Uttar Pradesh’s next State Assembly elections are due in the early part of the year 2017 with the Election Commission finalizing the exact dates by December this year. The upcoming elections are seeing top political contenders like Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP), BJP and Congress fighting a battle to establish a majority by winning the most number of seats for both Lok Sabha and the State Legislative council. The current government was formed in the year 2012 after SP swept away a majority of seats in the State elections forming a government on its own. Mulayam Singh Yadav the founder and president of the party went on to surprise everybody by announcing his son Akhilesh Singh Yadav as the new chief minister and not himself. The tag of the youngest chief minister India has ever seen expectations and responsibilities only growing more.
The top four contenders seem to be in full gear to prepare for the elections.
Incidents that caused speculations regarding the current government
However, to much dismay and discontent with many people in the state, the current government has not been able to deliver well on its promises and one of the most devastating outcomes have been the Muzzafarnagar riots of 2013, Dadri incident of 2015 and the Mathura clashing of June 2016 .These two incidents further tarnished the image of the current UP government. Relying on their stand of Hindu-Muslim togetherness and empowerment of Dalits, their whole election campaign was based on these ideas on which they miserably failed. Aspects such as crime, communal tensions, and economic development have become even more serious problems and greatly mishandled in times of outbreaks.
UP being inherently and historically a caste-conscious and religious-conscious state is witnessing yet again political parties playing the caste-based political trump card to politically motivate people to vote for them. Not to mention, the vote bank have always played a major role in helping parties in UP gain majority to form governments.
The top four contending parties (national and regional parties):
- BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party)
- SP (Samajwadi Party)
- BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party)
All these political parties are using the caste tactics to appeal to different segments in order to portray an image of empowering the marginalized.
But, Congress seems to be adopting a slightly different stand, when compared to other parties, by reiterating their age old strategy of projecting themselves as a mass based party, favoring no castes and religions, and working towards the development for all segments. Their efforts, at least till now through some of their rallies, seem to be clearly targeting the urban youth and not precisely, cast based or religiously based population segments. Their claim of bringing ‘real development‘ to UP and talking about the 27 years of misgovernance doesn’t sound too good to digest. Their last 10 years of reign as the Indian government marked their formation of important policies and various schemes for development in India but were blotted by the insurmountable and deplorable levels of corruption and numerous scams. Moreover, the party is currently faceless as they have yet to give even the slightest hint as to who is the party’s preferred choice for the chief ministerial candidate. The projection of Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi is being widely used on the forefront as part of the strategies for UP elections. While their charm in Amethi remains unquestionable but their level of comfort and confidence in dealing with political issues in other regions seems deeply doubtful. Fighting for farmers and talking about curbing their plight in times of bad weather and insufficient revenues, is a very good initiative but not enough to actually solve this problem. While they preach socially empowering ideas, they do not practice them. In my opinion, although their dissemination of a developed state in the true sense sounds very politically correct but how does the party plan to go about achieving this has not yet been disclosed. Be it thorugh policies, schemes, laws and other political instruments, it would be interesting to note Congress actually brining about development in the state. Amidst all the chaos and flak Congress has received in the recent years and the continuation of its fledgling presence in the major political platform in India, there lies certainly a long and difficult path ahead of them to appeal to all UPites if they aim to come to power next year.
BSP and SP
BSP and SP have been at loggerheads with each other for the past few years especially after Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, frequently released a string of statements challenging and criticizing each others’ policies during their reign of governance in the state. Mayawati’s long going idea of empowering Dalits has been constantly questioned by many in terms of their implementation. Polls suggesting that Muslims would vote for Mayawati, instead, in the next elections is not very surprising. The level of discontent that lies with many people towards the current government is beyond any doubt.
Pressing issues that need urgent attention
As evident from the annual report of Ministry of Finance and Human Development Reports issued by the state governments, UP is still considered a social and economic laggard state. In my opinion, the issue of trifurcation should also be highly contested and be considered by all parties in the wake of the 2017 elections. The challenge of improving the state’s contribution to the overall country’s economy, reviving a better financial sector, strengthening a poor level of private and foreign investment, tackling incidents of communal tensions in the largest state of India in terms of population, is not a small feat. The issue of trifurcation addresses how growth can be can be more possible in the regions of Bundelkhand, Purvanchal and Western UP. Also seeing the ongoing incidents of communal tension are a big hindrance in the way of achieving economic growth and the previous governments have not been able to curb them and spread awareness about a more secular and congenial environment among the people of Uttar Pradesh. The state still remains ranks among the top in terms of crime rates and the general law and order situation remains among the worst in the country according to the National Crimes Record Bureau. These deterrents need a lot more serious consideration and a review at the existing policies should also be considered necessary. Crime against women has been rampant, and crimes such as murder, honour killings and rapes should also come under high priority subjects. Not to mention, the Badaun gang rape case caught the whole country’s attention.
Communal tensions, Dalits and Muslims in UP
While the situation of Dalits has certainly been uplifted due to combined efforts of Mayawati’s government, through pumping money for developing their villages, giving many free houses, providing pension for those below the pension line, giving more quota to SC and STs, the current government managed to make amendments in the Revenue Code Ordinance enabling Dalits to freely sell their land to non-Dalits. However, there is still a long way to go to integrate them completely as other common people in the society. The Hindu-Muslim communal tensions still remain a big problem. The Dadri incident showed the level of hate and brutality that the so called ‘gau-rakshaks’ have towards their fellow Muslim Bhais. Connecting this issue with Narendra Modi’s thunderous speech on 7 August 2016 these people are actually anti-socials. They go to the extent to killing people and claim that they are saving cows from being butchered. Probably, Modi was right by pointing that if they cared so much for animals, why can’t they; instead, prevent the damage plastics cause to these animals when they accidentally consume them thinking that it is food. The blind madness in the name of religion seems to have clouded the minds of such people with inhumanity. The coming of BJP to power in UP could serve as anti-incumbency and anti-establishment politics which has been ongoing in the state for long. Modi’s promise of changing the whole political scenario in UP and bringing results that couldn’t happen in the past few years do seem promising but there are a couple of challenges that the BJP has to deal with. The image of BJP in alliance with RSS on many issues gives people, especially Muslims, a perception that the party has always had a Hindu ideology and the Hindutva influence which might not work for the welfare of other religious segments. Continuing on the same wavelength, the possibility of the former chief minister Kalyan Singh acting on the political frontier for the UP elections and fighting from BJP’s side looks not so impossible. But the important thing to consider here is if this current Governor of Rajasthan may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise. I feel a person like him who played an important role in aggravating attempts to demolish the Babri Masjid and constructing a Ram temple there, cannot serve as an ideal candidate for a chief minister. I don’t understand how people like him who believe in dividing societies and instigating people in the name of religion be given another chance. If Modi talks about how UP can be developed it should be important for the party to not consider political leaders like Kalyan Singh. Keshav Prasad Maurya has been appointed as the State Unit President of BJP and caste based issues have been further highlighted through these actions.
This article emphasizes more on the social and political aspects of governance. I think, placing high importance on selecting and appointing ministers from different class, caste and religious segments is the just the first step. Progressive societies and people with a more global outlook do not ideally discriminate individuals on the basis of their religious or caste based identities. Many people still in the state elect ministers from their constituencies purely on the basis that the person belongs to their community and not because the particular party and the candidate talk about development issues. Promises are given every time elections are held but are they delivered always? There needs to be a mass level social awareness among people that ministers from their communities do not always work for their upliftment. The more caste and religions are given importance in politics, by this I do not mean not uplifting people belong to marginalized communities, to polarize communities, the more the idea of rationally, practically and logically voting for political leaders gets defeated. Probably, these ideas sound idealistic but are democratic practices in the true sense. The 2017 UP elections probably could see a new light in terms of the new government taking its role seriously on various pressing issues as mentioned above.
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