Caste Politics versus Good Governance: The real reason for the U P A’ S win

Election 2009 was historic for more reasons than one. It has seen the country elect a party whose prime ministerial candidate is only the second person after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to be re-elected for a second consecutive term. It has also seen major swings in results in many states, most of which were responsible for the huge margin by which the UPA won this election. One of the key reasons for the UPA’s victory and the tottering of the regional parties is believed to have been caste politics, which literally means the appeasement of the castes by politicians for scoring brownie points over their opponents and capturing a large share of the votebank. Two states which are believed to have been swing factors for the UPA due to this factor are Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.


In Maharashtra, there have been two main players in the political arena- the Congress-NCP alliance and the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. In this election however, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena(MNS) has played spoiler by projecting itself as the true representative of the ‘Marathi Manoos’, originally the tag which was exclusively the Shiv Sena’s tag. Also, a change of guard within the Shiv Sena itself has led to a shrinking of its votes. Bal Thackeray’s diminishing role in mainstream politics and the lack of charisma of his successor and son, Uddhav Thackeray, resulted in a lot of votes going to the MNS from the Marathwada region, headed by Uddhav’s estranged cousin Raj. The BJP’s Hindutva campaign and the Shiv Sena and MNS’ ‘Marathi Manoos’ call didn’t seem to have had an impact on the urban Maharashtrian voter, as he had realized that in an India which is fast globalizing, working and living on the basis of religion and language would only hinder growth.


On the other hand, the Congress-NCP alliance has done remarkably well due to successful implementation of the NREGA scheme and the benefits promised to the distressed farmers in Vidarbha. The urban vote has also been pro Congress due to major infrastructural leaps in the state. Though distortions are prevalent, in the form of beneficiaries of welfare schemes being the richer farmers, the promise seems to be earnest and a step in the right direction and people are willing to give the Government a little more time. So though the NCP’S share in votes has also dipped, the Congress has won the lion’s share of the votes in Maharashtra due to spoiler effects and shifting away of the other parties from the main issues plaguing the common man.


Uttar Pradesh has also played a vital role in the UPA’s victory in this election. The state saw the fall of two main regional players, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, with a resurgence of the Congress. Though the BSP remained the single largest party in the state, it saw a major reduction in its votebank and also the end of Mayawati’s dream of becoming PM. The main reasons for the BSP’s failure is the fact that Mayawati tried to reach out to Brahmins and other upper castes, while neglecting her original votebank, the ‘Bahujan Samaj’ or the Dalits and other lower castes. Also, the quality of governance in the state is dismal, because muscle power has ruled over good governance, as a result of which crime rates have reached alarming levels. The only noteworthy achievement of Mayawati’s government in Uttar Pradesh has been the construction of memorials all over the state and the increasing expenditure on the BSP supremo’s lavish birthday parties, which has pinched the taxpayer where it hurts the most. Also, she lacks an all India appeal, despite extensive campaigning around the country. Thus Mayawati has a lot of damage control to do before she can nurture prime ministerial ambition again.


The Samajwadi Party, on the other hand, tried to reach out to the Muslims by opposing English education and the use of computers in schools, but was seen as regressive by people. Also, their dilly dallying of support to the UPA at the Centre was seen as opportunism by the people and hence their votes to the SP also dwindled. The BJP’s Hindutva politics only made matters worse for them, as it lacked mass appeal. The Congress saw a resurgence in its votes primarily due to the ‘Rahul Gandhi’ factor. His travelling throughout the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, getting an account of people’s problems first hand and living life as they lead it was seen as an earnest effort and not just a farce. The Congress was seen as a party which focussed on development and was above petty caste politics. Hence, their victory is seen as transcending all class and caste boundaries in Uttar Pradesh.


A mention should also be made of Bihar, which has seen the people rejecting the opportunistic politics of Laloo and voting for the JDU, on the basis of their development work. Also, Andhra Pradesh, which has seen the Congress sweep the votes due to the success of Chief Minister YSR Reddy’s pro-poor programmes transcending all barriers of caste, which parties like the TDP and Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam party tried to do.


The voter in India has definitely matured and has given a decisive mandate in favour of good governance. Now it is the duty of the elected representatives of the people to fulfill the aspirations and hopes of a billion people for a better India tomorrow.


Shreya Bhattacharya

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