the Lok Sabha polls in UP in 2009. First, there was a very sharp polarisation of voters on the basis of caste and religion, and this affected the poll results to a significant extent. Secondly, money power and muscle power played a big role in these polls. Much before the model code of conduct came into force, candidates had begun to influence and allure the voters with monetary offers in a big way. This is indicated by the fact that 50 out of the   80 winners are millionaires. Third, there was a noticeable tendency of the voters’ inclination to inflict defeat upon the candidates who had a criminal’s image or were identified as mafia agents. Such candidates won only in rare cases in the state. Fourth, the media did not play the role that was expected from it as the fourth pillar of democracy. The media organisations used the poll process as an occasion to mint money. Instead of providing impartial and objective information to the voters and thus fulfilling their social responsibility, these media organisations became subservient to the candidates who purchased “packages” from them. They exceeded the limits of decency when they began to present the poll advertisements of various candidates as the news sent by their correspondents. There was an important purpose behind this malpractice: to avoid recording the receipt of black money paid by various candidates.


One more noteworthy feature in these elections in the state was that there were breaches in the concept of traditional vote banks. It was hitherto believed that minorities were the SP’s vote bank while dalits were fully with the BSP. But while the minorities moved away from the SP in these polls, dalits too were found angry with Ms Mayawati. The Muslims who deserted the SP, voted for the Congress here, for the BSP there, and for the Ulema Council or Peace Party which had had he clandestine backing of one or another major party.

 

The results of the 15th Lok Sabha polls may effect significant changes in the political scenario in Uttar Pradesh. For the last several years, the politics of the state has been bipolar, moving around the SP and the BSP. But now the vote shares of various parties do indicate that not only these two but also the Congress and the BJP are very much alive in the electoral game. This indicates the possibility that the UP politics may well become tetrapolar in the coming days. It is therefore very difficult to guess as to who would gain or lose how much in the elections in near future.