DThe distribution of tickets in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election in 2022 tells us something important about the tactics of political parties. Researcher in political science, Arvind Kumar collected primary data on the social and religious origins of the candidates of the three main political formations of the UP. It gives us an insight into the functioning and mentalities of political parties. I eliminate the conclusions which seem to me crucial. Data is for all 403 state assembly seats.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is standing alone in this election, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) have formed coalitions. Here are the important points to note:
BJP and allies: The party awarded the most seats (173) to upper caste candidates. In this broad category, the Thakurs/Rajputs have the largest share (71), closely followed by the Brahmins (68). The BJP did not give a single seat to Muslims. It gave fair representation to OBCs (143). In the OBCs, the party has given priority to Kurmis and Mauryas/Kushwahas. In the Schedule Caste (SC) seats, the BJP gave almost equal representation to the Chamars/Jatavs (27) and the Pasis (25).
SP and allies: The party led by Akhilesh Yadav donated most (171) of its tickets to OBCs. The Yadavs (52) and Kurmis (37) got a fair share of seats, as did the Muslims (63) and Brahmins (39). In the SC seats, the Jatavs/Chamars (42) secured the largest share of seats.
BSP: Mayawati’s party is betting heavily on Muslim (86), Brahmin (70) and jatav/chamar (65) candidates. The OBC representation in the BSP tickets is good (114), but remains lower than that of the other two formations. Among the OBCs, the BSP prioritized the Kurmis (24), Yadavs (18) and Mauryas/Kushwahas (17).
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BJP, SP, BSP Projects
The allocation of seats by these parties is in accordance with their policy. He tells us that despite being a modern political system, democracy in India is still largely a communal concept and that castes and religious identities play a crucial role in electoral mobilization. In this sense, India is a country of communities, and the formation of society is still ongoing and largely an unfinished task.
The BJP continues its saga of the Hindu-Muslim binary. Not giving a single seat to a community that constitutes almost a fifth of the total population of the UP seems bizarre, but it is fine for the BJP. Following the Savarkarite ideas of ‘Punya Bhumi’ and ‘Pitri Bhumi’, the BJP believes in altering Muslims, which pays the party well in terms of electoral gains.
Another important part of the BJP’s history is the re-emergence of savarna or upper caste dominance in UP politics, under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath. After almost three decades of Silent Revolution (emergence of the OBCs), the upper castes experienced a great comeback. The BJP led the charge this time. He finally broke the dominance of SP and BSP by alienating certain sections from them – the non-Yadav OBCs of the SP and the non-Jatav SCs of the BSP. It seems that the Brahmin-Thakur-Baniya trio have found their destination in the BJP and the party, in turn, is taking good care of them. Meanwhile, the BJP is also trying to make inroads in the Jatavs/Chamars.
As for the SP, it tries to replicate its old model. He mainly relies on the Muslim-Yadav equation. This time, Akhilesh Yadav is trying to forge a new social coalition with the Jats, Kurmis and Jatavs. Meanwhile, his party also relies on the premise that Brahmins are not happy with Yogi Adityanath and hence he has fielded a large number of Brahmins. Although Thakurs is unlikely to abandon the BJP in this election, the SP still fielded quite a few as many Thakur leaders have a former association with the SP and the party was unable to put them aside while deciding on ticket distribution. The SP is considering support from the OBC based on its idea that the community is unhappy with the BJP government.
The BSP is trying to copy its model of 2007 when the party came to power with a majority for the first and only time. As Arvind Kumar says, the BSP replicates the good old model of the Brahmin-Muslim-Dalit Congress, but with one major difference. In the BSP model, the first place goes to a Dalit leader. This time, the BSP beat the SP by giving representation to Muslims and at the same time beat the BJP by giving tickets to Brahmins. It’s the Sarvajan BSP model.
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Stick to the Basics
Apart from minor tweaks, the UP parties followed their basic ideas and didn’t transgress much when it came to ticket distribution. There are unanswered questions like ‘will the Brahmins still vote for the BJP’ or ‘will some of them switch allegiance to the BSP and the SP?’ Likewise, will non-Yadav OBCs switch sides and join the SP group? Will Muslims vote for the BSP’s Muslim candidate? How will Jatavs respond to SP and BJP outreach?
Above all, will there be a non-partisan secular question? Many are wondering about the anti-incumbent factor against the Adityanath government and issues such as unemployment, the threat of cattle, the plight of farmers, the benefits of cash transfers, which will transcend all caste and religion boundaries and will have an impact on the voting behavior of large sections of the electorate.
These responses will play a role in the outcome of the 2022 UP assembly elections.
The author is the former editor of India Today Hindi magazine and has written books on media and sociology. He tweets @Profdilipmandal. Views are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)