OPINION | 'Caste-ing' Shadow Over UP Dreams: Neither Chemistry Nor Math, Newton's Law Pulled Down SP-BSP Alliance
Changing age-old views, suspicions, perceptions, and prejudices in our society is a formidable task and definitely not something which Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav could do away with in a few months.
News18 illustration by Mir Suhail
Some referred to it as the mother of all alliances. Some called it a political master stroke. Some overzealous souls even shouted checkmate Modi. And yet, proving all these soothsayers wrong, the Uttar Pradesh mahagathbandhan between the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) was nothing but a damp squib that not only brought ignominy to the leaders of these parties, but also effectively brought down curtains on this failed experiment.
Out of the 80 seats up for grabs in UP Lok Sabha elections, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) won 64 (including alliance partner Apna Dal), a loss of mere 9 seats compared to its tally of 73 in 2014. Among the Mahagathbandhan partners, BSP was the biggest gainer with 10 seats, a substantial hike from ‘zero’ seats in 2014. SP managed five with no gain or loss to its kitty, while RLD once again failed to open its account.
With final tally being 64:15 in favour of BJP, the results have been catastrophic for the architects of this alliance, especially SP chief Akhilesh Yadav whose yet another strategic partnership failed to bear fruit after the blunder of alliance with Congress in 2017 Assembly elections.
The break-up was expected. No surprises at BSP chief Mayawati declaring that her party will go solo in the bypolls to the 11 assembly constituencies in UP. But what was not expected was that she would rub salt on Akhilesh Yadav’s wound by saying that even his core vote bank of Yadavs has ditched SP, and was the foremost cause of electoral defeats of his wife and cousins. But if Mayawati was right, BSP candidates would not have won from Jaunpur and Ghazipur which have sizable Yadav population.
So what went wrong with this partnership? A slight digress into the realm of business. As per the 2014 Report on the Strategic Value of Business Alliances and Compatible Partner Matching prepared after interviewing 330 senior executives around the world, revealed that although strategic partnerships were rated as important, almost half reported high failure rates (failure rate of 60% or more).
The point the report makes is that forming an alliance (referring here to corporate alliance between two companies) is the easiest part, but to manage and develop the partnership on the ground is the hardest part. This also holds true for alliances in politics.
A close examination of the ground realities reveal that the alliance was neither supported by arithmetic nor chemistry, and if I may say so — neither Physics. British Physicist Issac Newton’s third law of motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And here in lies the tale of this alliance.
To put it in perspective, while the alliance brought Jatavs, Yadavs, Muslims under one umbrella as a reaction, it consolidated all the other caste groups under the other umbrella (BJP).
Talking about arithmetic, while there has not been a caste census in the state since 1931, it is believed that Yadavs constitute around nine percent, Jatavs about 11 percent while Muslims constitute around 20 percent of population in UP. Adding the three gives you the figure of 40 percent.
On the other hand, upper castes, non-Yadav backwards and non-Jatav Dalits constitute 60 percent of the population. No sooner was the alliance declared, BJP touted the battle of UP between ‘40 percent’ versus ‘60 percent’; or say Jatavs-Yadavs-Muslims versus the rest. A reverse consolidation was forged.
BJP very strategically and very systematically isolated Yadavs from other Backward Castes, and Jatavs from other Scheduled Castes. And, with its core vote bank of upper castes firmly behind it, delivered what seemed like an improbability. Results reveal that not only did BJP shepherd all the other castes, it even cut into Yadav and Jatav voters in several constituencies. A huge achievement indeed.
Let’s talk about the chemistry now. Changing age-old views, suspicions, perceptions, and prejudices in our society is a formidable task and definitely not something which Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav could wish away with in the space of few months.
The bitter socio-political animosity between the Jatavs and Yadavs where the latter have been at the receiving end of the misuse of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 is a fact. SP had no business to call for a stronger SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act after it was diluted last year by the Central government on orders of the Supreme Court.
The bitterness is also evident by the fact that there are villages in UP where the Jatavs of the village, as a matter of their pride and politics, do not work in the fields of Yadavs, no matter what the wages.
They would rather go to distant village than work in a Yadav’s field in their own village. However, no efforts were made to bring down these walls of hatred. No social or bhaichara (brotherhood) meetings were held, no larger picture was presented, and there was no coordination at all at the ground level.
Besides, the mahagathbandhan failed to provide or promise an alternative vision, agenda to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP stood for. It was a hurriedly cobbled alliance stitched just to keep Modi away from the post of prime minster.
On the other hand, while there were chinks galore in the armour of mahagathbandhan, BJP left no stone unturned to consolidate its fort. Modi’s larger than life image of a powerful, go-getter, no-nonsense administrator, central government’s welfare/development schemes that benefited crores in UP, Balakot air strike to avenge Pulwama attacks, etc was major plus for the BJP.
Equally important, if not more, was the Shah factor. The due credit should be given to BJP chief Amit Shah for meticulous planning, expanding through coalitions and inductions, better booth management, smarter ticket distribution and mounting an election campaign so precise and clinical — would make an army general proud of.
In politics, like in life, it is not the most talented or the most intelligent who survive, but the ones who are most responsive and adaptive to change. The Mandal politics has bore enough fruits for the BSP and SP.
It’s time the two parties now look beyond the issue of reservations and re-invent themselves by becoming more inclusive and committed towards the general good of the public and not just their marked communities. The two parties should walk the talk, ideologically strengthen themselves and issues of socialism, equality, liberty and secularism which they claim to be the bedrock of their party, should become the bedrock of their everyday politics and not just lip service during the elections. It won’t work like this anymore.
The winds of change are blowing, and remember — only the most adaptive and accommodating will survive.
(Author is a freelance writer. Views expressed are personal.)
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