Pre-election scene in UP

The stage is all set for the crucial UP Assembly elections. Already delayed by six months in blatant violation of democratic norms — thanks to the BJP’s shameless greed for power, and its endorsement by the socalled ‘autonomous’ agencies on the basis of dubious interpretation of rules — the elections are now scheduled for February, provided they are not postponed again for the sake of the BJP’s ‘crusade against terrorism’ which might even develop into a full-fledged war against Pakistan. Obviously, the war build up has a direct bearing on UP elections.

Actually, despite all possible political acrobatics by its chief minister Rajnath Singh, the BJP was forced to bank upon its traditional communal-jingoistic plank. In the aftermath of America’s Afghan war, the BJP strategists went on record admitting that the struggle against terrorism (and not the achievements of Atal-Rajnath governments) would be the main agenda in the Assembly elections. When the Machiavellian saffron masters designed POTO as a major political weapon, and when it faced a stiff resistance from a wide cross-section of the socio-political spectrum, Rajnath claimed that even if POTO was not passed by the Parliament, UP would have its own POTO.

The MBC-MDC card [Most Backward Castes and ‘Most Dalit Castes’], said to be a master stroke of Rajnath Singh, did not really click. In the first place, Rajnath’s promise of providing jobs to the MBC-MDC youth was not kept, though it was attributed to judicial intervention. [The Supreme Court recently stayed MBC-MDC reservation]. Secondly, and more importantly, it could not alter the social equations to the BJP’s advantage to any great extent.

Rajnath indulged in high-sounding rhetoric about development and welfare of all sections, which was epitomised in the populist panchayats of farmers, workers, teachers, students etc. [Khiladi panchayat being the last in the series, organised by Raja Bhaiya, Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs and a mafia don] Despite all this, according to reports based on internal assessment of senior bureaucrats recently dispatched to district headquarters by the Chief Minister, the situation is disappointing.

As part of his image building exercise, Rajnath recently dismissed one of his ministers Amar Mani Tripathi, from whose house in Lucknow three kidnappers, who had kidnapped a boy, were arrested. Tripathi was the third in the series of sacked ministers. Naresh Aggarwal, the first to be expelled, has now joined the Samajwadi Party. Ashok Yadav, the second to be expelled, has successfully stalled the MBC-OBC reservation through the Supreme Court. If the involvement of a minister in a kidnapping case did not cause much surprise in UP, his dismissal from the cabinet too did not impress the voters much because many such gems continue to adorn the BJP crown. People find it ridiculous that after running its governments with the help of criminals and corrupt politicians for five years, now, on the eve of the elections, a BJP CM suddenly discovers that Naresh Aggarwal is corrupt and Amar Mani Tripathi is a criminal.

The Samajwadi Party appeared to be a major beneficiary of the situation. However, of late, there have been disturbing signals for the party. Recently, Dr.Masood, once an education minister in the Mayawati government, who rebelled to form the National Loktantrik Party, a predominantly Muslim party, and who was working with VP Singh’s Kisan Morcha, has tilted towards the Congress. According to reports, some powerful Muslim leaders of the Samajwadi Party, including sitting MPs, are tilting towards Congress. Apart from sending out a message regarding a possible post-poll alliance to form a government against the probable BJP-BSP government, Mulayam Singh’s parleys with his one-time enemy number one, Sonia Gandhi are necessitated by this compulsion to stop the drift of Muslim voters. Mulayam Singh reportedly faces the same problem in his own home turf of Etawah. Mulayam Singh’s retrogressive stand on MBC reservation, his opportunist competition with the saffron brigade on the question of striking at terrorist camps in PoK [his party even surpassed the saffron brigade by organising a demonstration in Lucknow demanding an immediate attack!], his growing relations with the Congress etc., make him doubly suspect in the eyes of secular democratic forces.

Recently, the BSP organised a big rally in Lucknow, where in true dynastic Raja-Rani style, Kanshi Ram formally declared Mayawati to be his political heir. Though, for all practical purposes, Mayawati had already replaced (nay, ousted from UP!) her mentor, the succession question became important at this juncture as some other powerful claimants have entered the arena. The union minister Ram Vilas Paswan is now making hectic efforts to carve out a niche for his Lok Janashakthi Party in the dalit politics of the state. Similarly, RK Chaudhary, once the second most important leader of the BSP after Kanshi Ram, and BR Verma are also staking their claim as the main legatees of the Bahujan movement. Similarly, a bureaucrat-turned-politician Ramraj, baptized in Buddhism as Uditraj, has recently emerged to fill the vacuum created by the decline of the BAMCEF, which was once the main weapon of Kanshi Ram. He organised a big rally of dalits, including employees and bureaucrats, in New Delhi, for conversion into Buddhism. Mayawati, in her Lucknow rally, attacked Ramraj too besides Ram Vilas Paswan. Obviously, Ramraj alias Uditraj, has political plans and he seems to be in league with the Congress. In a significant development, Mayawati launched a vitriolic attack on the Congress in her Lucknow rally. It was obviously intended to check the possible drift of dalits to the Congress fold.

The BSP rally was impressive. But, according to observers, its composition was a bit different from the earlier rallies. This time there was a sizable presence of middle sections, thanks to Mayawati’s offer to provide tickets to a large number of upper caste candidates. Though its core constituency remains more or less intact, there is a decline in the profile and image of the BSP. There are strong undercurrents of fragmentation and disintegration in the monolithic dalit politics of the state.

Having suffered a not so insignificant split at the altar of its morcha politics in the past, the CPI has submitted a list of 17 constituencies to Mulayam Singh. But, according to reliable sources, they are prepared to end up with half a dozen seats. Against this opportunist and suicidal course of the leadership, there is widespread discontent among its cadres all over the state. The CPI(M) has submitted a list of some 16 constituencies. But they have publicly pledged not to weaken the Lok Morcha for the sake of a few seats and they have also advised the CPI to toe the same tailist line!

Against this rank parliamentary cretinism, the CPI(ML) is engaged in strengthening its identity as the struggling left. Recently, in Mirzapur, the Party successfully rebuffed state repression against its leaders, cadres and innocent toiling masses of adivasis and dalits, where a reign of terror was let loose in the wake of the Khoradih incident, where a PAC camp was attacked by MCC squads. Basing on our areas of struggle and our ever expanding work in various regions of the state, the Party is gearing up to participate in the elections with full vigour.

Some parties based on single communities have carved out their areas of influence and they may join hands in the elections to garner a sizable number of seats. Most notable among them are Apna Dal, a party based on Kurmi kulaks, and Rashtriya Kranti Party, based on Lodh kulaks and led by ex-CM Kalyan Singh. Recently, they organised large rallies in Lucknow. Though still dominated by the trinity of BJP, BSP and SP, the social life and politics of the state seems to be passing through a transition, where there are strong undercurrents of change.

— Lal Bahadur Singh