A curious case of conflicts
BJP has been working on pertinent issues by means of its social schemes as well as by evoking emotional issues
Elections have always been a big event in India. North Indian states, especially Uttar Pradesh, have been known for celebrating elections. An interesting point to ponder is that elections in Uttar Pradesh have either been under emotional clouds like that of Mandal and Mandir or under caste dominated social permutations and combinations. 2014 general election was an exceptional election with extraordinary results contested on the premise of hope for better days.
In 2014 general elections, UP results were swept by BJP – by the Modi wave – when BJP went up from 10 seats in 2009 to 73 seats along with Apna Dal, while Congress went down from 21 seats to 2 seats. SP, which had won 23 seats in 2009, went down to 5 seats but the biggest surprise came with BSP which could not win any seat in 2014 as against 20 seats of 2009 where elections were held in absence of any rational of emotional reasons. In 2004 general elections, SP got its highest ever seats in UP touching up to as high as 35, while BSP was the runner-up with 19 seats, BJP was a distant 10, closely competing with the Congress winning 9 seats. This election was held amidst India shining of BJP and political and social management of Mulayam Singh Yadav along with election management of his brother Shivpal Yadav. It is worth mentioning that Mulayam Singh Yadav was running the state government of Uttar Pradesh during 2004 general elections.
2019 general elections, on the other hand, will be contested under enormous confusion as far as issues in the elections are concerned. SP-BSP alliance has been harping on the strength of their social combine. SP President Akhilesh Yadav has been candidly confessing that he lost 2017 UP assembly elections because BJP was successful in weaving a better caste alliance. To counter this, he worked on bringing many caste-based parties and leaders in his fold. Aligning with BSP was his biggest political coup. Besides, he could also bring in some other caste-based parties and leaders to the alliance such as Nishad Party, Janwadi Party while also working on accommodating few more. With this attempted arithmetic of the alliance of SP and BSP, the grand social chemistry forged by BJP in 2017 is attempted to be countered within a caste-ridden state like Uttar Pradesh.
Congress, on the other hand, has been shouting loud on the agrarian crisis, issue of unemployment and Rafael. With this, Congress has been working on disenchanting core Modi supporters by hitting credibility and competence of PM Modi.
BJP has been focussing on both cognitive as well as effective parameters i.e., focussing on the work done by PM Modi in sync with his "Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas" narrative and also on the narrative created by UP CM Yogi in line with his Hindu hriday samrat image. Thus, BJP has been simultaneously working on raising the rational issues primarily by targeting the beneficiaries of its' schemes as Awas Yojana, Shauchalaya Yojana, Ayushman Yojna, Ujjawala Yojana, Saubhagya Yojna, Mudra Yojna and other Social sector schemes; and secondly, by evoking emotional issues by implementing new names of cities of religious significance, organising Mega Kumbh and burning midnight oil for Ram Mandir construction. Which way this cocktail of issues takes the election results will be seen only in May 2019.
Caste or ethnicities have been an important factor in people's voting behaviour. Interestingly, this phenomenon is not restricted to India but carries significance across the globe. Different studies have used different terms like social identity, social ethnicity, ethnic identity, and the crudest of all: Caste, to convey the same meaning.
(Prof Alok Kumar Rai is Coordinator, PGDBA Program, Faculty of Management Studies, Banaras Hindu University. The views expressed are strictly personal)