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UPwallahs on Election 2012

Last updated on: January 24, 2012 20:38 IST

'It is likely to be a BSP-BJP government in UP'

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Sheela Bhatt in Lucknow

Sheela Bhatt launches a special series where well-informed Uttar Pradesh residents discuss the psyche of voters, the personalities of its leaders and the socio-cultural lives of the people of the election-bound state.

Uttar Pradesh's political leaders say the voters are silent on who will win next month's assembly election in the state.

The voters say the many poll promises have confused them. Political pundits find the situation riveting, but wisdom requires carefully watching the sound and the dust of the five-week election campaign.

Six factors will play a stellar part in this election. The ruling Bahujan Samaj Party wants to retain power. The Samajwadi Party is its strongest rival.

The Congress party is the strongest challenger to the established regional players. The Bharatiya Janata Party is waiting to win by default and with the help of the vulnerabilities, which are a-plenty, of its three main rivals.

The high stakes involved for these four parties have led them to prop up individuals and smaller parties who can divide their rivals's votes.

These 'Vote katwa' candidates will have a limited, but crucial, role this election.

Another major factor will be the power of the Election Commission versus the political parties.

In this special Rediff.com series, we dwell into the psyche of voters, the personalities of leaders and the socio-cultural lives of the people of Uttar Pradesh.

The series begins with Arundhati Dhuru, a Lucknow resident.

Originally a Mumbai native, Dhuru is a leader of the National Alliance of People's Movements. With her husband, Magsaysay Award winner Dr Sandeep Pandey, she has been deeply engaged in education, grassroots empowerment and issues related to food security. She spoke to Sheela Bhatt.

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Image: A Bahujan Samaj Party election rally in Lucknow. (Inset) Arundhati Dhuru
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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'The BJP will do well in towns and cities'

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On the assembly election 2012

This is going to be a major election, not only for Uttar Pradesh, but for India. It will impact us more deeply than we think. It must be said that after a long time in UP, the BSP can take credit for completing its five-year term.

The fight is between the BSP, the Samajwadi Party, the BJP and the Congress.

Most probably, we will see the BSP lose seats, but still in the reckoning. The SP and BJP will be in second and third positions; the Congress may end up last.

The BJP will do well in the towns and cities. The traders support the BJP. I see a lot of polarisation taking place. It is obviously helped by (Congress General Secretary) Digvijay Singh and (senior Samajwadi Party leader) Azam Khan.

This controversy about Salman Rushdie and the Deoband's reactions may add to the BJP's gains.

In Uttar Pradesh many people are talking about the Peace Party started by Dr Mohammad Ayub. Probably, the BJP will gain out of it. It is going to help the BJP in the polarisation of voters on communal lines.

In Jaunpur people were talking about it (the Peace Party). I found it difficult to tell people that it is actually going to divide Muslim votes. And that will help primarily the BJP only.

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Image: A BJP worker installs his party's symbol at the party office in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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'Muslims in UP have not forgotten the Babri Masjid judgment'

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On Muslim voters

The Muslims in UP were with the Congress, then they went to the SP, and in the last election some Muslims -- especially voters of the Pasmanda Samaj -- voted for the Congress. Dalit Muslims have been voting for Mayawati.

In general, Muslims are frustrated and there is simmering anger about the Lucknow high court's Babri Masjid judgment. The country has forgotten it, but Muslims in UP have not. The Congress had welcomed the judgment.

People see that with suspicion. We see many of our Muslim friends and the communities we work with have not forgotten the judgment.

They feel the Congress played a very negative role behind shaping of the event. Congressmen wanted this judgment without doing anything for the Muslims to claim 'justice for Muslims.'

Muslim voters, who were upset with Kalyan Singh's entry into the SP, voted for the Congress in the Lok Sabha election, but now, as Kalyan Singh is out of the SP, they will vote again for Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The Congress is wooing them desperately. Some community members are in confusion. I doubt whether the SP has been able to unify the Muslim vote.

At the same time, I think the Congress's 4.5 per cent quota for Muslims will not win the hearts of all Muslims.

Elite Muslims have always voted for the Congress. But that is not the vote which is the deciding factor.

The Pasmanda Samaj and poor Muslims will decide the fate of the political parties.

I don't see that poor Muslim's vote going to the Congress at the moment. We must remember that people -- whether Hindu or Muslim -- in UP have totally lost trust in the Congress.

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Image: Muslim women wait to vote in Varanasi during the 2009 general election
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'Rahul Gandhi is not into serious political play'

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On Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi, to many of us, is like a prince who is coming over to see us. He is not into serious political play.

People still don't associate with him because he is a Rajkumar -- Aaya hai toh dekh lete hai (He has come, so we will see him).

The Congress is not taken seriously because it is not into the serious business of cadre building. It is a very, very weak party at the ground level.

Rahul Gandhi has certainly made his presence felt. He has made certain inroads because he has travelled a lot. His image is that he is continuously on the move, talking to people.

This is certainly going to help the Congress to some extent, but I doubt if the 4.5 percent quota (for Muslims) will help the Congress. I really doubt that.

The declaration of minority reservation is seen by people as a last minute effort to get votes.

Muslims are not stupid anymore to carry their votes anywhere (to any party) and make fools of themselves.

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Image: Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi at an election meeting at Jari village, UP
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

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'Mayawati has moved away from the Dalit agenda'

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Has Mayawati carried forward the Dalit agenda?

I think she has moved away from that agenda certainly. She has certainly moved away from (Bahujan Samaj Party founder) Kanshi Ram's agenda.

By talking about Sarvajan (all communities), she has expanded her agenda. She has spoken about 'social engineering.' She is hobnobbing with the Brahmins and the upper castes.

This has, in the eyes of Dalits, not been very positive for the Dalit movement.

And because there were no socio-cultural Dalit movements in UP that could back Dalit-Brahmin 'social engineering,' Mayawati's move remained basically a political act and more an electoral victory.

There are no deep roots for the Dalit-Brahmin partnership.

Obviously, she has moved away from the Dalit agenda. But at the same time, as a shrewd politician, she knows that she cannot move too much away from the Dalits.

Finally her vote bank is the Dalit vote bank.

In the last ten years, what I have seen in the emergence of a BSP, one thing is certain: There is an awakening of the Dalits in UP.

This whole awakening of the Dalit consciousness is without socio-cultural changes as we have witnessed in south India. Still, there is a Dalit awakening.

Dalits are not going to take the things lying down as before. As we saw in the Bhatta Parsaul land case and many other rape cases of Dalit women.

In fact, the battle is now not between the Dalits and the higher castes. The fight is on to divide power between the upper-most communities of the Dalits and Other Backward Classes.

The Dalits are speaking up. I think this is a major contribution of the BSP in Dalit politics.

On Mayawati's leadership

I am quite a fan. I have a lot of respect because I know it is very difficult for a single woman -- also a Dalit woman -- without any political backing of a family or a lineage or money to join politics and to stand on her own to make a place for herself.

She is least bothered about middle-class virtues and values. She gives a hoot to all of us. She is just not bothered about what we think. She does things as per her agenda. She has carved a place for herself.

As a woman she has proved better than many male leaders. She may not be a feminist, but on some issues she has taken a stand. But they have never been publicised.

Judge her in terms of her understanding law and order and how it affects women. I have a lot of respect for her as a woman.

I don't think she has done anything special to check corruption. There is corruption under her rule. But she's a kid when you compare what is happening in Delhi or what is happening in the Mumbai and Gujarat stock exchanges.

I mean UP is nothing compared to the corruption of the 2G scam and the Commonwealth Games. She is not even making peanuts if you know how deals are cut in New Delhi. Why blame her only?

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Image: UP Chief Minister Mayawati addresses the media in New Delhi
Photographs: Vijay Mathur/Reuters

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'Land is the biggest issue in UP'

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On development in UP

Unfortunately, development has taken a back seat. It has not happened. Although I am an admirer of Mayawati as a woman politician and what she has done for the Dalits, the whole issue of development has remained unattended.

It is the issue over which this election should have been fought.

It is a tragedy that after so many years we are again fighting the election on the issues of caste and religion. I largely deal with the issue of food security and land development. UP is so backward. No one has done anything for it. Neither Mayawati nor the SP nor the Congress.

Land is the biggest issue in UP. UP has a huge population and land. People don't have skills. How do people employ land to earn more money should have been the worry of political leaders.

In the coming years, land is going to be the major issue.

Mayawati could have handled it differently. She could have handled the whole Dalit agenda by redistribution of land, which nobody ever did anywhere in India. She didn't do that.

Giving one room, under the Awas Yojna, to the poorest of poor is not enough. How will a family of 5 or 7 live in a room?

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Image: A scene from Rae Bareli: Development has remained unattended in UP, says Arundhati Dhuru
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'Samajwadi Party has forgotten its Socialist agenda'

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On Mulayam Singh Yadav

The Samjawadi Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav have forgotten their Socialist agenda. There is no agenda anymore. It is the simple politics of grabbing the chair.

Unfortunately, the dream of equitable distribution of wealth has taken a backseat a long time ago.

There are a few MPs and MLAs and many powerful people in the Samajwadi Party who have an understanding of the class divide, but they are sidelined due to the dirty politics of the Yadav family.

Mulayam once was the son of the soil. He really understood people's issues, but how people like (former Samajwadi Party general secretary) Amar Singh destroyed the whole party is unfortunate. It has not been able to come back to its ideological roots.

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Image: Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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'I am ready to give Mayawati another five years to remedy what she has not done'

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The probable election result

The likely scenario is going to be a government of the BSP-BJP.

Many think the SP will form the government with Congress help. In that case the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) in New Delhi will become too powerful and that is going to be the dangerous thing.

The whole UPA agenda is going more and more towards globalisation. We are scared of the Planning Commission's agenda.

I would not like the Congress to become powerful in any way in UP because UP is going to decide major things.

I wish Mayawati gets a majority to form a government on her own, rather than the BJP supporting it.

If Mayawati forms the government with BJP help, then it will give the BJP much more leverage to play its right-wing politics, which obviously I am not happy about.

I am ready to give Mayawati another five years to remedy what she has not done. She should go on with a deeper vision and holistic development of UP. That is the best bet for UP, according to me.

The SP won't be able to form the government on its own. Mayawati doesn't have a deeper vision, but the SP doesn't have any vision at all. The SP had a political philosophy once upon a time, but now it has lost it.

Mayawati stands a better chance. At least the Dalit awakening will have an overall long-term effect. I will still vote for the BSP.

Glimmer of hope

Caste is the dominating factor in UP. In the last 13 years, people have started talking about development. There is again the hope that the more Dalits and Pasmanda Muslims have this new consciousness about development so they will raise development issues when they vote.

They are not only going to vote on the basis of caste because they are the people who have to survive on day-to-day incomes. Remember, caste and class are very much synonymous in UP.

I go to villages to check the mid-day meal scheme. Every time I see in government schools, only Dalit and the poorest Muslim children. They are the children of Mushhars (a community that kills rats for a living) and such communities or tribals.

When you go upwards, when you climb the social economic ladder, you join private schools. So the caste and class combination always exists, especially in a state like UP where it is very, very, close.

Voters in UP will vote along with their caste leaders because they are very sure and dignified about their caste. But at the same time they will bring issues of development to the table.

Only poor Dalits and Muslims will finally find the solutions to the problems of UP.

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Image: Mayawati arrives for a function in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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