UP Elections: Lessons

The electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh is over with the results making many still deliberate on what helped Samajwadi Party gain an absolute majority in the state assembly. Why have the Congress and BJP performed miserably? And why hasn’t all the negative campaigning contributed to collapse of Mayawati’s BSP? The BSP has certainly been pushed out of power but having emerged as the second most important party in the state assembly, it is now ranked as the leading opposition party. What role has been played by the so-called “Muslim vote?”

Taking the last point first, the hype created about the Muslim vote stands shattered by the very fact that they have not voted en bloc for any one party. In fact, a party floated as that of Muslims, Peace Party has a non-Muslim as one of its few candidates who have managed to win their electoral battle to reach the UP assembly.

At the same time, the point that has been paid utmost attention is that the new UP Assembly has more Muslim members than it ever had in the past. Against the 56 Muslim legislators in 2007 elections, the present polls have sent 69 Muslims to the UP assembly. Certainly, the parties in the fray have tried their best in using their respective Muslim-cards to attract the votes of the Muslim community. Out of the 78 Muslim candidates fielded by SP, 43 have emerged as winners. Only 16 of the 85 Muslim candidates fielded by BSP have made it to the new assembly. Statistically, around 62 percent of Muslim legislators belong to SP, 22 to BSP and the rest to others.

 What needs to be paid attention is that the Muslim voters’ decision has been markedly influenced by political cards used by parties in the fray. If the religious factor has played a decisive role, it has prompted the Muslim voters to pay considerable attention to ensure the defeat of communal elements. The dismal performance of BJP can be partly linked with this approach displayed by Muslims as well as other non-communal, secular voters.  The last point further affirms the stand that SP’s stunning victory has not been solely influenced by the state’s Muslim populace turning towards it.  

If the BJP and Sangh Parivar’s Ayodhya-card further alienated the state’s voter from them, the haunting impact of Batla House encounter turned the voters away from the Congress. These two points also suggest as to why UP Muslims have not totally turned away from supporting Mayawati.  

It may also be noted that the state’s only Muslim party has not attracted much support from Muslims as have the SP and BSP. Also, the noise made by certain Muslim leaders on assuring reservation for Muslims failed to convince the state’s Muslim populace. In fact, the victory of Muslim candidates from SP and BSP may not have been possible had they belonged to parties, the state’s Muslim and secular non-Muslims have virtually turned against. This point also suggests that non-Muslim leaders and parties, primarily because of their secular image, have succeeded in attracting Muslim votes. The division in Muslim votes, with most opting for SP and a few for BSP, further shatters the myth entertained about there being a Muslim vote-bank in UP. This certainly does not undermine the significance of the Muslim votes. However, there is a difference in blanketing an entire community’s votes as the Muslim-vote and in studying the same as votes of Muslims.

 The case may have been different had there been select constituencies where only Muslims could cast votes and contest polls. Such is not the case in UP or in any other part of the country. Except for the Valley of Kashmir, Muslims are in a minority in most parts of the country.  

The UP electoral-battle clearly indicates that it is not an easy task for national parties to defeat regional parties in areas where they have a strong base. The final results have brought SP and BSP to number one and two positions, respectively, which have spelt a strong defeat for both the Congress and BJP. Here, it may be noted that during the campaign-phase, speculations were rife about virtual collapse of BSP in UP. This has not been the case. BSP has certainly been pushed out of power, but it still retains its position as a strong party.

 Notwithstanding all the media-coverage and party support received by Rahul Gandhi, his magic-wand failed to work. The failure of the Congress also indicates the people’s refusal to withdraw their support from the regional parties and regional leaders. Statistically, they switched sides, turning away from BSP to support the SP. The increase in voters’ turning out to cast their votes also signals the quiet political storm brewing in their hearts and minds. They wanted a stable government run by a regional party and were absolutely against its command being taken over by either Congress or BJP. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2012 on page no. 11

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