Home Opinions The failure of Mahagathbandhan in UP: Have voters finally discarded caste-based politics?

The failure of Mahagathbandhan in UP: Have voters finally discarded caste-based politics?

There is an India beyond newsroom debates and intellectual columns in papers. Unnoticed by so-called 'secular, liberal' ecosystem, that India has been quietly breaking the chains of caste, community and narrow regionalism.

The grand festival of democracy is over. In a massive election that had 900 million voters in the world’s largest democracy, the mandate of the public has been given and PM Narendra Modi’s BJP has reached a thumping majority on its own.

The 2019 verdict is significant in many ways. First, it means that the people of the country have reposed their trust in PM Modi’s leadership. Unlike the opposition parties, BJP had proudly presented the ‘face’ of the future leader of India. The magic that had worked in 2014 reaffirmed its dominance, by a bigger, stronger margin this time.

The 2019 verdict is also against dynasty politics, as Smriti Irani crushed Rahul Gandhi in Amethi and the family-run parties like JDS, RJD failed miserably and SP got a meagre number of seats, 2019 can probably be hailed as the beginning of the end of dynasty politics in India.

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Another significant aspect of the 2019 verdict is the utter failure of the SP-BSP Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance). The idea of a Mahagathbandhan was pushed, celebrated and then presented as a sure shot check for BJP’s political dominance over the Indian electorate in 2014. When the RJD-JDU alliance managed to grab Bihar, more than the political parties, it was the so-called ‘neutral media’ of the left-leaning ecosystem that had celebrated, as if they have discovered a secret weapon against the Modi behemoth.

Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the 542 member Lok Sabha. The state has always been a deciding factor for any party that hopes to form a government. The 2014 elections saw an unprecedented saffron surge, giving BJP 71 seats.

For the 2017 UP assembly elections, the SP, BSP and Congress were all wary of the possibilities. While 2014 was discarded as a fluke due to ‘Modi wave’, they had hoped that assembly elections would give them a stronger foothold in the state. The incumbent SP government led by Akhilesh Yadav made a pre-poll alliance with Congress, Priyanka Gandhi brought out her cotton sarees to match Dimple Yadav’s and the ideas of Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh facing Modi’s BJP like Karan Arjun was peddled incessantly by media and the respective parties.

However, that experiment failed too. BJP swept away UP assembly elections by winning an overwhelming 312 seats on its own. SP managed to win 47 while Congress was reduced to a pathetic 7 seats. Mayawati’s BSP got only 19.

In the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections, the SP and BSP had started their experiment again. With BSP’s support, SP made impressive progress and the speculations of a ‘Mahagathbandhan’ being the only antidote for BJP took ground again.

Since 2018, the idea of a ‘United Opposition’ was again being peddled. Congress, or rather Sonia Gandhi made an impressive photo-op show of most, if not all non-BJP CMs standing together, giving the idea of the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ a lasting image to carry forward. Sadly, the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ remained right there, just as a photo-op. It never materialised. Except for DMK, Congress failed to rally regional parties to accept Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, and whenever they tried to hint that, leaders like Mamata Banerjee, TDP’s Naidu and Mayawati kept drifting away.

Many of the regional leaders had prime ministerial aspirations and probably that was what kept them from coming together. Though BSP supported Congress in forming government in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, it made clear that it is only to keep BJP away from power.

Congress had tried a lot, compromised a lot to make a pre-poll alliance with SP. But the Akhilesh’s SP was not keen to forget the debacle of 2017 assembly elections. It offered Congress just 2 seats, Raebareli and Amethi, for a pre-poll alliance. Finally, SP and BSP had come together along with Ajit Singh RLD. As if the public needed any more proof of the fact that it was a purely opportunistic alliance ready to join Congress if their interests are served after the elections, they did not field any candidates from Raebareli and Amethi, the ‘family seats’ of Sonia and Rahul.

PM Modi had called it out way back in January, saying that these alliances are just excuses to cheat the mandate, to somehow make sure that there is a hung parliament and each of the parties gets a chunk of power.

Throughout the campaigning trail, SP and BSP kept asserting that they have nothing to do with Congress. Throughout the campaign, Congress kept hinting that it is trying to indirectly ‘help’ the Mahagathbandhan by swaying votes away from BJP.

Media analysts have treated the SP-BSP alliance as a great political revolution. They hailed them as great reformers banding together to defeat the ‘communal forces’. Mayawati even openly asked for Muslim votes. Congress ecosystem kept saying that while Mayawati will take Muslim and Dalit votes, Akhilesh will take Yadav votes, and Congress will help defeat BJP by stealing away ‘upper caste’ votes.

However, as the election results of UP indicate, the public of UP had finally decided to dump the caste centric voting.

Smashing all speculations, BJP retained 62 of the 71 seats it had won in 2014. As far as vote shares go, reports state that BJP’s vote share has increased to 49.17%, a 6% increase from 2014 levels, and significantly more than SP and BSP combined together.

The average voter today is no longer as gullible as he/she has been in the past. Though the regional parties asking votes in caste lines might have retained some of their core voters, beyond analysis and data crunching, the massive win the BJP has registered can only mean one thing, that voters have voted across caste and community lines.

In the Samajwadi family, only Akhilesh and Mulayam have won. Akshay Yadav, Dharmendra Yadav and Dimple Yadav have lost. Mayawati, though made abundantly clear that she has prime ministerial ambitions, did not even contest. The loss of ‘family bastions’ across the state also means the loosening grip of caste-based politics.

Of the 15 seats the alliance has won, only 7 were won by a margin of over 1 lakh votes. However, of the 62 seats BJP has won, 44 were won by a margin of over 1 lakh, 23 seats had a margin of over 2 lakh votes.

As UP CM Yogi Adityanath has stated, “The voters of the state have rejected Vanshvaad (dynasty politics), Pariwarvaad (nepotism) and Jativaad (casteism). They have chosen Rashtravaad (nationalism) and Vikas (development).”

Beyond the statistics and dissection of votes and voting patterns, one thing we all have to admit is that the mindset of the Indian voters is changing. States who have recently voted Congress to power, have overwhelmingly chosen BJP for the central government. States like UP and Bihar have discarded age-old tactics of caste centric voting and have chosen a party that spoke for national interests and development for all. Assam, which was cited as being ‘angry’ over NRC, has given a thumping victory to BJP, which has promised to pack illegal immigrants off. The poor in India have even rejected the lure of a monthly basic income dole promised by Congress and have chosen BJP.

There is an India beyond newsroom debates and intellectual columns in papers. Unnoticed by so-called ‘secular, liberal’ ecosystem, that India has been quietly breaking the chains of caste, community and narrow regionalism. The 350 plus seats of the NDA are the proof.

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