Last Man Standing
Some weeks ago, a man named Lokendra Pratap Singh invited the media to a film screening at the Lucknow Press Club. Claiming to be a TV producer from Mumbai, he said he had made a film on the life and death of Phoolan Devi, the bandit-turned-MP who was murdered in the summer of 2001. As Lucknow’s perennially gossip-seeking journalists watched the show, they found a portly politician telling his party president that it would be electorally advantageous to “get rid” of Phoolan even though she was a colleague. Their resemblance to the two most important men in the Samajwadi Party (SP) was obvious.
Having shown his little film, Mr Singh promptly disappeared. For much of his audience, though, he had already done his job—make an allegation the BJP would have loved to. Phoolan was after all, a Mallah, a ‘lower’ OBC and part of the Most Backward Castes (MBCs) that the BJP has been trying to wean away from the Yadav-led SP. Welcome to Uttar Pradesh, the world’s most treacherous, confusing and downright diabolical polity. On February 14, 18 and 21, it votes for its new Assembly to choose between, in essence, Rajnath Singh of the BJP and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the SP, to decide in a larger reckoning the stability of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime in Delhi.
In the old days, Uttar Pradesh politics was horrifically complex with a simple solution. There were the usual caste divisions and multicornered contests and factionalism. by Ashok Malik and Subhash Mishra February 2002