January 03, 2014

RIOTS IN UP AND ELECTIONS 2014 - Part I


HOW THE RIOTS IN WESTERN UP WILL AFFECT THE FORTUNES OF PARTIES


Though the riots that took place in parts of western Uttar Pradesh in August last year are a blot on the secular credentials of our nation, for our political parties who seem to be least bothered by the suffering of the people, it is just another opportunity to score brownie points over their rivals. Instead of trying to bring communities together and eliminate differences, outfits are adding smoke to the fire by openly taking sides with an eye on the upcoming General Elections scheduled for May this year. With Uttar Pradesh sending 80 MPs to the Parliament - the largest amongst all states, it is said that the road to New Delhi passes via Lucknow. As such, it should hardly be surprising that our leaders can pull off even the dirtiest of all tricks to come to power, even if it means that some innocent lives are lost or thousands are displaced from their homes. While some believed that the ascend of the young Akhilesh Yadav in March 2012 would usher in a new kind of politics in our most populous state, his innumerable failures in the last year and a half have proved even his most die-hard fans, if they exist, wrong.

The complete collapse of the administration during the riots and its inability to provide basic facilities in relief camps has drawn a lot of flake from the Opposition as well as social groups. While he was quick to suspend the honest IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal for whipping up communal sentiments by demolishing a compound wall of a mosque - a charge that has been refuted even by the people affected by this, the callousness that his regime displayed in restoring law and order is an indication, perhaps that the young Turk intends to carry forward his father's legacy of caste based and religion based politics.Though younger Yadav deserves all the criticism that he is getting, other parties can not wash their hands off it. Reports indicated that local leaders with affiliation to the BJP, the Congress as well as the BSP played a key role in whipping up communal sentiments. Finally, after the officials succeeding in stopping the violence, the high profile visits by political leaders including RLD's Arjun Singh,  the triumvirate of the Congress and the 'funniest' of all, that of the recently jailed Lalu Yadav of the RJD is nothing but another gimmick to cash in on the situation. As the big battle for Delhi is just months away, here is my take on how the events in Muzaffaranagar will affect the poll prospects of the different stake holders.

The biggest loser: While it is difficult to predict who will derive maximum 'benefit' from this ghastly tragedy, it seems that former PM Charan Singh's son and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) supremo Chaudhary Arjun Singh will be the one licking the wounds post the Lok Sabha polls. Though he has
RLD supremo Ajit Singh
always been over shadowed by the more vociferous and charismatic Mulayum Singh and Mayawati in the state politics, there is no doubt that Singh is one of the most clever politicians in the Hindi heartland. While his party may not boast of big numbers, his remarkable political acumen, his popularity in Western UP and the knack to ally with the right partners make him a prominent player in Lucknow. However, the last two years have not been a good one for either him or his party. In the 2012 state assembly polls, in spite of a pre-poll tie up with the much hyped Congress, the party dropped one seat to finish at a lowly 9 seats. Though the heir apparent and MP Jayant won the Mathura constituency, heavyweights like Baba Hardev Singh and Haji Yakub Qureshi had to bite the dust. The role of Singh who is serving as the Civil Aviation minister in the national cabinet, in pushing through the Jet-Etihad deal has raised many eyebrows. At a time when things are not going his way, the rift between the Jats and the Muslims - the traditional vote bank of the RLD following the riots may badly affect its performance, rendering it insignificant in the post poll scenario. With even the Congress re-thinking its alliance with Singh's outfit ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the picture for Chaudhary looks gloomy.

A major blow: In March 2012, the wily Mulayum Singh Yadav took a big gamble by placing his son Akhilesh on the CM's chair. However, those who follow Indian politics know that anything that UP strong man does has a political motive behind it. By offering the post to his son, he was checking the ambitions of other big leaders - his brother Ram Gopal Yadav and the party's minority face Azam Khan. Having swept UP and after being elevated to the status of 'Netaji' by the party cadre, Singh
From left: Azam Khan, Mulayum Singh and Akhilesh
who was confident of an excellent performance in 2014 was hoping to play the King-Maker at the Centre while his son ruled from Lucknow. However, for once, his plan has backfired or at least it seems so as of now. Akhilesh's incompetency and misgovernance has led to a wave of anti-incumbency within two years of his party's outstanding results in the last state polls. The mishandling of the situation in Muzaffarnagar has alienated the Muslims - the community which, along with the Yadavs is the core vote bank of the Samajwadi Party (SP). Meanwhile, party leader Azam Khan who shares an uneasy relationship with Mulayum has been accused by many in the riot hit Muzaffarnagar district of 'orchestrating' the violence and his effigies have been burnt in several places. The only reason why I think that RLD will be the bigger loser as compared to its former ally the SP is the fact that the latter may still do well in case the Yadavs still stick with it. Though he has himself tried to maintain the moral high ground by criticizing the state government, Singh should realize that instead of such gimmicks, he must take his son to task and concentrate on improving the administration in the state. In 2009, the gravitation of a section of Muslims towards the Congress damaged the SP's performance, reducing it to a mere 23 seats. With so much negative publicity surrounding the riots, the party is under fire from all corners including former friends Ajit Singh and Lalu Yadav. However, one can never write the Pehalvan off; you never know when the master politician can pull off a surprise ahead of the big polls.

For the next post on this topic, click here (Link)

IMAGES 

(1) RLD supremo Ajit Singh
Source: Rashtriya Lok Dal - Official Website (Link)

(2) From left: Azam Khan, Mulayum Singh and Akhilesh
Source: Samajwadi Party - Official Website (Link)