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SEEMA MUSTAFA | 11 MARCH, 2017

PM Modi Races Towards 2019 With No Obstacles in Sight: Part 1 - The UP Vote


NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is running towards the 2019 goalpost with no obstacles in sight. Clearing the way at first sight of any opposition is master strategist Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, who does not just mobilise himself but the party that he recognises along with the RSS that works with him.

The end justify the means is the motto of both, as they pull out all the plugs with a bouquet of issues starting with development and moving into communalism.But the work, as this election in Uttar Pradesh has shown does not remain restricted to just the polls, but carries on in the field 365 days a year. And since 2015 the BJP with of course the RSS cadres, had covered almost every Other Backward Caste household in eastern UP in particular.

This was known but the Samajwadi party and the Bahujan Samaj party insisted that despite the effort, the BJP had not been able to unite the other backwards behind it. This is a huge constituency that has in the past Assembly polls not voted as a one whole. However, it has this time around and has made the crucial difference between the BJP victory and the slump in Opposition ranks. This consolidation along with the upper castes is sufficient in itself to propel the BJP into the current figures in central and eastern UP belts.

West UP was sewn up for the BJP in 2013 after the Muzaffarnagar violence. There was a pre-2017 poll shift in the Jat support, angry about demonetisation but more about the sugarcane and reservation issues but Amit Shah, a human dynamo by any standards, met with them individually and in groups as reported initially by The Citizen, clearly overcoming the anger and the resentment.

The Jat-Upper Castes-OBC combination is a winning formula with the other communities can do nothing to halt. There have been signs of the Yadavs and the Dalits moving to the BJP---the youth of both these communities did so in 2014 Lok Sabha polls---and in the coming years this consolidation along with the rest behind the BJP is almost certain.

The Samajwadi party was unable to cut into the OBC vote. The Congress did not have a vote as is evident in the results. And the Yadav plus Muslim vote bank that the Alliance was hoping for could have worked only with the other votes. As in the sole Rae Bareilly where the candidate was able to get the upper caste vote; or in Varanasi South where the Congress Brahmin candidate managed to keep himself in the fight on the strength of his own reach within the community---fuelled more by a rebellion withinthe BJP ranks that was also contained to some extent-- along with the other votes that the Alliance got with it.

PM Modi gave a legitimacy to communalisation with his kabristan and shamshaan ghat comments, but the fact is that this kind of polarisation has been the BJPs campaign plank in the state for decades, and most aggressively since 2013. Clearly, it has had an impact on the OBC’s ignored by the Congress in the decades while it was in power, and even by the Janata Dal despite its Mandal plank.

This huge vote bank has in the pre-Mandal dark ages as it were been kept out of decision making by the Congress that had relied entirely on the Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit combination to keep itself in power for crucial decades after Independence. The Janata Dal, despite losing its government in Delhi on the Mandal issue, did not go into the backward belt that even then--Kurmi and Lodh Rajputs to name some of the more dominant OBCs---had started shifting to the BJP on the Ram Mandir issue.

What was begun then, has been completed now by Shah who has directed the party to work amongst this caste, just as the BJP had worked with the essentially Lok Dal vote of Jats in western UP since 2013 after the Muzaffarnagar violence. Incidentally in these few years UP has reported over 400 incidents of communal violence, low intensity but sufficient clearly to communalise the situation and polarise the votes.

PM Modi has been the star campaigner, feeding into the ground campaign with targeted speeches, and strategised visits. There is nothing left to chance, everything choreographed and planned as per Shah and the team from Gujarat that follows him everywhere. Issues that arise---such as demonetisation for instance---are dealt with almost immediately. One major argument to bring over the OBC and other smaller communities heard in Varanasi was that all would be well if they voted for the forces hat would end the “appeasement” of the minorities. Of course the words used were far stronger, and the arguments at this point at least unprintable.

UP has proven, more effectively than any other Assembly election, that PM Modi remains the brand and carries the vote. The BJP is secondary, and will have to follow his lead. The RSS too works in conjunction with him, and cannot hope to achieve its agenda without him and Shah in charge. This has been proven to a point where UP has placed him, Shah and their close knit team at the very top. All the way to, and perhaps through, 2019.

(Read also: http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/NewsDetail/index/1/10138/PM-Modi-Races-Towards-2019-With-No-Obstacles-in-Sight-Part-2-The-Opposition)

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