Uttar Pradesh politicians mastered the art of ‘threat politics’ years ago.
Then, Donald J Trump appeared to have taken a cue from them when he threatened to jail his Democratic Party rival Hillary Clinton only to laugh it off after his election as US President.
Later, the same tactic of issuing threats, which appears to be meant more for public posturing, was employed in the UP assembly election to win the battle of perceptions.
Sample this. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) stepped up their threats to jail their rivals. Both are trying to wrest power from the Samajwadi Party (SP).
State BJP chief Keshav Prasad Maurya, considered by many within his party as a possible CM-pick if his party comes to power, regularly promised to send both BSP chief ‘Mayawati and present Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav’ to jail.
In Moradabad, an angry Maurya had blamed UP officials for delaying him for his rallies.
“Sab adhikari samajh lein hamari sarkaar bananey ja rahi hai … aur jo adhikari sapa ke agent ke roop main karya kar rahein hain who sambhal jaye (All bureaucrats should know that we are all set to form the next government … hence all those acting as the Samajwadi Party’s men should realise their mistake),” Maurya said at a rally.
Bharatiya Janaa Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah on Sunday listed hunting down rape-accused UP minister Gayatri Prajapati and sending him to jail among the first few decisions that a BJP government in UP will take. Maya too has been engaging in ‘threat politics.’
Are they serious? Maya and Maurya have said they will act on their pre-poll promise.
In 2007, hours after her party stormed to power in Uttar Pradesh (UP), BSP chief Mayawati was reminded about her pre-poll promise to jail the then Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
“Ab marey huey ko kya marna (why do you flog a dead horse),” said Mayawati making it obvious that ‘jail talk’ during the poll campaign was mainly posturing aimed at conveying to her voters that she was confident of defeating the Mulayam-led Samajwadi Party.
The then UP Samajwadi Party chief and present chief minister Akhilesh Yadav employed ‘perception politics’ to good effect in 2012 UP polls. During his rallies, he warned bureaucrats not to act as “agents of the BSP.” Once in power, Akhilesh was extra nice to bureaucrats, playing cricket matches with them to break the ice with the officialdom.
Akhilesh had also talked of putting memorials built by Maya for public use, a promise he only partially implemented.
“The idea is to somehow convince the voter that their party is going to come to power. Such threats have in the past yielded results and that’s why you see more and more politicians, employing this tactic in the 2017 polls too,” said Professor Manoj Dixit from the political science department of Lucknow University (LU).
When they were not threatening to jail their rivals, politicians were engaged in another kind of posturing. For instance, in his rallies Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked of “kesariya Holi” and “vijay ki Holi”.
The festival of colours – Holi – would be on March 13, two days after the March 11 counting.
Modi’s continued reference to ‘Vijay Ki Holi’, Amit Shah’s saying ‘UP’s acche din will begin after March 11’ and Akhilesh Yadav’s assertion that he would ride the Metro train to present the ‘next UP budget’ too were among several examples of deft posturing.