Post-election political manoeuvres in UP

THE STAGE is all set for yet another BSP-BJP government in UP. The UP Governor, an ex-RSS functionary and a faithful lackey of the Centre, blocked the formation of a non-BJP government by refusing to go by convention and inviting the SP, the single largest party, under the specious plea that it would hamper stability. The SP, not being in a position to stake a credible claim, had to rest content with some grumbling against the Congress. However, to talk of a stable government in a fractured polity and society is patently absurd and, in any case, it was none of Governor’s business.

The exact nature of the BSP-BJP deal is not yet clear. Yet one can safely predict that stability will remain elusive in UP politics for the next few years.

In the recently held elections, despite all possible acrobatics by ‘election-time’ Chief Minister Rajnath Singh and a last ditch attempt to create a communal polarisation by no less a person than Vajpayee himself, who declared at a Varanasi rally that the BJP could win without Muslim votes, the BJP could win only 88 seats and poll 20% of the votes, being pushed to the third place. It is the lowest ever vote for the party ever since its meteoric rise a decade ago and, in fact, it is only little more than what it secured in the 1998 parliamentary elections. Apathy and passivity of its urban middle class constituency, erosion in whatever OBC support base it had, serious forays by the BSP into its upper caste vote bank, and the tilt of Brahmin power groups towards the Congress etc. are pointers to a long-term, if not irreversible, downslide of the BJP in UP politics. It is the desperation to stem this slide that has forced the RSS-BJP top brass to reconcile to the idea of a BSP-BJP government, despite strong opinions to the contrary prevailing in the state party.

The BSP has been positioning itself for such an eventuality for the last many years through its support to the NDA government at all crucial junctures, including its indirect support to the POTA. No wonder Mayawati echoed BJP’s line on Gujarat. BSP has made impressive gains in the elections securing 98 seats and 23% of the popular vote. However, in order to achieve this Mayawati had to make a strategic shift in the party’s orientation – from bahujan to sarvajan. As a result, the party, which started its journey with anti-Brahminical and anti-upper caste rhetoric more than a decade ago, has the highest number of upper caste legislators – 32 out of 98! Their changed tactics of selling tickets to powerful upper caste candidates has paid it rich dividends. However this shift marks a critical point in the evolution of the party and its far-reaching implications are yet to unfold. The Samajwadi Party has emerged as the single largest party though it is far behind a simple majority. It secured 143 seats with a 25% vote share. But its performance was not up to the mark. It seems the party has paid dearly for its opportunist silence in the face of the communal fascist onslaught of the BJP regime and its alienation from popular struggles. Having failed to form the government, the SP is quite vulnerable and faces serious erosion of its base, what with the growing profile of the Congress at the national level.

Though various social groups showed some inclination towards the Congress, still it could secure only 25 seats with a 9% vote share. The Rashtriya Kranti Party of Kalyan Singh based on Lodh kulaks got four seats with 3.4% votes and Apna Dal of Kurmi kulaks got 3 seats with 2.1% votes.

The Jan Morcha remained a non-starter. Despite humiliating ‘seat sharing’, the CPI and the CPI(M) could not maintain their earlier position. The CPI(M) strength was halved while the CPI failed to win any seat and there was a massive decline in its votes. The CPI had polled 2,83,556 votes in 12 constituencies in 1996 but this time Mulayam gave it only five seats. They lost their lone Ghazipur seat and polled only 69,584 votes. In their erstwhile stronghold of Lolasala, they got only three thousand votes. The CPI(M) had secured 4 seats out of 11 seats it contested in 1996, polling 3,96,406 votes. This time it got only 1,63,492 votes and 2 seats out of 6 they were allotted. In Kodipur assembly seat of Sultanpur the CPI(M) got only 9000-odd votes despite SP’s support. The CPI(ML) candidates polled 65,295 votes in all from the 34 seats it contested. Our votes have almost doubled compared to last time. We polled more than 10,000 votes in Mughalsarai. Thanks to our independent contest which was closely related with our grassroots revolutionary struggles, our image as a genuine communist party has been established among the left ranks, and many of them are joining us, leaving the opportunist left who are losing their credibility and strength with every electoral contest.

– Lal Bahadur Singh