March 04, 2012

THE STATES THAT MATTER - PART V



BATTLEGROUND UP - Part C

Apart from the caste factor, communal politics too has been a hallmark of UP politics. The BJP which rose to prominence after the demolition of the Babri Masjid has promised to construct a Ram temple in Ayodhya in its poll manifesto for 2012. Though nothing was done in this regard during the time that the NDA was in power at the Centre, the party is hoping that Lord Ram may help it regain its lost hold in the state. The move to go to polls in Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Hindutva firebrand Uma Bharathi is being looked upon by many as an attempt to consolidate the Hindu votes in favor of the saffron outfit, more so, after other parties have promised a list of soaps for the minority community. Also, the party leaders have so far avoided making any provocative statement against the Muslim community, unlike Varun Gandhi in 2009, damaging all prospects of the party.
Salman Rushdie
However, the war to get the Muslim votes, that constitute 20% of UP's population has intensified amongst the other three parties - SP, BSP and Congress. With the Babri Masjid verdict going against the community, anger seems to be simmering within the community. In the past, Mulayam has relied on the Muslim-Yadav votes to come to power in UP. In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, though, a significant chunk of the party's Muslim  support base deserted to the Congress. Realizing that such a trend could be detrimental to his interest in the future, the SP supremo banished Kalyan Singh from the party, who was at the helm of affairs during the demolition of Babri Masjid. Azam Khan who was expelled from the SP due to differences with Amar Singh has been roped back into the party fold, thereby boosting Mulayam's chances of coming to power in UP. Even Behenji has announced a host of initiatives to appease the Muslims community. 

The Congress too has left no stone unturned to impress the Muslim voters. Salman Khurshid, the Minister for Minority Affairs had earlier promised that his party would provide reservations for the Muslims if elected to power in Uttar Pradesh but backtracked his statement after many accused the Congress of playing the minority card to its advantage. The party is also raking the Batla House encounter issue which evokes passion among the Muslims in the state who allege that the police actions were uncalled for and the men who died has no terrorist links whatsoever, for political gains. Rahul has accused the SP and the BSP of not doing enough for the Muslims of the state over the years and has urged them to support him in this elections.  

Ironically, the most high profile victim of the communal politics of UP this time around was well renowned writer, Salman Rushdie. The author of the banned book, Satanic Verses was supposed to come down to India earlier this year to be a part of the Jaipur Literature Fest. However, due to mounting protest from Islamic leaders and fear of losing the Muslim votes in UP, the UPA government was caught in a catch 22 situation as any move to facilitate Rushdie's entry or stay in India would not go well with the minorities. Annoyed by the government's apathy, Rushdie called off his trip claiming that his sources had warned him that assassins had been hired to eliminate him while in Jaipur. Also the Rajasthan government was said to play a key role in the cancellation of video link between Rushdie and the Literature fest. The BJP has accused the UPA of politicizing the whole issue for electoral gains. However, the Sangh Parivar had launched a similar witch hunt against painter M F Hussain some years back, forcing him to flee to London and then accept citizenship of Qatar.
D P Yadav
Though it may have failed on multiple fronts, the BSP government has been credited for improving the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh. Under the erstwhile Mulayam regime, 'Goonda Raj' was prevalent across the state and the whole system was filled with goons and people with criminal background. However, Maya has been able to sternly deal with this issue and her administration has been relatively cleaner. In fact,  the hooliganism under the SP government has been used by the BSP to counter anti-incumbency. Well aware of the fact that SP's image as a party of goons may cost it dearly in the 2012 polls, Akhilesh Yadav is said to have personally intervened and vetoed against Western UP's don D P Yadav's entry into the Samajwadi Party. 

All major political parties have fielded candidates with criminal records. Prominent amongst these include Kaptan Singh Rajput, Bhagwan Sharma and Mehboob Ali of the SP, Ram Sewak Patel, Indra Pratap Tiwari and Manjo Tiwari of the BSP, Kalawati Bind, Babban Rajbhar and Ajai Rai of the Congress and Radhey Sham Gupta, Lallu Singh and Santram Senger of the BJP. After being snubbed by the SP, D P Yadav has decided to contest as a candidate of the Rashtriya Parivartan Dal. Relatively smaller parties too have followed the precedent set by the larger parties. Dons of Eastern UP Mukhtar Ansari and Brijesh Singh are also in the fray and have got tickets from Qaumi Ekta and Pragatisheel Manav Samaj Party respectively. Khurmi outfit Apna Dal has fielded Munna Bajrangi and Atia Ahmad who have criminal cases against them.

With her eyes on the polls, the Mayawati government passed a resolution in the state assembly asking the Centre to break-up the mega state into four smaller states for administrative purposes.  According to the proposal, the new states would be Poorvanchal (Eastern UP), Harit Pradesh (Western UP), Bundelkhand and Awadh Pradesh (Central UP). Many have questioned Behenji's commitment towards the cause as they believe that the move has ulterior motives. In fact most of the parties seem to have been stumped by Maya's political acumen.
Mayawati's proposal to split Uttar Pradesh
By sending the proposal to the Centre, the BSP has certainly put the ball in the Congress's court. Knowing that the Congress had earlier made a mess of the Telangana statehood issue with different leaders speaking in different tunes, Mayawati has put the Congress on a sticky wicket. In case the Centre approves Maya's proposal, it could open a Pandora's box and demands for statehood from other parts of the country. However, if the government rejects it then Congress will be portrayed as anti-UP by the BSP. As such the party has not yet made its stand clear on this issue. On the other hand, the SP has always opposed any division of the state on the grounds that such a move could diminish the political influence of the state in national politics. The party, which was also against the creation of Uttarakhand has made it clear that it will fight against any division of the state. The BJP which has always supported the creation of smaller states has demanded that the division should be done after setting up a state reorganization committee. 

Another big poll issue this election season is the statues of Mayawati, Kanshi Ram and Dr Ambedkar that have been erected in different places throughout the state by the BSP government with money got from the public exchequer. The BSP supremo has claimed that such a move is in the interest of the lower classes as Dr Ambedkar and BSP founder Kanshi Ram have been looked upon by the ordinary Dalits as their heroes. As far as her own statues are concerned, Behenji says that these were erected according to the wishes of her mentor late Shri Kanshi Ram.  Going a step further, at an election rally in Lucknow, Maya declared that under her government the state's capital was transformed into Paris due to the construction of the parks. 

However, the opposition has been united in condemning this move of the state government. Mulayam Singh has declared publicly that he will bulldoze Mayawati's statues if he comes back to power. Even the BJP has claimed that it will replace Maya's statues with those of spiritual leaders and social reformers. The Election Commission too has asked the Maya regime to cover her statues and that of her party's election symbol, the elephant ahead of the polls. Maya has accused the her opponents and the EC of being biased towards the Dalits and has asked the people to teach the opposition a lesson in the upcoming polls. 
Mayawati's statues
The Mayawati statues have been one of the several self-glorification exercises by the Dalit leader in the last five years. In 2010, the UP CM was presented with a garland of Rs 1000 notes by her ministers at a rally attended by countless admirers. In its India cables, WikiLeaks reported an incident where the BSP leader sent a private jet to Mumbai to fetch sandals of her preferred brand. It also claimed that she had constructed a private road from her house to her office which is cleaned each day and that she employs food tasters as she fears that she may be assassinated by poisoning. Meanwhile, Maya has refuted the allegations and has advised WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to undergo mental treatment.

The Bhatta-Parsaul agitation against forcible land grabbing by hte BSP government may cost the party, especially in the farming belt of Western UP. Several villagers were allegedly killed by the police in the agitation and their womenfolk were molested. The issue soon snowballed into a huge controversy with the Congress and the BJP trying to use this issue to counter Mayawati. Rahul Gandhi and Digvijay Singh who led a protest march to the village were arrested by the state officials. Rahul claimed to have seen an ash mound where bodies of dead villagers were supposedly burnt by the security staff to cover up the whole incident. However, investigations later proved that such claims were baseless. Even BJP leader Arun Jaitely was arrested before arriving in the village to assess the situation. Sensing that she could lose the support of the farmers from Western UP, Mayawati announced a new land acquisition policy in the state where private parties would themselves acquire land from its owners whwereas the state government would just act as a facilitator. 

Lastly, another peculiar feature of the elections in Uttar Pradesh this time around is the number of smaller parties that are in the fray that could spoil the prospects of several parties. The most prominent among these is the Ajit Singh's RLD. The party has a strong support base in Western UP, especially amongst the Jat farmers. Over the years, the RLD has been in alliance with the SP and the BJP in the past. However, the party walked out of the NDA and joined the UPA in December, 2011. Under the arrangement, Ajit Singh was made the Union Minister for Aviation at the Centre. The Congress is hoping that the pre-poll alliance would benefit both the sides. 
RLD's Ajit Singh
Rashtriya Lokmanch Party's chief Amar Singh is canvassing heavily in different parts of the state for his party's candidates in spite of not keeping well lately, accusing Mulayam Singh of betraying him. The party's main campaigner is Bollywood beauty Jaya Prada who is campaigning in Rampur against the local SP leader and her political foe Azam Khan. Even former CM Kalyan Singh has hit out at other parties while on the campaign trail. He has calimed that the BJP will never be able to come to power in UP. The Jan Kranti Party leader has handed over the reins of his party to his son Ranveer. 

The Peace Party of India, the Bundelkhand Congress and the Apna Dal have come together to forge an alliance named the 'Rashtriya Morcha' to fight the political biggies. The Peace Party was founded by surgeon Mohammad Ayub to unite the Muslims and the Backward classes. Its chief aim is to prevent the political exploitation of these communities by other parties. Actor turned politician Raja Bundela of the Bundela Congress is hopeful that it will do well in the Bundelkhand region. The Khurmi outfit, Apna Dal is hoping to bounce from the set back that it received after the tragic death of its president Sone Lal Patel in a road accident in 2009. The party under Patel's daughter Krishna Patel is hoping to emerge from the shadows of the BSP and muster as many seats as possible. According to the arrangement, the Peace Party would contest a majority of 240 seats and the alliance is hoping to get the Muslim, Dalit, Kshatriya and Khurmi votes. 

Several other regional parties have come together to form a grand alliance, 'Ittehadi Front'. Its major constituents include Bharatiya Samaj Party, Quami Ekta Dal, Ittehad-e-Millet Council, Gondwana Ganatantra Party, Indian Justice Party, Bharatiya Janseva Party and so on. The Front has the blessings of Maulana Syed Salman Nadvi, a member of the All India Muslim Personal law Board. Though the Peace Party and its allies were to be a part of this combine, there were later expelled due to differences over a range of issues. 

Though the issues are many it will be interesting to see how Uttar Pradesh votes. Poll pundits have predicted that the state may be heading towards a hung assembly. Knowing that a friendly government in Lucknow is essential for a sound and stable government in New Delhi, all four major players will give it all to be in contention in the process of government formation. We will have to keep our fingers crossed till 6th March to see who is crowned as the King of Uttar Pradesh. Hopefully the new government will sincerely work to solve the problems that plague the people and make Uttar Pradesh an 'Uttam Pradesh'.

More on the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections 2012



SOURCES

(1) First Post - Parties renege on promise; no escaping criminals in UP (Link)

(2) Times of India - Mayawati's plan to divide and rule Uttar Pradesh may be split in four parts (Link)

(3) Times of India - Mayawati sent empty jet to Mumbai for sandals: WikiLeaks (Link)

(4) Yahoo! News - Amar Singh accuses Mulayam of betrayal (Link)

(5) Times of India - Lotus will never bloom again in UP: Kalyan (Link)

(6) Our UP - Bundelkhand Congress, Peace Party, Apna Dal alliance for UP elections 2012 (Link)

(7) India Today - Minor parties gear up to spoil big player's poll outing in Uttar Pradesh (Link)

(8) Milli Gazette - Salman Nadvi blesses 13-party Ittehad Front in UP (Link)

IMAGES


(1) Salman Rushdie
Source - First Post.Life - Hari Kunzu, Amitava Kumar read out from Rushidie's Satanic Verses - (Link)

(2) D P Yadav
Source - News 24 - Akhilesh lacks political maturity - D P Yadav - (Link)

(3) Mayawati's proposal to split Uttar Pradesh
Source - Pravasi Today (Link)

(4) Mayawati's statues
Source : NDTV - UP Polls - Mayawati's statues to be draped today after Election Commission's Order (Link)

(5) RLD's Ajit Singh
Samay Live - Ajit Singh, Nachiketas dismiss Wikileaks claims (Link)