2022 UP Polls and Shifting Discourse around Electoral Politics

UP Election

  India’s political pundits have now started thinking about what will be the possible fate of the Hindutva politics, if the UP electoral outcomes will not be in favour of the BJP? This election is now considered as a historic in nature and its result will have the national impact (ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha). More importantly, the elections results will be an acid test for the BJP including the secular and social justice led opposition parties. The political commentators have also underlined that Hindutva politics is currently facing huge electoral challenges (because of growing discontent among subaltern masses) from the opposition parties, perhaps for the first time since 2014. However, it is too early to say that the huge discontent among masses will translate into electoral outcomes. So far, most of the surveys have indicated the SP led coalition will get comfortable majority.

Once again, it appears that the Mandal politics (now with development face including social justice) will triumph over the Hindutva politics (kamandal politics, communal in nature). So far ground realities have shown that communal and divisive agenda such as Cairana, hate speeches (against Muslim in the Dhramsansad), Ram Temple and finally hijab controversy have not given political dividends to the BJP-RSS combine. Contrary to that, for the subaltern masses (  Dalits and the lower caste who had voted to the BJP earlier), the question of unemployment, health, education and agrarian distress are now matters more than communal agenda, as stated above. The fact cannot be denied that violence and crime against Dalits, women and minorities in UP during the tenure of Yogi have rapidly increased, as documented by civil society and government bodies.  I have elsewhere given empirical data to demonstrate these points.

The last phase of election is scheduled to be held on March 7. Most of political leaders including PM Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath have addressed the public rallies in Ghazipur and elsewhere. While PM Modi has underlined that CM Yogi has done good works in most of fronts and dismantled the culture of the money and muscle power (end of the Maphiya Raj) and established the rule of law. On the contrary, while addressing the rallies, the opposition parties like Akhilesh Yadav and the BSP’s leaders have said that during the last five years the BJP under leadership of Yogi has squarely failed in almost all fronts especially in providing jobs, dealing with pandemic and handling caste and communal tensions including maintaining law and order.

In the Zamania assembly seat, electoral fight is very tough among the candidates representing SP (former Minister of UP, Om Parkash Singh), the BSP (Pervaiz Khan, a young and energetic leader who is fighting for first time) and sitting BJP MLA (Sunita Singh. The cadres and supporters are busy in campaign and mobilizing the people in favor of their own candidates. It is difficult to say that who will be winner and looser

To understand ground realities and concerned of masses, I have tried to talk with the people, social activists and cadres of respective parties (who are busy in distributing the pamphlets of their parties) in a town like Dildar Nagar and adjoining villages. Besides, I have also tried to interact with people in the cultural arena and spaces like tea stalls, shops, dhabas and students to understand shifting political discourse around substantive issues, as stated above.  To understand the political imagination of voters, I have interacted across religious and social groups both male and females.

To be precise here, it appears that discourse and agenda around elections is set by the people and respective parties and its leaders are compelled to address the issues foregrounded by voter irrespective caste, creed and religion.  In this respect, the BSP candidate and fire brand leader Pervaiz khan has highlighted that the BJP (from the last five years) and the SP  both have had  not addressed the genuine issues of the people and responsible for underdevelopment of the region ( kamsar-o-Bar). There are no good colleges, schools and hospitals in this region especially in Dildar Nagar. That is why during the Corona pandemic, most of the people of this region have lost their lives because of the lack of oxygen and proper medical facilities in the hospitals. The Famers of this region often face difficulties to get proper facilities, (water, fertilizers and pesticides including guarantee of the MSP) and support from the ruling government. Besides these issues, the law and order situation is not control under Yogi’s rule, as it was during the tenure of Mayawati, underlined by Pervaiz Khan while addressing the people.  However, it is equally true that radical agenda of social justice (such as annihilation of caste, and addressing real issues of subaltern masses), as conceptualized by Babasaheb Ambedkar long ago have had also not taken by Mayawati seriously whenever she got political power in UP.

To sum up discussions, perhaps for the first time  since 2014 (due the pro-active role of social media and series of protests launched by the people, as stated above) and politicization of people around substantive and everyday issues, the communal and divisive politics (often foregrounded by the BJP’s leaders)  are facing huge challenges and so far not given political dividends. Now different social groups and people at large are more concerned about the substantive and everyday social issues like jobs, education and health rather instead of communal issues like Ram temple, hijab and Hindu vs. Muslim binary, as hinted above.

One could notice that there is a clear shift in the political discourse. The  political shift has taken place not because of efforts put by the opposition parties (barring the Left forces), but the several protests launched by the  students  and people at large around the anti-CAA, agrarian distress, caste atrocities and violence against women and minorities. The problems further added due to sudden lockdown (leading to mass exodus of migrants laboures in north India), and failure of the government to deal with pandemic (especially providing medical facilities like oxygen) have created huge discontent among masses. Thus, the movements and protests launched by the people (especially long agitation around anti-CAA and the agrarian distress) and huge discontent among the subaltern masses have challenged the communal narrative of the Hindutva politics. Most of the political parties including the SP and Congress have so far adopted the soft-Hindutva approach. The temple visit during election times by leaders of secular and social justice parties could be taken as case in point.  Under the pressure of communal narrative (constructed by the BJP-RSS and godi media), said opposition parties have directly and indirectly imbibe majoiritarian narratives. That is why (barring  the MIM led by Asaddudin Owaisi) most of the secular and social justice parties so far have maintained the strategic silence on minorities especially issues and problems witnessed by the Muslim community. This is also reflected in the constituency of Zamania. In this constituency too, forget for a while the BJP, even secular and social justice parties and its leaders are reluctant to raise the problems and issues confronted by the Muslim community of this region. Therefore, one could say that due to the huge discontent among masses, and several protests launched by the people, now Hindutva politics for the first time is facing stiff opposition on the electoral fronts. However, it remains to be seen whether it translate into electoral outcome or not. The fact is that the there is a clear shift in political discourse from the Right to the Centre if not the Left.

 The author is a research scholar at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi.

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