April 21, 2019

BJP has edge in capturing floating non-Yadav OBC vote in UP

Delhi/India/Politics by

The non-Yadav OBCs in UP aspire to political domination like the Yadavs but also harbour a feeling of relative deprivation vis a vis both Yadavs and Dalits. The only OBC caste exception to this trait are the Jats of western UP who are in a relatively better economic position. However, a tinge of jealousy against the Yadavs is a factor in their demand for a separate State.

Roughly comprising a third of the State’s population, the non-Yadav OBCs are trapped in this aspiration-anxiety axis, and swing between the discourses of Hindutva, Mandal and Bahujan from election to election. Their frustration at having to play second fiddle to the Yadavs in the Samajwadi Party, the Dalits in BSP and the upper castes in the BJP has sometimes resulted in the formation of caste parties, albeit with dismal electoral success.

A majority of these castes like Pal, Nishadh, Kahar, Kumhar, Rajbhar have failed to utilise the reservation policy to their advantage. The BJP tried to woo them in 2001 by earmarking a separate quota for them within the existing OBC reservation but the move was struck down by the judiciary. It was denounced as a conspiracy against the Yadavs by the then leader of the opposition Mulayam Singh Yadav, and the Samajwadi Party leadership responded in 2005 by putting many OBC castes into the SC category.

This time all the parties are coming up with focused programmes for non-Yadav castes: BJP has been holding Pichhda Varg Sammelan (Backward Caste Conclave) across the State; SP has recommended the inclusion of 17 OBC castes in the SC category; BSP has been holding caste-centric ‘Bhaichara Sammelans’.

How the non-Yadav OBCs respond to these offers will influence the outcome of the coming Assembly election. Our field work revealed three distinct but interrelated electoral articulations among the non-Yadav OBC caste groups: (i) they would vote for a candidate from their respective castes, and therefore (ii) their vote would be scattered and divided; however, (iii) in the absence of any candidate from their respective castes, they are more likely to vote for the BJP.

However, a significant number of non-Yadav respondents also prefer SP or BSP due to secular and development considerations, which in the final analysis turns out to be contingent upon the caste profile of the candidates fielded in their constituencies.

The BJP seems to have an advantage over SP and BSP as far as the non-Yadav OBCs are concerned. To woo their votes, BJP appointed an OBC, Keshav Prasad Maurya, a Kushwaha, as its State party president. It took a series of follow up measures such as inducting dissident OBC leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya from other parties, especially the BSP; inducting various OBC caste leaders like Om Prakash Rajbhar, Sanjay Rajbhar and merging their insignificant but symbolically important caste parties; appointment of Anupriya Patel (a Kurmi) as a Union minister besides organising around 200 Pichhda Varg Sammelans in 403 constituencies.

The SP government’s decision to include 17 OBC castes in the Dalit category on the eve of the election was intended precisely to reverse this shift of non-Yadav OBCs to the BJP besides putting BSP in a dilemma. Of the 17 OBC castes so recommended, the Kahar, Kumhar, Nishadh and Rajbhars constitute significant voting blocs in many constituencies and their support to any party depends upon their local caste leaders.

These caste leaders have chosen the Hindutva ideology whenever they joined the BJP, the Mandal ideology when they join hands with SP and Bahujan when aligned with BSP.

The BJP has the tough challenge of retaining the massive support it gained from non-Yadav OBCs in the 2014 election while BSP and SP are competing to win them over. This is likely to scatter the non-Yadav caste votes among the three main contenders with a slight edge to the BJP.

(Sajjan Kumar, a Ph.D from Centre for Political Studies, JNU is associated with People’s Pulse, a Hyderabad based Research Organisation that specialises in fieldwork-based political and electoral studies).

Maya’s Muslim gambit fails to impress riot victims  

Delhi/India/Politics by

Mayawati has given poll ticket to 97 Muslim candidates

MUZAFFARNAGAR : The talk in UP’s political circles is how much of the Muslim vote Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will get. The question is beginning to ring louder after the boss lady handed 97 party tickets to candidates from the community last week. However, if the victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 are any indication, it is Akhilesh Yadav who will get their support.

Muslims constitute 42 per cent of the population in Muzaffar-nagar.
Sixty-five people were killed in the riots and over 50,000 people were hounded out of their homes. Three years on, they still live like refugees in slum-like conditions in resettlement colonies. The riot victims say they would not trust the BSP as it might embrace the BJP in the post-poll scenario.

Also, they remember that Mayawati did not bother to pay a visit to Muzaffarnagar after the riots. “Have you seen Mayawati or other BSP leaders doing anything for riot victims except paying lip service? BSP does not seem to care for Muslims,” said Ghulam Mohiuddin, a riot victim resettled in Shamli.

At another riot-hit village called Phugana, a villager Muhammed Shafiuddin said he remembers that Mayawati chose not to visit Muzaffarnagar. “This is evidence enough to say that the BSP does not care whether we live or die. All these years, she was in Delhi while we were suffering in the refugee camps. Now at election time, she is trying to win our confidence,”  he said.

In another resettlement locality called Loi, Muhammed Saleem said Akhilesh Yadav is the community’s obvious choice although his administration could have done more to help the victims back to their old life. “However, many of us got plots, loans and other assistance from the government. But there are many who are still living without a shelter above their heads. At least Akhilesh Yadav sympathises with us. Other parties like the BSP never bothered,” he says.

Few Muslims in the resettlement localities seemed impressed with Mayawati’s gambit of giving a large share of her party tickets to Muslims. “Yes, she may be giving tickets to Muslims but what if she gets into a post-poll alliance with the BJP? That is not acceptable to us,” said another riot victim Haji Anwar.

Amidst the bigger parties, smaller players like the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) led by Asaduddin Owaisi also see an opportunity. Grassroots MIM workers are going from village to village trying to urge people not to vote for the Samajwadi Party. However, locals here seem wary of the MIM as there has been speculation that Owaisi is trying to strike a deal with the BSP.

Akhilesh clique, Congress set for pre-election tie-up

Delhi/India/Politics by

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav | PTI

LUCKNOW: After months of speculation, a pre-poll alliance between the Samajwadi Party faction led by UP CM Akhilesh Yadav and Congress appears to be taking a concrete shape. Highly placed sources told Express that there have been several rounds of talks between Akhilesh and Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi over the seat-sharing formula between both the parties.

The sources claimed that according to the alliance conditions, Congress is likely to contest in 90 seats. Initially, the talks were stuck as Congress was demanding more than 100 of the 403 seats which SP was not ready to concede. However, Akhilesh had been advocating a truck with the Grand Olda Party to touch the magic figure of 300.

Now, with a split in the party appearing imminent, the Akhilesh-led faction and Congress are going ahead with the alliance plan and a formal high-profile launch may happen any time next week in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka, Akhilesh and his wife Dimple Yadav. Congress sources said a final decision may be made after January 13 when the Election Commission is likely to take a call on the allotment of bicycle symbol. 

“However, we are ready for an alliance even if the Akhilesh faction of SP doesn’t get the bicycle symbol,” a Congress leader told Express.

The talks for the proposed alliance which were going on at the level of Akhilesh and Priyanka got a jolt when SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav ruled out any alliance with any political player in the State. While releasing the list of 367 party candidates which ultimately intensified the intra-party feud in SP, Mulayam had said that SP would go it alone contesting in all the 403 assembly constituencies in the State.
In the 2012 assembly elections, Congress could get just 28 seats with a 7 per cent vote share. This time the party is pinning its hopes on the tie-up with SP to improve its tally through the consolidation of anti-BJP votes.

In the mean time, as the Samajwadi Party reached the brink of a vertical split, a desperate Congress had to put its efforts to stitch the much-needed alliance on the back burner till there was a clarity on who, between the two warring factions, would control the party affairs and win the symbol.

The alliance talks between the Congress leaders and the Akhilesh faction again gained traction when the latter appeared to have taken an upper hand in the family feud with the support of a majority of party legislators (209 MLAs, 56 MLCs, 15 MPs, and 4,700 party delegates) who signed affidavits in the CM’s support in the fight for party symbol.

Mumbai corporation polls announced, BJP-Sena alliance not in sight yet

Delhi/India/Politics by

MUMBAI: Even as the dates for 10 municipal corporations, including Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nashik and Nagpur, were announced on Wednesday, — voting on February 21 and results on February 23 — the BJP and Shiv Sena appear not ready to forge an alliance as their leaders continued to target each other. 

City BJP president Ashish Shela announced that his party is positive about the alliance and the talks would begin on Wednesday. However, he took potshots at the Sena.“Transparent administration is what BJP looks for in the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation,” he said.

Relations between the two parties which have shared power in the corporation for past 20 years have been strained in past couple of years after the BJP started raising the issue of corruption in the corporation.
And Sena president Uddhav Thackeray attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi without naming him. “I’ve stopped saying mitron while addressing people in Hindi as people now run away when they hear this word,” he said while criticising demonetisation. 

“I hope we’ll start talks for alliance though I have not received any formal communication in this regard yet,” Thackeray said when asked about alliance. “We shall participate in the talks but, also keep preparing ourselves (to contest polls independently),” he added later.

Thackeray as well as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis spoke in favour of the alliance on Tuesday. While the BJP has empowered district units to decide about the alliance, the Sena wants a uniform decision for all polls, including the zilla parishad and panchayat samities.

The BJP has conducted at least three pre-poll surveys in past two-three months. According to sources, an internal survey has predicted 90 seats  for the BJP if it contests independently. A survey conducted by the home department has predicted 65-70 seats for the BJP while an independent agency appointed by the chief minister put the figure at 85-90. The half-way mark in the corporation is 114. 

Sena’s best performance was 99 seats, in 1997, when it ruled the state. Given its performance in the municipal council polls, the BJP has high hopes now. But it will have to contest more seats.

When we have always said ‘don’t fear’, BJP line is ‘scare them’: Rahul

Delhi/India/Politics by

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh at the party’s Jan Vedna Sammelan at the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi | shekhar yadav

NEW DELHI: The large crowd at the Congress Jan Vedna Samelan (public pain) on Wednesday created an illusion of its past pan-India glory, inspiring Rahul and the Congress leaders who spoke at the gathering to tear the Modi government to shreds over demonetisation, which they called “a disastrous decision” for the Indian economy. 

The concern for the Congress’ retreating footprints on the political map were all but forgotten, except when Bharatsihn Solanki, the Gujarat PCC chief, reminded everyone how badly the party needed to win the coming polls.

But Rahul seemed rather upbeat, drawing a distinction between the political thinking of the Congress and the BJP with great gusto. “This is a fight between two philosophies. This is not a new fight. This fight is thousands of years old.

The Congress’ philosophy says daro maat (do not fear). The other philosophy says “instil fear” and scare them. “You look at the BJP’s policies. Their entire aim is to scare the people of the country. Fear terrorism, Maoism, demonetisation, scare the media. In two-three months, in the entire country, they have spread this fear,” Rahul said.

For demonetisation, the reason behind the day-long conference, he had only contempt. Accusing Modi of taking a unilateral, “ill-conceived’’ decision.

“What BJP has done in its two-and-a-half years that the Congress did not do in 70 years — it has targeted institutions, like the RBI, Election Commission and the judiciary,’’ Rahul said. “People in the RSS and the BJP are under the impression that nobody else’s opinion matters but theirs.” 

He also said Modi must ask why has the demand for MGNREGA suddenly surged and why people were migrating to villages instead of cities.

He said the philosophy of being fearless had been there in the correspondence between Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and during the Green Revolution, bank nationalisation and other occasions. 

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