UP elections: The story of caste, conflict and why predictions are becoming difficult | opinion | Hindustan Times
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UP elections: The story of caste, conflict and why predictions are becoming difficult

Atomised social groups are making predictions difficult for polls that are in final phases in Uttar Pradesh. The voter is divided as always on religious and caste lines. But the devil is in intra-cast and community allegiances and conflicts.

opinion Updated: Mar 03, 2017 08:26 IST
Vinod Sharma
Women queue up at a polling booth in Amethi during the fifth phase of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh on Monday.
Women queue up at a polling booth in Amethi during the fifth phase of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh on Monday. (PTI Photo)

Atomised social groups are making predictions difficult for polls that are in final phases in Uttar Pradesh. The voter is divided as always on religious and caste lines. But the devil is in intra-cast and community allegiances and conflicts.

Each region of the vast state had its unique electoral characteristics. In western UP: the Jat factor; history of riots and demonetization. Notebandi was reason for celebration on class lines as also the pain caused by its shoddy implementation. The Jats were upset with the BJP over the state of the farm sector and for being denied reservation. Their frayed vote raised Ajit Singh’s hopes to resurrect his moth-eaten Rashtriya Lok Dal.

In the potato belt – that runs from Agra in the West to Kanpur in Central UP— the Yadav stretch comprising Etawah, Mainpuri and Kannauj was forever the Samajwadi Party mainstay. But the fratricidal faceoff in Mulayam Singh’s clan left the captive caste a trifle confused. Fissures showed sporadically in the veritable monolith the bulk of which supported Akhilesh Yadav.

Another puzzle was whether the CM’s alliance with Rahul Gandhi found traction with his clansmen?

Only the outcome would tell whether Akhilesh could transfer the Yadav vote to the Congress. The question nevertheless is relevant. In Rae Bareli, I heard people talking about “OBC affinity” between Yadavs and the BJP’s Lodh candidate at Harchandpur. There the Congress and BSP candidate for the seat were Thakurs.

Fears of such extra-party micro compacts found affirmation in the facilitation --at a Rahul Gandhi rally in Rae Bareli -- of the wife of the late Shiv Ganesh Lodhi, a UP minister from Harchandpur.

Going to polls in alliance with Anupriya Patel’s Apna Dal, the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) of OP Rajbhar, the BJP apparently worked out better its caste arithmetic. It also inducted BSP convert Swami Prasad Maurya and elevated Keshav Prasad Maurya as its state unit chief to attract the Kushwaha, Koiry and Kachi votes besides the Kurmi’s aligned with Anupriya and the SBSP’s Rajbhars (masons).

But the arrival of the outsider-- Swami Prasad-- despite resistance from the insider -- Keshav Prasad-- made the Maurya situation piquant in the BJP. The party had to reckon also the feud between Anupriya and her mother, Krishna who set up candidates in the Kurmi belt of Varanasi, Mirzapur and Phulpur.

The SP’s Kurmi outreach was as much debilitated with Congress renegade Beni Prasad Verma smarting from the short shrift his son got in SP’s ticket distribution. Safe deduction: Kurmis, the second largest OBC community after the Yadavs, too weren’t impeccably coalesced.

That brings one to Dalits and Muslims—leaving aside the largely pro-BJP forwards—that have numbers to influence elections the way the Yadavs do. The Jatav non-Jatav divide is well known and is often exploited by Mayawati’s rivals to wean away Passis and Mahadalits.

As for Muslims, a bigger chunk traditionally supported Mulayam. These polls are a test whether the trend continued under Akhilesh. On party basis, the BSP attracted the community’s poor and orthodox sections in sizeable numbers, admitted a Varanasi-based socialist.

“The Muslim elite back the SP-Congress alliance; the poor aren’t all that excited and support Mayawati,” he continued. In his view, the minority community in the Hindu pilgrimage city was divided also on Banarsi and Mauwaley Musalmaan lines. In the adjacent Mau, it’s the BSP’s incarcerated don, Mukhtar Ansari who wields influence.

Can a society so divided deliver a cogent mandate?