Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Small players can make a big difference in close race
THEIR USP These caste-based organisations have proved their relevance to electoral politics on more than one occasionUpdated: Mar 15, 2019 15:42 IST
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Elections are not only an occasion for voters to exercise their franchise, but also an opportunity for little-known, motley group of political outfits to assert their aspirations.
They may be small and not a major force in Uttar Pradesh, but at times they play a big role in making or marring the fortunes of heavyweights in case of a cliffhanger.
The united opposition’s win in the March 2018 Lok Sabha by-polls in UP where it wrested the Phulpur and the Gorakhpur parliamentary seats from the BJP is attributed as much to some of these local parties as to the joint candidate put up by arch-rivals SP and BSP.
Accused of being props, ‘vote-cutters’ and a platform for rejects and disgruntled leaders of major parties, these individual caste-based organisations have proved their relevance to electoral politics on more than one occasion.
Lucknow University professor Rakesh Chandra says, “They lack a well-defined ideological viewpoint or framework and are largely individual, caste-based organisations, which are used to prop up proxy candidates by mainstream players to eat into the vote base of their rivals.”
With elections in UP fought largely on caste-lines, regional satraps float these local outfits, which enjoy limited support among certain castes and sub-castes.
“That is why you see parties like Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and Apna Dal headed by Union minister Anupriya Patel being wooed by the BJP,” says Athar Hussein, director of Centre for Objective Research and Development.
While Apna Dal won two seats in Lok Sabha 2014, the SBSP, which has a presence in eastern UP, made its debut in 2017 assembly elections by winning four seats. It is part of the Yogi Adityanath government.
Another new entrant, whose performance would be closely watched by political observers, is the Pragitisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia) led by Samajwadi Party rebel and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s brother Shivpal Yadav.
Some areas in western and eastern UP have multiple, strong regional parties and a tiny swing from one to the other might translate into a big advantage in terms of parliamentary seats.
That is one reason perhaps why the Congress has still not shut its doors and continues to explore options of taking lesser-known parties on board to firm up its alliance in UP.
OBCs constitute roughly 44% cent of UP’s electorate, Dalits 21%, Muslims 19%, and upper castes 16%.
The Yadavs, the core of the Samajwadi Party’s base, are numerically and socially dominant among OBCs, but the non-Yadav OBCs together account for over double the Yadav population.
They include Kurmis, Koeris, Lodhs, Jats and Sunars, while Pasis and Valmikis are the large groups among Dalits.
Not all regional outfits, however, can boast of the same track record or influence in their respective pocket boroughs. Sample this: Of the 590 candidates, who tried their luck from these little known outfits on 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP in 2014, only two of Apna Dal won and 586 of them could not even save their deposit. Similarly, 373 Independents in the fray also forfeited their deposit. The smaller parties are also a platform for those electoral aspirants who failed to make it to the list of the mainstream parties.
The presence and growth of such organisations do not bode well for the country as they are guided by narrow political considerations and individual gain for their respective leaders, says professor Yashbir Tyagi.
“Electoral arithmetic and political compulsions are the two main reasons for their presence,” he said, attributing the trend to lack of politicians or leaders who enjoy mass following or national appeal.
“The failure of national parties to fulfil the aspirations of all castes and communities is another factor,” he said.
Political scientist at the Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut, SK Sharma says, “Small political parties do wield some influence in their own regions. They may or may not win on their own but may certainly make a difference on one or two seats in their areas of influence when they ally with a big party.”
“And the least they can do is that they can play spoilers for others when they do not get a place in any alliance,” he adds.
This probably explains why the BJP, the Congress and the SP-BSP-RLD alliance are wooing these small parties with offers.
It joined hands with the Indian National Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in 2014 and has a pact with the Congress again in 2019. In western Uttar Pradesh, Mahan Dal contested three Lok Sabha constituencies, Badaun, Nagina and Etah while Rashtriya Lok Dal contested in eight constituencies as per an arrangement with INC.
Mahan Dal claimed that the OBC voters of western UP, especially Shakyas, Mauryas and Kushwahas would support them in the election, but Mahan Dal candidates lost all three allocated seats.
PRAGATISHEEL SAMAJWADI PARTY-LOHIA (PSPL)
The PSPL is a new party formed by Shivpal Yadav, the disgruntled former Samajwadi Party leader and uncle of Akhilesh Yadav. The Congress is believed to be in talks with the PSPL to thrash out an alliance, but the final word on this has not been heard yet.
“The Congress may not tie up with Shivpal Yadav for two reasons. One, it may not like to antagonise Akhilesh Yadav by joining hands with his rebel uncle, and second, Shivpal is not a big force,” says SK Sharma.
Meanwhile, Shivpal has announced that he will contest from Firozabad against his nephew Akshaya Yadav. This could work to the advantage of the BJP if there is a split in the Yadav vote in the constituency.
It is also keen to take on the BJP as part of the opposition coalition.
“We would like to appeal to SP-BJP and the Congress to lower their individual ambitions and fight unitedly against the BJP by accommodating smaller parties also in the alliance,” said Dr Mohammad Ayub, president of the Peace Party.
Ayub said he wanted bigger parties like SP, BSP and the Congress to give representation to Muslims, the backward classes and the underprivileged sections of the society in the elections.
The party contested 51 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but could not open its account. It was founded in 2008 and recorded its best performance in the 2012 assembly elections, winning four seats and capturing a vote share of 2.35% but was deserted by all four legislators later.
Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal (NISHAD) Party chief Sanjay Nishad has already announced that it is part of the SP-BSP alliance. The party was formed ostensibly for the empowerment of those such as boatmen or fishermen whose traditional occupations depended on rivers. Its founder Sanjay Nishad is a former member of the BSP. “We are seeking about five to six seats,” said the UP in-charge of the NISHAD Party that was formed in 2016.
The party ran 100 candidates in the 2017 assembly elections in alliance with other small parties but could win only one seat.
For the 2018 Lok Sabha by-elections in Gorakhpur and Phulpur, the Samajwadi Party tied up with several small parties, including the Nishad Party. Backed by the SP, Sanjaya Nishad’s son Praveen Nishad snatched victory from the BJP in Gorakpur, a seat that had been long represented by Yogi Adityanath.
APNA DAL (SONELAL)
Small parties in the state are not just queuing up to be part of the opposition grand alliance, but some of them are working with the BJP as well. One such party is the Apna Dal (Sonelal), whose leader Anupriya Patel is a Union minister in the NDA government. “Our coalition with the BJP has been in place since 2007 when our party’s founder Sonelal Patel was there... In 2019, we are fighting in alliance with the BJP,” Apna Dal (S) spokesperson Arvind Sharma said.
The Apna Dal (S) has significant influence in Kurmi-dominated pockets in eastern and central UP districts like Varanasi, Allahabad, Mirzapur, Pratapgah, Bareilly and Barabanki.
SUHELDEV BHARTIYA SAMAJ PARTY
Founded in 2002, SBSP won four of the eight assembly seats it contested in 2017 after which its party president Om Prakash Rajbhar rose be a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government.
The party has considerable influence over the Rajbhar community in Varanasi, Ghazipur and Ballia and can help the BJP improve its prospects.
590 candidates tried their luck from little known outfits in 2014 Lok Sabha poll
2 candidates of Apna Dal won the election and no candidate from any smaller outfit could win the election.
586 candidates could not even save their deposit.
373 Independents, who were in the fray, also forfeited their deposit.
First Published: Mar 15, 2019 15:42 IST