Last Man Stand­ing

India Today - - MAIL -

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

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