Demonetisation Turns Focus from Caste to Class in UP
NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata party was hoping to make demonetisation the election platform for the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh elections, but the manner in which it has played out may actually bring dividends to the opposing parties---Congress, Samajwadi, Bahujan Samaj---that have launched a campaign cutting across the usual caste and religious lines in the state.
Aware of a shift in the constituencies that have overwhelmingly supported Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 elections, the BJP top brass in its wisdom had thought that demonetisation would one, rob the opposing parties of the pre-election black money that plays a major role in the polls; and two, entice the poor across castes yet again to support the PM for bringing the ‘rich’ and the ‘corrupt’ to book.
However, the continuing chaos that seems to be poised to extend beyond PM Modi’s ‘give me 50 days’ deadline has the politicial opponents out in the field trying fast to stock up their share of votes on a class and not a caste basis. If the chaos continues, as senior economists across India, have written volumes to say it will the non-BJP parties hope to extend their votes to cover the other sections of the disaffected and angry masses.
This is visible from the strong attack by all three, including the normally BJP-supportive Samajwadi party, that has joined hands with the Opposition in Parliament to pillory the government on this issue. But the real attack on demonetisation has been mounted by the Congress that hopes to woo the upper castes, its erstwhile constituency, in the state. And Mayawati who is now on a mission, declaring repeatedly that the BJP has to be pushed to the fourth position in UP.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has taken charge of the demonetisation campaign, with his one line slogans such as “Paytm is Pay to Modi” trending on the social media. The Congress, despite his efforts, however, continues to lack an effective organisation in UP although with the larger reach by Rahul Gandhi to farmers, his 20 odd day tour of the state, and now this campaign against demonetisation the Congress is making its presence felt. Although so far there is no indication that this will convert itself into even a fractionally larger number of seats, as the election will be intense and the Congress party has stil to acquire the teeth to be in the reckoning.
Mayawati, however, has emerged with no holds barred. And clearly the enthusiasm visible in her after a long while seems to have emerged from a feedback that her larger constituency of Dalits---many who had voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls---has returned, or is fast returning to the fold. The Rohith Vemula incident where the young Dalit scholar committed suicide, the Una flogging and other incidents have helped her revive her base, more so as she took a decisive stand in both Parliament and outside.
In what is clearly a step-by-step approach, Mayawati moved to address the Muslims in UP after she was confident of her Dalit vote bank. And for the past several weeks has been taking up the cudgels for this harassed and terrified community in UP. This has been working in her favour on the ground, but as reports suggest now, the revival of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav sans his father Mulayam Singh has given the minorities new pause for thought. In that the young CM is seen as credible and is soaring popularity since he took on the old guard of the party, has halted the shifting Muslim vote according to politicians from the state, at least at this point in time.
Demonetisation, has opened new vistas for the opposing political parties, particularly Mayawati who has finally been able to emerge from the caste mould into which she has willy nilly been cast. Always looking for the non-Dalit vote, she had been finding it difficult to attract the upper caste voter this time around, despite effort. She has now sounded the war bugle on demonetisation, terming it anti-poor, and taking the campaign outside the Dalit mohallas to address all sections.
The battle is thus, fast becoming the poor versus the rich with all political parties in the UP fray claiming to speak for the former. The BJP argument that is being carried by PM Modi, the RSS workers in the districts, and of course by large sections of the media is that demonetisation will end black money, it has sent the rich running for cover, and the government will not rest until all tax evaders, fake currency printers, and terror funders have been nabbed and jailed.
The entire Opposition, of course not supported by the propaganda machinery that is the media, is now in the field as well with the argument that demonetisation has attacked the poor, taken them out of business, hurt their savings and their livelihood while the tax evaders, the rich and the corrupt have got away already. It is business as usual for the rich, but the poor alone have been denied access to their hard earned savings.
Powerful campaigns, with the poorer sections as a class balanced in the middle. After 50 days the tide is expected to turn---either way----as the poor then will start making up their minds about demonetisation, and later reflect this in what could well be a surge to the ballot box for one or the other political party. The verdict on demonetisation of the class that all are wooing will add to the sway of creed and caste, and that will make UP the real precursor to 2019.