The opposition’s tirade against surgical strikes and demonetisation, along with Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati’s loss of credibility added to Modi’s appeal.
Lucknow: There is more to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mind-boggling sweep in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections than can be explained by factors like his persona, Modi’s aggressive, high profile campaign in the state, the caste configuration of the state or for that matter, the communal turn of his campaign.
Perhaps, the win is also a consequence of the sustained attacks that the Akhilesh Yadav-Rahul Gandhi duo and BSP supremo Mayawati launched against some of Modi’s policies.
Gandhi’s outburst against the army’s surgical strikes on terror camps along the Line of Control – which he termed as “khoon ki dalaali” – went against the nationalist sentiments of even those who do not subscribe to the saffron ideology. In one stroke, Gandhi lost much of the steam he’d generated through his aggressive efforts to rejuvenate the Congress in UP.
However, it was Gandhi, Yadav and Mayawati’s tirade against demonetisation that served as an even bigger boon for Modi.
Without making any effort to see the ground reality, these leaders went on a Modi bashing spree – that evidently proved counter-productive and paid Modi dividends that surprised him as much as those who voted for him.
What Modi’s opposers failed to notice was the divide that demonetisation forged between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. The ‘have-nots’ chanted Modi’s name, while the affluent cursed him for making them stand in long queues at banks and ATMs. The poor hailed him in the belief – right or wrong – that he’d taken the black money bull by its horns.
The reasons were not difficult to find. Not only were their currency requirements relatively meagre but they also belonged to a class that’s used to standing in queues. Be it the queue to fetch water, the ones outside ration shops or hospitals, or for that matter the lines at bus stops – the have-nots were quite used to the ordeals that seemed new to India’s middle class and elite.
Significantly, the bulk of these ‘have-nots’ came from those downtrodden sections of the population that are traditionally BSP supporters. And so Modi – who had taken a beating from his traditional support base of traders and businessmen – managed to carve out a completely new constituency of voters for himself.
Mayawati’s failed attempt to woo Muslims
Simultaneously, non-Jatav Dalits and a chunk of the OBCs also started drifting towards Modi. Perhaps Mayawati was the only one of the three leaders who could see the increasing dent in her bastion. She retaliated by making it a point to train her guns at Modi and blasting demonetisation. A unique social transition was taking place, going from caste to class was bound to hit Mayawati hard. And sure enough it did . After all, Mayawati had started taking her vote bank for granted. Her four victories had not yielded any of the jobs that she’d promised UP’s Dalit youth. At the end of the day, jobs in UP could only be bought – irrespective of who was at the helm of affairs.
Mayawati’s loud appeals to Muslims for their votes only worsened things for her. “Don’t vote for the Samajwadi Party – your vote will go to waste as chacha (uncle) Shivpal and bhatija (nephew) Akhilesh are busy fighting amongst themselves,” she said as she went around the state asking Muslims for their votes. In an obvious bid to establish her credentials with Muslims Mayawati began to blow her own trumpet by repeatedly declaring that she had fielded more than 100 Muslim candidates for the 403 member state assembly.
Far from helping her to garner Muslim votes, the ill-conceived and short-sighted move seemed to do the opposite. Since the bulk of these 100-odd candidates were handpicked on considerations other than merit , they could not attract any significant support from their own community. In a highly status-conscious state like UP, aspiring politicians do not hesitate before shelling out bagfuls of currency to buy party tickets. It entitles them to flaunt their status, first as a“pratyashi’ (candidate) and then as a ‘poorva pratyashi’ (past candidate) for the rest of their life .
Sure enough, such nominees neither have the potential to win nor any commitment to their party’s cause. And surely, Muslims don’t go about voting blindly for any and every Muslim nominee fielded by any political outfit. In fact, if one looks at our history, Indian Muslims, since 1947, have always been comfortable acknowledging a Hindu – in comparison to any Muslim – as their leader.
Parivarvaad over samajwad cost Akhilesh Yadav dearly
Akhikesh Yadav, who, apart from condemning Modi for demonetisation, also tried to showcase his tenure’s achievements – the six-lane, 301 km long Lucknow-Agra access-controlled expressway, the Lucknow metro-rail, Lucknow’s IT city, as well as the state’s first world-class cricket stadium – under his slogan – “Kaam bolta hai“. His oft repeated quote – “if you double the speed, you can triple the pace of development” – too got a lot of play .
Yadav could not imagine that Modi’s development talk would stump his. “After all, I have concrete achievements to show, while Modi is only doing lip-service,” was his argument.
But when it came down to it, the man on the street chose to go with Modi’s promises over Yadav’s actual projects – that were actually completed ahead of schedule. Team Modi’s well orchestrated campaign to dismiss Yadav’s “achievements” as “half-baked,” “incomplete” and “half-done” were louder, and perhaps more convincing, than the chief minister’s oft repeated ‘development’ pronouncements, backed by an extravagant high profile blitzkrieg, both in print as well as the electronic media.
Yadav’s contention that his development narrative was systematically bulldozed over by Modi’s communal rhetoric on ‘shamshan‘, ‘kabristan‘ , Ramzaan, Eid and Diwali may also be true to some extent. Yet Modi’s canard that the SP government’s development only served the affluent and privileged in Lucknow had many takers.
On the other hand, Yadav’s reference to the “donkeys of Gujarat” also backfired on him.
The swelling numbers of Yadav clan members in powerful political positions also made it easy for Modi to drive home his point about the SP’s samajwad (socialism) being more of a parivarvaad (family affair).
Yadav’s lopsided priorities also cost him dearly. He went overboard to create a lion safari in the once dacoit-infested ravines of his home district, Etawah, where the hot weather conditions left several of the animals dead. But at the same time, Yadav did not care to take any definitive step towards improving the lives of Bundelkhand’s poverty ridden masses – where every single seat went to BJP. Likewise, even as he built a world-class expressway between Lucknow and Agra, the highways connecting many important districts in eastern UP remained pathetically maintained, while internal roads in most cities continued to exist in neglect, full of potholes. Even the Rs 14,000 crore riverfront development in Lucknow failed to impress voters.
Yadav’s decision to campaign for his mining minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati despite the latter being accused of gang-rape also cost Yadav his credibility. The case could only be registered after the Supreme Court issued an order to that effect and Yadav’s cops are yet to arrest Prajapati on the charges. Surely Yadav’s handling of this situation raised questions about his much hyped “1090 women’s helpline” as well as his “dial 100” scheme that was modelled on the US’s 911 emergency response number.
Perhaps if Akhilesh had not allowed himself to be surrounded by sycophants who kept him blissfully unaware of how the rug was slipping away from under his feet, the outcome may not have been as devastating for him.