Saturday, May 12, 2007

Mayawati sweep in UP: first impressions

My immediate thoughts on Mayawati's victorious sweep in UP:

  • The media reaction ranges from favourable to ecstatic: like the electorate in UP, the media seems to think that an alternative to the Congress and the BJP is welcome. The reporting in the media also notes the return of the coalition that helped the Congress dominate elections until 1967: Brahmin-Mulsim- Dalit. Mayawati has recreated this coalition under Dalit leadership. Evidently, Brahmins are happy to be back in the seat of power even if they are not calling the shots. This is a reaction to OBC domination in UP and other places.
  • I am inclined to take the talk about the rejection of 'criminalisation of politics' under Mulayam Singh Yadav with a pinch of salt. The projected vote share of the SP is under 27%. Mayawati's BSP is expected to have a vote share of around 31%- a substantial gain over the 23-24% she has managed in the past and above the Dalit share of the population of 21%. It appears that Mayawati has gained at the expense of the BJP and the Congress rather than the SP. Corruption and criminalisation of politics are hardly relevant factors with the electorate. The charges in the Taj corridor scam against Mayawati has made little dent on her appeal.
  • One must not forget the OBC factor in the victory of the BSP. M S Yadav, like Laloo Prasad, represents the upper crust of the OBCs, the Yadavs and, to some extent, the Kurmis. But some of the Kurmis and also the MBCs (most backward castes) have felt left out under Yadav rule and have made common cause with Mayawati. This reaffirms what many commentators have said in the past: OBC is not a homogenous category, it conceals variations and divisions- this is relevant to the ongoing OBC quota debate.

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