THE POL­I­TICS OF CON­VER­GENCE

India Today - - SIGNATURE -

Friends make the worst en­e­mies, says Frank Underwood in Sea­son 2 of the chill­ing Wash­ing­ton po­lit­i­cal drama House of Cards. The lap­top-lov­ing Sa­ma­jwadi Party ( SP) can down­load the 13 new episodes of the soap to see po­lit­i­cal chi­canery that beats even theirs. And to learn the im­por­tant les­son from Vice-Pres­i­dent Underwood, never take any­one or any­thing for granted. For that may well be what will undo the SP in Ut­tar Pradesh in the next elec­tions. If his­tory and psephol­ogy are on the same page, then it is clear that Mus­lims in Ut­tar Pradesh may well desert Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav and vote for Mayawati—the anger in Aligarh Mus­lim Univer­sity which forced the SP chief to can­cel his visit is a case in point. The pol­i­tics of as­pi­ra­tion, or rather pol­i­tics of des­per­a­tion, will tri­umph over the pol­i­tics of casteism.

Nor will it be the first time. It hap­pened in 2009, na­tion­ally, when people voted for con­tin­ued progress, giv­ing Congress a larger man­date. It worked again in the state too, where Rahul Gandhi seemed to have bro­ken away from the BSP and SP and was sug­gest­ing he was a stayer, not a some­time player. Vot­ers gave Congress 21 Lok Sabha seats when they had only 22 As­sem­bly con­stituen­cies. It worked in 2007 when Mayawati re­placed Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav’s cor­rupt govern­ment—though she quickly dis­ap­pointed the voter by in­duct­ing crim­i­nals into her party. The BJP had been roundly de­feated be­cause it was then headed by Kalyan Singh whose close aide Kusum Rai was hob­nob­bing with SP.

It worked again in 2012, when Akhilesh promised a new pol­i­tics, free of Amar Singh, D.P. Ya­dav, and Mu­layam Singh Ya­dav. He promised English, lap­tops and jobs. In­stead, the state again got ap­pease­ment pol­i­tics and ram­pant in­dis­ci­pline. The pol­i­tics of as­pi­ra­tion alone ex­plains why SP got 224 seats when their tra­di­tional Mus­lim and Ya­dav votes would have got them a mere 123. With a record num­ber of ri­ots and par­ti­san ad­min­is­tra­tion, the state is now ripe for BJP’S pick­ing. If se­nior BJP lead­ers are ex­ult­ing over young Ya­davs flock­ing to the party, it is with rea­son. They be­lieve the party has been able to con­sol­i­date the

THE POL­I­TICS OF AS­PI­RA­TION ALONE EX­PLAINS WHYTHE SA­MA­JWADI PARTY GOT 224 SEATS WHEN THEIR TRA­DI­TIONAL MUS­LIM AND YA­DAV VOTES WOULD HAVE GOT THEM JUST 123. WITH A RECORD NUM­BER OF RI­OTS AND PAR­TI­SAN AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TION, THE STATE IS NOW RIPE FOR BJP’S PICK­ING.

Hindu vote, ris­ing above caste lines, thanks to Congress’ em­pha­sis on Naren­dra Modi’s Hin­dutva agenda, and SP’S mis­han­dling of Muzaf­far­na­gar.

Yet they don’t have to shout this from the rooftops. What they have to em­pha­sise is the vote for de­vel­op­ment, which they are por­tray­ing as Modi’s core value. Modi sug­gests that he will not be do­ing pol­i­tics as usual. So he speaks of not hav­ing any fam­ily to sup­port, he gives con­crete de­vel­op­ment sug­ges­tions which can be im­ple­mented, and he con­stantly talks of jobs. In a state with nearly 200 mil­lion people, of whom over 140 mil­lion are un­der the age of 36, no sur­prise then that in its fi­nal runup, the BJP is sell­ing the magic of Modi. From March 1, there will be about 650 raths all over UP and Bi­har, car­ry­ing snatches of Modi’s speeches in nukkad sab­has. Be­gin­ning April 1, RSS work­ers will be go­ing door to door twice over ask­ing people to vote for Modi. The BJP has also de­cided to de­ploy its 1,278 for­mer MPs, MLAs, min­is­ters and district co­or­di­na­tors in UP to ask people to vote for Modi and do bud­dhi­jeevi sam­me­lans and pichda varg sam­me­lans in all 80 con­stituen­cies.

Now the key is in ticket dis­tri­bu­tion. Will it be the tried, tested and dis­carded? Or fresh and am­bi­tious? As a party in­sider said, BJP will win UP in­spite of it­self, not be­cause of its ef­forts. They do not seem to have learnt the les­son from Delhi where they an­nounced Harsh Vard­han’s ap­point­ment as the chief min­is­te­rial can­di­date too late and se­nior lead­ers like Arun Jait­ley and L.K. Ad­vani later ad­mit­ted it too. This hap­pened in UP in 2012, when the core group in Delhi un­der then party pres­i­dent Nitin Gad­kari was de­cid­ing on tick­ets and people were lob­by­ing in Delhi when they should have been in the field. Zealots like Subra­ma­nian Swamy may see a rise in the BJP vote per­cent­age in UP as a con­sol­i­da­tion of the Vi­rat Hindu iden­tity. Congress loy­al­ists will see it as the cul­mi­na­tion of the pol­i­tics of com­mu­nal­ism. But the BJP has a new term for it. It’s the pol­i­tics of con­ver­gence. If the Congress wants to raise the com­mu­nal de­mon, then the BJP’S at­ti­tude is the same as Underwood’s—just throw a sad­dle on a gift horse rather than look it in the mouth.

Il­lus­tra­tion by SAU­RABH SINGH

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