Modi Polarises Phase Six Polls of UP Assembly; First Phase of Poll in Manipur Begins Today

Narendra Modi has moved centre stage in U.P. in the closing days of the campaign, shifting from a sharp attack on the shortcomings of his political rivals to a dual strategy of isolating the Yadav community even as he makes a no-holds- barred attempt to polarise the polls. Sections of the Yadavs and the Dalits that voted BJP, in 2014, have returned to the SP and BSP, respectively. The powerful Jats have gravitated back to the Rashtriya Lok Dal. But what remains is substantial – a large section of upper castes and non-Yadav backward castes, replicating the social coalition that had sustained the BJP in U.P. in the 1990s when Kalyan Singh, an OBC was Chief Minister. The BJP is depending on an upper-caste- backward caste combine and the organisational skills of Amit Shah. Manipur, too, goes to polls in its first phase for 38 out of 60 Assembly seats where this is billed as a major test for Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government in the state. PM Narendra Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and BJP leader Rajnath Singh were star campaigners in the first phase where they held multiple rallies. Here’s a report by our Associate Editor, Navodita, exclusively for Different Truths.

As Hindutva’s tallest leader, Narendra Modi has moved centre stage in U.P. in the closing days of the campaign, shifting from a sharp attack on the shortcomings of his political rivals to a dual strategy of isolating the Yadav community even as he makes a no-holds- barred attempt to polarise the polls. In the 2007 and 2012 U.P. Assembly elections, the BJP had not been in the contest. The SP and the BSP were locked in a straight fight. But courtesy the saffron tsunami that swept Modi into office at the Centre in 2014, with the BJP taking 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the party was able to mount a challenge for the U.P. with a much stronger base.

Yet, when the 2017 campaign started, there was barely a ripple, with the scale of the party’s support having clearly shrunk since 2014. In western U.P., the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 – and the sharp communal divide that followed – had set the stage for a BJP victory, in 2014. Today, like a strain that refuses to be washed away, signs of that communal animosity mar U.P.’s social landscape. Additionally, issues of demonetisation, farmers’ distress, caste affiliations and personal rivalries, too, are present. Sections of the Yadavs and the Dalits that voted BJP, in 2014, have returned to the SP and BSP, respectively. The powerful Jats have gravitated back to the Rashtriya Lok Dal. But what remains is substantial – a large section of upper castes and non-Yadav backward castes, replicating the social coalition that had sustained the BJP in U.P. in the 1990s when Kalyan Singh, an OBC was Chief Minister. The BJP is depending on an upper-caste- backward caste combine and the organisational skills of Amit Shah.

The challenges Akhilesh Yadav faces in rebranding the SP in his own image raise an important question about electoral politics. Since its founding, the SP continues to derive its organisational strength from the support of the All India Yadav Mahasabha, which promotes a view of a Yadav community that is imbued with extraordinary political skill and a capacity for ‘muscular’ politics. This is nested within the logic of caste assertion in politics. A family from the Rajbhar community on the outskirts of Babina in Bundelkhand region say they will vote for the BJP this time as Yadav’s government has provided drought-relief only to the Yadavs and not to non-Yadavs. “It isn’t just about doing work, we want someone who treats us all equally,” says a middle-aged man.

Thus a political campaign that started out with larger debates about development and law and order has once again reverted to the same old caste-religion mathematics that has characterised U.P. politics for decades. However this arithmetic is driven by the exact opposite phenomenon as the 1990s, a desire to remove caste and religion as the basis for economic distribution rather than explicit assertion of it (in the 1990s).

In these districts where last two phases of elections are to be held, caste matters the most. The districts going to polls are Mau, Maharajganj, Kushinagar, Gorakhpur, Deoria, Azamgarh and Ballia where voting will be on for 49 Assembly seats. Eyes will be on Gorakhpur, Lok Sabha constituency of BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, and Mau where jailed gangster-turned- MLA is in the fray. The prestige of Union Minister Kalraj Mishra is also at stake who represents Deoria in Lok Sabha. Truly in this election, with various party leaders taking a dig at each other, identity politics and polarisation has trumped development to take centre stage.

Meanwhile, the state of Manipur, too, goes to polls in its first phase for 38 out of 60 Assembly seats where this is billed as a major test for Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government in the state. PM Narendra Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and BJP leader Rajnath Singh were star campaigners in the first phase where they held multiple rallies.

A major point of concern is the indefinite economic blockade in the state imposed by United Naga Council since November 1, 2016. The blockade has caused immense hardship to people commuting to and fro with the supply of essential commodities including fuel being affected by this. The blockade has been imposed on Manipur’s important National Highway 2 and NH 37 to protest against the state government’s decision to carve out seven new districts against the existing ones. During campaigning there were bitter exchanges between the Congress and BJP over economic blockade and Naga Peace Accord.

The Naga Peace Accord was signed between the NSCN-IM (Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak- Muivah) and the Centre in August, 2015. The Congress, however, has accused the BJP of compromising with the ‘territorial integrity’ of Manipur, an allegation BJP has denied.

Also, in this election fray is Irom Sharmila, who had been on a 16-year long hunger strike to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), who is launching her party People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) to fight for ‘self-reliant economy of Manipur’. Sharmila herself is contesting from Thoubal constituency, against incumbent Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. However, her party has put up few campaigns and roadshows to put up a tough fight.

Manipur has about 9, 68, 312 female electors and 9, 25, 431 men voters. Repealing the AFSPA is yet another issue in these elections as the Chief Minister said, “We’ve removed AFSPA from Imphal municipal area covering seven Assembly constituencies in 2004. It was not easy. Everyone at the Centre was opposed to it. I managed to convince very reluctant Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that state police could handle the law and order of Imphal city. But it was not conducive to remove AFSPA from the entire state.” Sharmila is contesting on major issues of removal of AFSPA and cleansing the corrupt system.

©Navodita Pande

Photos from the internet.

#Election #IndianPolls #IndianElection2017 #Manipur #PrimeMinister #ManmohanSingh #UnitedNagaCouncil #UPElection #BJP #Modi

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24x7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.
Navodita Pande
Share