Uttar Pradesh: A Dirty Story of Cast(e)ing the Vote

Caste - The primary catalyst in winning an election in Independent India

“In India when people cast their votes, they vote their caste”

Nothing can better sum up the political mind-set of the aam aadmi  than these words of Shashi Tharoor. It makes even more sense when elections are being held in the most populous state of IndiaUttar Pradesh. Considered to be the penultimate trial of the politicians before they enter the Delhi scene, the UP election is an acid test for all the contenders involved. In spite of all the hullaballoo of inducting ‘fresh faces & the next generation in politics’ sadly, some things in India hold their grounds even in the 21ST century. Caste-based vote banks are a farce in the name of democracy and we have seen vivid examples of it in the UP elections.

All the parties; Congress, SP, BSP, and the BJP are out to woo the voters not on some pressing issues but based on the castes of the voters. It’s not that there aren’t any real issues to be addressed. The law and order situation, education especially for the backward classes, health and sanitation are just some of the issues that require  immediate attention. But then, these issues are so ‘mundane’ and oft-repeated in almost all the assembly elections of India that they have lost their sheen and the ability to attract voters. The aam aadmi has come of age and now knows that no one can wield a magic wand and make all these problems disappear in a single stroke. To put it plainly, every election calls for an X-factor and that factor is simply missing in the UP elections of 2012. Back in 1991 the politicos had the Ram Mandir issue which the BJP has racked up incessantly ever since. But not anymore this time, thankfully!

Uttar Pradesh Votes 2012
Caste - The primary catalyst in winning an election in Independent India

So all of them resurrect an entity that should have been buried for good as soon as we had attained Independence—caste. The medieval Indian society’s absurd and humiliating method of segregating people based on certain flimsy attributes. Tigers may be facing extinction but caste is one beast that has stood the test of time; mainly because the orthodox conservationists have vowed never to let it die.

Speaking on purely caste-based lines, the entire of UP can be broadly divided into the Dalits, the Yadavs, the Brahmins and the important Muslim community. Before it all started I had asked my roommate, who is from Agra as to his opinions about this year’s polling outcome. He at that time had put it so nonchalantly that I was rather taken aback by his predictions. “The Yadavs will vote for Mulayam’s SP, the Dalits will vote for Mayawati’s BSP, the Brahmins will go for BJP whereas the Muslims will favour the Congress.” At that point I had thought, “Why don’t the voters vote the most eligible one, rather than blindly casting their votes on the basis of their respective castes?” Later when I researched a bit and read the exit poll results, I realized such questions are baseless in a highly conservative state like UP.

Give or take a few irregularities, the exit poll results by AC-Star Neilson were exactly what my roommate had foreseen. It was incredible that there was no logic or reasoning involved in the entire process, but the contenders were cashing in huge on their respective beasts, err… castes. Even their poll campaigns were matched keeping exactly this thing in mind. Sadly, this scheme worked and if the results of the exit polls are anything to go by, the caste plank has worked superbly even after more than 61 years of Independence. While some are banking upon ‘Dalit champ’ Mayawati to take on the reigns of the government once again, others are looking at the possible angle of a Mulayam Singh-led government.

Congress who had at one time suggested President’s Rule in the event of a hung Assembly realized quite late that this proclamation had indeed backfired upon them because no one today wants a restrictive President’s Rule in one’s state. The BJP is projected to marginally improve its tally though as usual it would fail to make much of an impact in the State Assembly.

We have instances in the past when exit poll predictions have all gone horribly wrong. Assuming at this moment they are true, UP may be heading towards a hung Assembly, something which is recurrently happening in many states of India. Lately there have been reports that Mayawati has successfully been able to sway a chunk of the Brahmin voters to her side making hers a unique Dalit-Brahmin combination. There have also been reports about the crucial Muslim votes being split up between their loyal ‘ever-secular’ party Congress and the SP.

I may not be wrong to believe that the parties are losing sleepless nights conjecturing about the outcome of these elections. An overview suggests that Mayawati may yet again capture the throne, albeit with the help of some Independents this time. Or we might see a change in the leadership with Mulayam Singh Yadav coming in to the picture, backed possibly by the Congress or maybe a few Independents.

There is a near –certain possibility of yet another coalition government coming up in yet another state of India. The much pompous campaigning and then the election arrived like a hurricane and left. The results are only a matter of days now if everything goes in order. What remains is the beast called caste and the shameful fact that something which the leaders of our freedom struggle tried so hard to annihilate throughout their lives, that very thing is being catapulted to new heights and is being made the primary catalyst in winning a democratic election even after 61 years of our Independence.

Uttar Pradesh: A Dirty Story of Cast(e)ing the Vote
This is a Guest Post by Manish Parashar. He is a B.E. Mechanical Engineering student at the Manipal Institute of Technolgy, Manipal.



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