U.P. Elections: a proof of mature democracy

By Asghar Ali Engineer

The election results from U.P. have stunned even great pundits. All predictions by observers and analysts as well as exit polls have gone wrong. Everyone thought that there will be fractured mandate and that BSP will go no further than 150 seats. Some said that Mayawati will once again align with the BJP in order to become Chief Minister. Some said that Mulayamsingh will align with BJP, in order to avoid being arrested by the Mayawati Government. The BJP was, on the other hand, projecting itself as one who will form next government and projected Kalyan Singh as its chief ministerial candidate.

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The people proved all these tall predictions wrong and gave Mayawati their clear mandate to rule. They were fed up with opportunistic alliances and horse-trading. The way earlier governments were formed by MLAs selling themselves to the highest bidders had angered people. Even the Election Commission was expecting fractured mandate and had required all elected MLAs to be carted away to a safe place to avoid horse trading. However, that was not to be and Mayawati romped home with simple but clear majority.

The U.P. result is significant for reasons more than one. Mayawati really succeeded in social engineering, which is inclusive, and not exclusive. Her earlier political stance was quite exclusive, to exclude all save Dalits. She aimed at on Dalit votes which she almost monopolizes. Mualayamsingh Yadav followed MY (Muslims and Yadavs) formula excluding other castes and communities. BJP of course aims at completely excluding Muslims and not only excluding them but to target them for their hate propaganda.

In U.P., since Dalit votes were monopolized by the BSP, the Congress too wanted to win some seats by aiming votes of Muslims and a section of Brahmins. Thus all parties aimed at sections of society excluding others. This time Mayawati showed far greater maturity and pursued inclusivistic politics by giving tickets to Brahmins, Banias, Thakurs, Muslims and of course Dalits. This integrative approach won her rich dividends and she could sail through to chair of power.

The elections in India have deviated from democratic course and have become instead an exercise in creating divisive vote banks. Each party counts on support of one or combination of castes and communities and thus sanctifies identities and also creates clash among them. In pluralistic democracy like that of India, politics should be integrative and not divisive.

Credit must also go to election commission, which ensured absolutely fair elections and did not provide any opportunity for rigging or booth capturing. This was another landmark election after the J&K election. Such fairness increases people’s faith in democratic processes. The election commission, one wishes, remains steadfast in conducting elections with such record fairness.

It is also praiseworthy on the part of election commission that as soon it received the complaint about CD prepared by BJP which spewed poison against Muslims, it immediately issued notice to BJP as to why action should not be taken against it for spreading hatred against a community. The BJP had to eat an humble pie and withdraw the CD and its top leadership disowned it. Now the election commission has asked it to apologize for issuing such CD. It clearly shows that the BJP plays divisive card and is enemy of national integration. For BJP Muslims and Christians can never be part of national integration process.

What is more important, however, is that it could not fool common people. People of U.P. where once BJP was quite poplar party, lost all its glamour and could not carry people with it on the basis of hate politics against Muslims. It got no more than 50 seats. It could once fool people in the name of Ramjanambhoomi movement. It no longer works, nay does not work at all.

However, despite such humiliating rejection by people, the RSS maintained that BJP lost because it did not effectively pursue the Hindutva politics. The communal CD was height of Hindutva politics. It was clandestinely shown in peoples houses. It did its best to pursue Hindutva politics. Even the Yogi from Gorakhpur also withdrew his candidates from all the constituencies of eastern U.P. in favor of BJP and VHP, forgetting all its ‘differences’ with BJP appealed its followers to vote for BJP and yet it did not help. The credit really goes to the people of U.P.

Muslims too voted very wisely and though some Muslim leaders formed a separate United Democratic Front and decided to field its own candidates but realized that they may not draw votes and hence withdrew in favor of Samajwadi party. The Muslims voted for secular candidates, those who could defeat communal ones. This certainly helped BSP.

It is also very interesting to note that Haji Yaqub Qureshi was defeated. He tried to play the fundamentalist card and announced reward of Rs. 51 crore on the head of the cartoonist who had caricatured the Prophet of Islam. As the Hindus could not be fooled by the BJP’s hate politics, the Muslims refused to be tricked into voting for Haji Ayub Qureshi. This is one more proof of maturity and understanding of the voters.

The BSP was quite fair in distributing tickets to various castes and communities. It gave ticket to 61 Muslims and got 30 of them elected. On the SP ticket 20 candidates won. Thus there are in all 56 Muslim MLAs out of 402 which is though little less than proportion of their population but is not a bad number after all. She has accommodated various castes and communities in her cabinet too.

There are in all 5 Muslims, 7 Brahmins and 7 Thakurs, 19 Dalits and 11 OBCs. No doubt she has given lion’s share to Dalits but she needs to do that as it is mainly Dalit Party and she needs to cater to her main constituency. She managed to get 30.28 percent votes whereas SP got 25.45 percent and BJP was stuck with only 17.01 percent. Thus BJP getting such a low percentage in the cow belt is indeed matter of great worry for it. Though it is too early to say that now voters do not vote on the basis of caste and communal identity, but Mayawati experiment in rainbow coalition of castes and communities clearly shows that one can manage to get votes, if one clearly aims at reflecting the social diversity, of all castes and communities. This has to be promoted in order to cater to our social diversity.

Another lesson one has to draw from last election in Bihar and this election in U.P. that no party can take for granted political support of certain combination of castes and communities forever. For several decades the Congress had its support base among Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits but it came apart in eighties and Congress lost power. Then the Congress in Gujarat in 1985 elections under the leadership of Solanki tried combination of Kshtriya, Harijan and Muslims (KHAM) but it did not last beyond one election as Solanki suspended reservations for these sections of society immediately after winning election.

Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar and Mulayamsingh Yadav in U.P. won on MY (Muslims and Yadavs) formula. First Lalu lost in Bihar in last election and now Mulayamsingh lost in U.P. both had taken Muslim support for granted in the name of security but doing little for their economic uplift. Both the elections in Bihar and now in U.P. prove that security is important but not enough.

Neither Lalu Prasad did much for economic uplift of neither Muslims nor Mulayamsingh Yadav in U.P., except some promises. The Sachar Committee of course opened the eyes of Muslims and they feel no political party has really done much for their well-being. Lalu could win three elections in a row on Yadav and Muslim support but except preventing riots he disappointed Muslims. Mulayamsingh’s case was worse.

Neither he could prevent breakout of communal violence nor he could ensure economic well-being and Muslims changed their loyalty and switched their votes to BSP leader Mayawati. Now people want results and cannot be satisfied with hollow promises. The U.P. elections have clearly proved this once again.

Two things are absolutely essential for contemporary India: reflection of social diversity in its politics and also assuring economic welfare for all through just distribution of economic resources. Also, it is highly necessary to prevent outbreak of communal violence. Any party which bases its politics on Hindutva or Islam should have no place in secular India. The election commission should derecognize BJP if it continues to base its politics on Hindutva. How can it be acceptable in secular India?

It is also necessary in as diverse a society as India that we do away with British system of first pass the pole method of conducting elections and make it compulsory for winning candidate to obtain 51 percent of the total votes polled. This will ensure inclusive politics and no party then will appeal only to this or that vote bank. The winning candidate will have to appeal to all castes and communities in his/her constituencies. The British society was almost mono-religious when it evolved this election system and we just copied it without much thought as to our own social reality. Sooner we do it better it is. Mayawati, one can say, has made some kind of beginning with her inclusive rainbow politics and this should make us reflect more deeply.