In UP people have always voted for their cast, while casting their vote; a major reason why BSP and Mayawati have been UP’s favourite despite being beleaguered by corruption allegations, negligence towards the Dalit woman and merely concentrating on showing off her wealth to the world in the form of lavish parks, expensive statues and racing grounds.
The first phase of UP elections is finally over in 55 constituencies and it has drawn a very intriguing picture before the entire nation. People surprisingly came out in large numbers to cast their vote, despite the unfavourable weather.
However Rahul Gandhi has challenged this trend and has vouched to stay on UP land till the time people talk of development over cast. UP noticed more than 62% voter turnout which is a fairly decent figure keeping in mind the morning rain and the past voter trends. A major chunk of this voter turnout was young.
An interesting question that arises as a result of this response in the 1st phase itself is if there has been a shift in the voting trend and the voter’s mentality? With parties like SP and Congress throwing in their youth icons will an anti-incumbency wave blow Mayawati out of power or will the voters show their undying loyalty to their veteran caste leaders?
Well the campaigning for elections in UP has been rather dramatic with leaders hustling and slaving for the voter’s attention. With Rahul Gandhi lunching and munching in the homes of the Dalits and getting arrested; with Akhilesh Yadav swearing to eradicate corruption, starting from his own party; BJP bringing in political virtuosos like Uma Bharti; everyone has tried to one up man the other in more than one ways.
Before we indulge in soothsaying, we need to understand the history of politics in UP. The caste divide in UP is deep and widespread. 20% of the population comprises of the upper castes, 22% are Dalits, 40% are OBCs, 11% Yadavs and 18% Muslims.
This divide has been significant to every election that has been held in the past in the state of UP. Every party that has come into power has come on the basis of the caste chit. Initially the power was in the hands of the upper castes, mostly the Brahmins and the Thakurs.
It then slipped into the hands of the Yadavs and then was passed on to the Dalits. Mayawati walked away with 32 seats out of 55 in the 2007 elections, an indication of the voter’s inclination towards the leader of their own caste.
The story might be a little different this time around though, mostly because of the aggressive campaigning done primarily by Rahul Gandhi who has declared that he is here not to compromise with any party but to form his government and will not move from the land of UP till the time people talk of development over caste; followed by Akhilesh Yadav who is trying to revive the lost Yadav charisma keeping in mind the demands of the modern times.
Being the largest state in the country, UP is always closely watched by psephologists and people in general. And although emphasis is being put on development, it may be so because the entire nation is watching and caste politics degrades the whole purpose of elections in the eyes of the general voter.
Thus the amplified talks on development could merely be eyewash as if one closely watches the system of distribution of ticket, nothing seems to have changed.
No party contesting elections will admit that they use the caste card but accuse the others of doing so. What has been noticed as a strategic trend followed by most of the leaders including Mayawati, Nitish Kumar and now adopted by Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav is to create a coalition of different castes instead of out rightly giving tickets on the basis of caste preference.
Thus the caste card is still rolled out; the only difference being the blanket of development was missing earlier.
The only positive thing amidst this entire hullabaloo is the participation of the youth. The youth accounts for 4 crore of voters this time around, in UP. Youth has always had a significant role to play in every change that is brought about in the society, and one can only be hopeful of this change if the youth takes into hand the future of their state.
There are still 6 more phases to go, and if the people of UP are listening, it’s time for change; its time to go beyond building parks and moving towards building futures.