UP Polls: Jats, Dalits, Muslims Take a Stand
NEW DELHI: It is not always that voters declare their intentions before polling day. But the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh this time with high stakes has three major communities of the constituencies in the western region declaring their intent very openly. And except for tactical voting in specific constituencies where the candidates of chosen parties are not up to the mark, these three groups seem to be very clear about where they are going, and/or where they are not going.
The first to know their mind were the Dalits who responded proactively to the Bahujan Samaj Party campaign that was first to penetrate the rural areas, with Mayawati declaring her candidates far ahead of the others in the fray. Dalits, usually quiet, came up to this writer voluntarily and did not hesitate to say they would be voting for Behenji when the question was raised.
Dalits in BJP muscle man Sangeet Som’s constituency Saldana were also very vocal about voting for the ‘haathi’ the BSP symbol. The women sitting outside their little tenements were not as honest, but indicated the same saying, “the present MLA has done nothing for us, no one does anything for us.” An elderly man who said he had a small business said they would be voting for Mayawati. Asked why they had deserted her in the Lok Sabha elections he laughed and said, “well we had to teach her a lesson, we have done that, now we will vote for her.”
In 2014 the Dalits had been silent, with the youth in particular mesmerised by the promises made at the shock and awe rallies by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This time there is no such impact, in fact the reverse with demonetisation, and the Dalit vote seems to have consolidated behind Mayawati.
The Jat vote, dominant in the districts of UP, is categorical too not so much about whom it will vote for, but more about the political party it will not vote for. The BJP that has been unable to reward the Jats with reservations, jobs, subsidies after the Muzaffarnagar violence is today clutching at the wrong end of the stick. Jats from Haryana arrived to hold a meeting, and the word that has spread like wildfire since is, “do not vote for the BJP, teach them a lesson.” Although it remains to be seen whether this sentiment will hold.
This vote bank is looking favourably at the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Ajit Singh who has revived somewhat in the process. If he had joined the SP-Congress alliance as was initially rumoured, this gatbandhan would have swept through the west UP constituencies but now he is expected to do well. The Jats are keen to vote for “our own leader” this time around, and the RLD is hopeful of winning at least those seats where this community can influence the final tally. There is no sign as yet of other vote banks looking as positively at the RLD with Ajit Singh having lost much of his credibility with the voters.
The Muslims were confused initially, particularly when the Samajwadi family was slugging it out. After Akhilesh Yadav won the battle and got the symbol as well, the Muslim vote has consolidated behind the SP-Congress alliance. In fact it has consolidated across UP, with the minority community having made up its mind now ahead of the polls. It is vocal, and supportive.
Except in some constituencies where the BSP candidate is strong, the Muslim has by and large gone over to the gatbandhan en bloc.
Victory for the BJP lies in keeping these communities apart, and getting in a sizeable section of the other backward, upper caste votes in for its candidates. Victory for the others lies in consolidating these respective vote banks and then adding the vote of other communities like Yadavs, youth across castes,other backwards, Brahmins etc to the pool. This is what all are working at with the gatbandhan focusing for instance on development to attract the youth across all castes. Success will of course, be determined by the voters.