Did ‘Development’ Win Uttar Pradesh Or Communalism?

Posted by Ahmed Zuber in Politics
March 19, 2017

This article highlights the hypocrisy of right wing politics. As an individual, I’m opposed to the very idea of right wing politics and majoritarian dominance. Be it Hindu Right or Muslim, or be it White Supremacism or Black Supremacism, I’m equally opposed to all. Moreover, I haven’t endorsed any party. The purpose is to simply highlight what I believe is wrong.

Uttar Pradesh is diverse in culture and language. However, it is mostly known today for being the most populous state of the second most populous country in the world. A region, which, for centuries has been the de facto cultural centre of various civilisations and empires. It’s a region which has seen the origin of various movements, be it religious or political, which has given birth to great thinkers, philosophers, poets and politicians. UP is the political and cultural heart of India, to say the least. The state of UP has seen a gradual loss of its former glory and cultural tolerance, something for which it was known, something for which it occupied the place of a shining gem in a crown known as India.

And the recently concluded assembly elections in UP are the latest example. Talking about politics, UP is the political heartland of India.

A state which had an immense contribution to the independence movement, a state which has given eight Prime Ministers, cannot be aloof from politics. In fact, politics is ingrained within the very air of UP. You cannot imagine UP without thinking about the ‘thadis’ or tea stalls which dot the entire landscape of the state, where people sit and discuss politics while having tea.

In other words, UP is like the Lord’s Stadium for the politicians of India. It is the Mecca of Indian politics.

Winning elections in UP is considered the most difficult task for any political leader/political party in India, and those who emerge victorious in this ‘Mecca’ of Indian politics emerge as key players in the politics of the entire country.

Talking about the elections, UP has recently had an assembly election, an exhaustive seven phase procedure which continued for more than a month. The elections were being cautiously monitored by every politician, media house and politically conscious citizen of India, and there were a lot of speculations regarding its outcome. The results, which came on March 11, surprised many. While most of the exit polls had predicted a hung assembly, some had predicted a sweeping majority for the ruling party at the centre. Nevertheless, all of the exit polls were somewhat correct regarding the trends, since all of them gave BJP an edge over the SP-Congress alliance and the BSP.

However, very few people, including pollsters and renowned senior journalists had predicted such a thumping victory for the BJP, and thus, the results surprised many. For the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP-Congress alliance, the results were more of a trauma, for Akhilesh Yadav had a firm belief that he would emerge victorious and throughout the hectic election season, he had reiterated his belief.

Ever since the results have come out, the market for speculations and analysis is rife, with different ‘analysts’ and ‘experts’ giving different explanations as to why the BJP swept UP.

While some claim that it was Modi’s development agenda, others believe it was his appeal cutting across caste lines (among the OBCs particularly) that brought BJP home, with a comfortable margin. Yet, some others believe that it was the anti-Yadav sentiment which mobilised the various backward caste groups behind the BJP. Caste groups which have almost nothing in similarity and which have been rivals for decades.

All of the explanations have some merit, and all of them satisfactorily explain the outcome of the elections, but they are not the only explanation, or at least, the entire explanation.

Talking about the BJP in general, and for Prime Minister Modi in particular, the elections in UP were a litmus test, to judge the mood of the masses after the demonetisation drive and the cross-border surgical strikes. During the elections, the opposition had continuously criticised Modi for demonetisation and the hardships that it brought for the common masses. And thus, the elections were being judged as a verdict on Modi’s policies.

And as soon as the election results were out, the media houses started to hail the results as the common man’s thumbs up to Modi’s policies in general and demonetisation in particular.

However, was it really Modi’s policies, including his agenda of development, and its implementation in the form of demonetisation that brought BJP a massive majority in India’s largest state? Or was it something else?

I beg to differ. For me, and for every person who happens to have a somewhat understanding of the ground reality, it seems that development and all the other ‘progressive’ ideas to build a modern society were more of a lip service, and were actually put on hold during the elections, during which time Modi went into a full-scale blitzkrieg mode, tearing apart the opposition, both SP-Congress and BSP, but the alliance in particular, using BJP’s time-tested strategy, the demon of religious polarisation.

It was not that BJP started using polarisation as the strategy to win the elections only when Akhilesh Yadav started to talk about development. It was actually BJP’s strategy from the beginning.  Creating a volatile situation in the name of ‘anti-Romeo squads’ were not simply spontaneous outbursts, but a calculated strategy.

However, communal polarisation is something which has been used by the BJP since time immemorial, and it was what had brought BJP to power in 1991 in UP, at the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi  Babri Masjid conflict. Thus, it was only reasonable that BJP would resort to it to come to power once again.

BJP had deployed its master strategist Amit Shah for the elections in UP, and he, along with the RSS cadres had been busy creating an atmosphere of anger among the majority community of the state, portraying the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP government as ‘minority loving’. Even though, how much the minority community progressed under the SP regime is not hidden from anybody. It is still one of the poorest and educationally most backward communities of India in general, and UP is no different.

The major targets for Amit Shah were the non-Yadav OBCs of the state, for he knew that the upper caste majority community members will always vote for the BJP.

Thus, even before the elections commenced, the majority community had an undercurrent of teaching the SP government a lesson. So, whatever Akhilesh Yadav said about the work he did, or what he planned to do if voted again, were all in vain, for the ears of the masses had become deaf to his talks of development.

The polarisation agenda of the BJP was given a final touch by the Prime Minister in a rally before the fourth phase in Fatehpur, where he openly accused the SP government of providing electricity during Ramzaan, but not during Diwali and for allotting lands for graveyards but not for cremation.

Thus, Modi had delivered his masterstroke, given the final touch to the strategy Amit Shah had been planning on and delicately executing for years.

Whatever Modi said was wrong in every sense, for the very next day, the official data became available which stated that average electricity supply in 2016 during Diwali was 15400 MWs compared to 13500 MWs on the day of Eid.

However, the damage was done. With one statement, Modi had put the final nail in the coffin of the SP-Congress alliance.

The results of the BJP’s polarisation strategy were clearly evident on the result day. In almost every constituency, except for Yadavs who form the core SP vote base, and Jatav Dalits who form core BSP vote base, all of the caste groups of the majority community had probably voted for the BJP. And in constituencies where minority community candidates were in fray from the alliance and the BSP, even the core vote base of these parties had probably voted for the BJP, against the minority candidate.

The BJP, which didn’t give even a single ticket to someone the minority community, won a huge number of seats, with the alliance and the BSP losing badly. Most of the minority candidates of these two parties lost the elections.

In those communities where people from the minority community, were not in significant numbers, it was a cakewalk for the BJP.

But Modi’s statement and BJP’s policy has raised some questions, and they’ve remained unanswered.

Wasn’t it highly irresponsible on the Prime Minister’s part to make such a statement which was completely untrue? And imagining a situation in which it was even true, wouldn’t it have been much better to raise the issue directly with the state government than speaking about it at an election rally in a poll-bound state. Wasn’t it a deliberate move to polarise the electorate on religious lines? For a person holding the office of Prime Minister, does it suit his stature to make such statements? Isn’t he the Prime Minister of both Hindus and Muslims? Did he really need to go to this limit to win elections?

I leave it upon my readers to think and decide the answers to these questions.

But one thing is very clear. If this kind of politics is the future of Indian politics, then the future of India appears bleak and dark. Though the majority community, for the time being, has voted the so-called ‘minority loving’ government out of power, and thus, the number of minority MLAs in the assembly has come down from a staggering 69 to a new low of 24. What benefit is the majority community going to receive from this?

In the politics of divisive hatred, everyone, including the leaders, as well as the electorate, have forgotten about the basic issues which concern everyone. Issues of proper food supply, water supply, electricity, education, law and order, hygiene, better quality of living, employment, protection of women against sexual assaults and others. If these issues are not resolved, India can never become a modern, developed and progressive society.

And the performance of the Modi-led government in the centre is not very good when it comes down to the basic issues concerning the masses. Prices for food commodities are skyrocketing, farmers are committing suicide and millions of people are still hungry. The UPA government was voted out because inflation had reached a new height under it, and the prices of everything, including food, had skyrocketed. However, even after almost three years of BJP rule, there doesn’t seem to be any relief from inflation.

The people need to realise this.

If the present trends continue, the issue of development will only be used for lip service as and when it would seem suitable to the politicians, and they’ll keep exploiting the communal fault lines to win elections.

The common Indian needs to understand this, for unity is strength and strength is development!

P.S: I wrote this article before even the wildest speculations did not think of Yogi Adityanath’s name as CM. By making him the chief minister, BJP itself has made it clear that they won the elections in the name of religious polarisation.

Image source: Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times via Getty Images