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Mainstream, VOL L No 13, March 17, 2012

New Political Arithmetic in UP

Tuesday 20 March 2012, by Arup Kumar Sen

In the just-concluded Assembly elections in UP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) stormed into power with an absolute majority, winning 224 seats out of 403. Binary categories of political analysis are grossly inadequate to understand the dynamics of political change in the State. Though Maya-wati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was ousted by the SP, she was able to retain the loyalty of her core vote-bank of the Jatav caste and get 26 per cent of the vote-share, just four per cent less than that of the SP. However, her Sarvajan project seeking a rainbow coalition across the caste and community spectrum did not take off.1

Mayawati’s passion for building monuments in memory of Dalit icons including herself would not have invited the people’s ire if it were not for the volume of taxpayers’ money, allegedly more than Rs 7000 crores.2 The political psychologist, Ashis Nandy, opines that constructing such statues of Dalit icons all around exemplifies ‘cons-picuous consumption’. He feels that the big money spent on such constructions could have been used for building many hospitals in memory of Ambedkar and that would have achieved the dual purpose of serving the people as well as her image building.3

It should be mentioned in this connection that the BSP, under Mayawati’s leadership, started building a grand history around Ambedkar and Periyar by installing their statues and developing parks in their names. In the process, it margi-nalised the micro-histories of the small Dalit castes. In the current Assembly elections, other political parties were found to explore and celebrate the hidden micro-identities of the small Dalit castes for their political gains.4

AKHILESH YADAV, the son of Mulayam Singh Yadav, has emerged as a new political icon in UP in the current elections. His political campaign played a big role in the Samajwadi Party’s coming back like a storm in the political sky of UP. But, it should be kept in mind that the SP’s main support base is still the famous Muslim-Yadav combine. Akhilesh, who studied engineering in Sydney University, helped the SP to gain votes from the young urban voters. He has combined his earthy charm with astute understanding of the power of technology and social media. The laptops promised to students in the SP manifesto exemplify the new vision he introduced in the party. He brought the SP on the internet with a website that is updated regularly, besides putting it on Facebook with latest videos and photographs of him addressing rallies. Shiv Visvanathan, the eminent social scientist, feels that “Akhilesh flaunted the rhythm of an ordinary leader who could connect easily”.5
Mulayam Singh Yadav, in his previous stint as the Chief Minister, announced a scheme in 2004 that gave generous incentives to giant sugar companies. Attracted by the scheme, big sugar com-panies invested more than Rs 5000 crores in new plants and expansion projects between 2005 and 2007. Naturally, sugar companies and their inves-tors have cheered the return of the Samajwadi Party to power. How the new SP Government will balance the interest of the sugar giants with that of the small sugarcane farmers is an important issue of power struggle.6
Regarding the stigma of poor law and order during the previous SP regime, Akhilesh Yadav promised that the rule of law will prevail in the State. He stated: “We will not allow any goonda-gardi. No mafiagiri will be tolerated.” Let us see whether the new SP Government can give fare-well to the long tradition of mafiagiri nurtured by Mulayam Singh Yadav.

NOTES

1. See Ajoy Bose, “Shooting an elephant” in The Hindu, March 8, 2012.

2. Sharat Pradhan, “Apathy Led to Mayawati’s Fall” in The Economic Times, March 7, 2012.

3. Interview with Ashis Nandy, Anandabazar Patrika, March 8, 2012.

4. Badri Narayan, “In UP polls, local dalit histories vie with BSP’s grand storyline” in The Hindu, February 9, 2012.

5. Faisal Fareed, “In SP’s new base, the young and the urban join Muslims-Yadavs” in The Indian Express, March 8, 2012; see also The Economic Times, March 7, 2012.

6. The Economic Times, March 7, 2012.

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