Asghar Ali Engineer  

From Secular Perspective May-16-31-2007;


The election results from U.P. have stunned even great pundits. All predictions by observers and  analysts as well as exit polls have gone wrong. Everyone thought that there will be fractured mandate  and that BSP will go no further than 150 seats. Some said that Mayawati would once again align with  the BJP in order to become Chief Minister. Others said that Mulayam Singh would align with BJP, in  order to avoid being arrested by the Mayawati Government. The BJP was, on the other hand,  projecting itself as one who will form the next government and projected Kalyan Singh as its chief  ministerial candidate.


The people proved all these tall predictions wrong and gave Mayawati their clear mandate to rule.  They were fed up with opportunistic alliances and horse-trading. The way earlier governments were  formed by MLAs selling themselves to the highest bidders had angered people. Even the Election  Commission was expecting a fractured mandate and had required all elected MLAs to be carted away  to a safe place to avoid horse trading. However, that was not to be and Mayawati romped home with a  simple but clear majority.


The U.P. result is significant for more than one reason. Mayawati really succeeded in social  engineering, which is inclusive, and not exclusive. Her earlier political stance was quite exclusive, to  exclude all save Dalits. She aimed at Dalit votes which she almost monopolizes. Mualayam Singh  Yadav followed MY (Muslims and Yadavs) formula excluding other castes and communities. BJP of  course aims at completely excluding Muslims and not only excluding them but to target them for their  hate propaganda.


In U.P., since Dalit votes were monopolized by the BSP, the Congress too wanted to win some seats  by aiming at votes of Muslims and a section of Brahmins. Thus all parties aimed at sections of society  excluding others.


This time Mayawati showed far greater maturity and pursued inclusive politics by giving tickets to  Brahmins, Banias, Thakurs, Muslims and of course Dalits. This integrative approach won her rich  dividends and she could sail through to the chair of power.


The elections in India have deviated from democratic course and have become instead an exercise in  creating divisive vote banks. Each party counts on support of one or a combination of castes and  communities and thus sanctifies identities and also creates clash among them. In pluralistic  democracy like that of India, politics should be integrative and not divisive.


Credit must also go to the Election Commission, which ensured absolutely fair elections and did not  provide any opportunity for rigging or booth capturing. This was another landmark election after the  J&K (Jammu & Kashmir) election. Such fairness increases people’s faith in democratic processes.  One wishes that the Election Commission remains steadfast in conducting elections with such a  record of fairness.


It is also praiseworthy on the part of Election Commission that as soon it received the complaint about  the CD prepared by BJP that spewed poison against Muslims, it immediately issued notice to BJP as  to why action should not be taken against it for spreading hatred against a community. The BJP had to  eat humble pie and withdraw the CD and its top leadership disowned it. Now the Election Commission  has asked it to apologize for issuing such CD. It clearly shows that the BJP plays the divisive card and  is an enemy of national integration. For BJP, Muslims and Christians can never be part of national  integration process.


What is more important, however, is that BJP could not fool common people. For the people of U.P.  where BJP was once quite popular, the party has lost all its glamour and could not carry people with it  on the basis of hate politics against Muslims. It got no more than 50 seats. It could once fool people in  the name of Ramjanambhoomi (movement which led to the demolition of Babri mosque) movement. It  no longer works, nay does not work at all.


However, despite such humiliating rejection by people, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh)  maintained that BJP lost because it did not effectively pursue the Hindutva politics. The communal CD  was the height of Hindutva politics. It was clandestinely shown in people’s houses. BJP did its best to  pursue Hindutva politics. Even the Yogi from Gorakhpur withdrew his candidates from all the  constituencies of eastern U.P. in favor of BJP and VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), forgetting all his  ‘differences’ with BJP and appealed to his followers to vote for BJP and yet it did not help. The credit  really goes to the people of U.P.


Muslims too voted very wisely and though some Muslim leaders formed a separate United Democratic  Front and decided to field its own candidates, they soon realized that they may divide votes and hence  withdrew in favor of the Samajwadi Party. The Muslims voted for secular candidates, those who could  defeat communal ones. This certainly helped BSP.


It is also very interesting to note that Haji Yaqub Qureshi was defeated. He tried to play the  fundamentalist card and announced a reward of Rs. 51 crore  (App. US$ 10 million) on the head of the  cartoonist who had caricatured the Prophet of Islam. Just as the Hindus could not be fooled by the  BJP’s hate politics, the Muslims refused to be tricked into voting for Haji Ayub Qureshi. This is one  more proof of the maturity and understanding of the voters.


The BSP was quite fair in distributing tickets to various castes and communities. It gave tickets to 61  Muslims and got 30 of them elected. On the SP ticket 20 candidates won. Thus there are in all 56  Muslim MLAs out of 402 which is a little less than the proportion of their population but is not a bad  number after all. Mayawati has accommodated various castes and communities in her cabinet too.


There are in all 5 Muslims, 7 Brahmins and 7 Thakurs, 19 Dalits and 11 OBCs (other backward  classes). No doubt she has given lion’s share to Dalits but she needs to do that as it is mainly Dalit  Party and she needs to cater to her main constituency. She managed to get 30.28 percent votes  whereas SP got 25.45 percent and BJP was stuck with only 17.01 percent.  BJP getting such a low  percentage in the cow belt is indeed matter of great worry for it. Though it is too early to say that now  voters do not vote on the basis of caste and communal identity, the Mayawati experiment of forming a  rainbow coalition of castes and communities clearly shows that one can manage to get votes, if one  clearly aims at reflecting the social diversity of all castes and communities. This has to be promoted in  order to cater to our social diversity.


Another lesson one has to draw from last election in Bihar and this election in U.P. is that no party can  take for granted the political support of certain combination of castes and communities forever. For  several decades the Congress had its support base among Brahmins, Muslims and Dalits but it came  apart in the eighties and Congress lost power. Then the Congress in Gujarat in 1985 elections under  the leadership of Solanki tried combination of Kshatriya, Harijan and Muslims (KHAM) but it did not  last beyond one election as Solanki suspended reservations for these sections of society immediately  after winning election.


Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar and Mulayam Singh Yadav in U.P. won on MY (Muslims and Yadavs)  formula. First Lalu lost in Bihar in last election and now Mulayam Singh lost in U.P. Both had taken  Muslim support for granted in the name of security while doing little for their economic uplift. Both the  elections in Bihar and now in U.P. prove that security is important but not enough.


Neither Lalu Prasad nor Mulayam Singh Yadav did much for economic uplift of Muslims in either Bihar  or in U.P., except make some promises. The Sachar Committee of course opened the eyes of  Muslims and they feel no political party has really done much for their well-being. Lalu could win three  elections in a row on Yadav and Muslim support but except for preventing riots he disappointed  Muslims. Mulayam Singh’s case was worse.


Neither he could prevent breakout of communal violence nor he could ensure economic well-being  and Muslims changed their loyalty and switched their votes to BSP leader Mayawati. Now people want  results and cannot be satisfied with hollow promises. The U.P. elections have clearly proved this once  again.


Two things are absolutely essential for contemporary India: reflection of social diversity in its politics  and also assuring economic welfare for all through just distribution of economic resources. Also, it is  highly necessary to prevent outbreak of communal violence. Any party which bases its politics on  Hindutva or Islam should have no place in secular India. The election commission should derecognize  BJP if it continues to base its politics on Hindutva. How can it be acceptable in secular India?


It is also necessary in as diverse a society as India that we do away with the British system of first  pass the pole method of conducting elections and make it compulsory for a winning candidate to  obtain 51 percent of the total votes polled. This will ensure inclusive politics and no party then will  appeal only to this or that vote bank. The winning candidate will have to appeal to all castes and  communities in his/her constituency. The British society was almost mono-religious and mono-cultural  when it evolved this election system and we just copied it without much thought as to our own social  reality. Sooner we do it the better it will be. Mayawati, one can say, has made some kind of beginning  with her inclusive rainbow politics and this should make us reflect more deeply.



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