The voting pattern in Uttar Pradesh has been changing every decade since the Congress lost its political space in 1989. Mandate 2014 has witnessed another change with a personality and not party driving the campaign, unprecedented use of social medial and the youth taking active interest in elections.
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If the Mandal Commission report on quota dominated the 1980s, the 1990s saw the rise of Hindutva forces that rode the Ram temple wave but started losing ground to local players — Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party — by 2000. The BJP’s tally shot up from eight Lok Sabha seats in 1989 to 57 in 1998. It managed 29 seats in 1999 but slumped to 10 in 2004.
The last decade saw SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his BSP counterpart Mayawati dominate the state’s political landscape through their caste brinkmanship, relegating the national parties to the background. The Congress showed some signs of recovery in 2009 but lost ground by the time assembly elections were held in 2012.
The electoral pattern is changing drastically again with the fragmentation of caste blocs and the minorities, who called the shots in the decade past, losing their veto power. The minorities agree that the communal divide did not exist in UP prior to 1990s, as Congress ruled the state with the support of Muslims, Dalits and Brahmins.
Muslims had started integrating into the larger group, but the resurgent BJP with Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate has made them cagey again. Some have even begun preferring LK Advani, once in their bad books for the Ram Janmabhoomi-oriented Rath Yatra, to Modi.
The 2014 elections will thus decide the future of regional parties, as political analysts believe the BJP would be keen on recapturing UP after taking over the reins in Delhi. The elections will also be remembered for UP’s gesture of accepting an outsider. Modi’s acceptability belies the propensity of the state that gave several prime ministers to the country, to prefer local leaders.
“For the first time, BJP looked beyond the triumvirate of Atal (Bihari Vajpayee), Advani and (MM) Joshi to announce its PM nominee. Modi had his Gujarat model to showcase and helped polarise Hindu votes as other parties were seen as brazenly appeasing Muslims by offering them quota and thus alienated the youth,” said political analyst SK Dwivedi.
According to Manoj Dixit of Lucknow University, galvanisation of the youth and the use of social media changed the very dynamics of the elections in 2014. “Now politicians will be held accountable, they will have to perform,” he said, adding personalities dwarfing parties could become a dangerous trend.