BSP’S GROWTH IS SLOW BUT STEADY IN SOME STATE BUT FAST IN UP.
BSP picked up 19 seats from UP, 5 seats more than 1999 tally. In 1996, the figure was just 6 and in 1988, 10. BSP’s vote share in 1988 was 20.90%, which shot up to 22% in 1999, and an estimated 30% this time in 2004 Lok Sabha election. Even the percentage of upper caste votes rose from 3.6 in 1991 to 10.2 in 1990 and 15.2 in 2004 according to party sources.
State wise vote secured by BSP is as below
- Uttar Pradesh 1,31,40,200 2. Bihar 10,50,854
- Maharashtra 10,46,950 4. Madhy Pr. 8,76,871
- Punjab 7,84,454 6. Rajasthan 5,48,297
- Andhra Pr. 5,07,381 8. Haryana 4,03,254
- Orissa 3,72,811 10. Chattishgarh 3,24,122
- W.Bengal 3,22,372 12. Karnataka 3,05,435
- Gujrat 2,25,637 14. Jharkhand 2,19,049
- Uttaranchal 1,80,885 16. Tamil Nadu 1,67,659
- Delhi 1,02,269 18. Kerala 74,651
- J & K 49,754 20. Himachal 47,475
- Chandigarh 6,203 22. Pondicherry 2,665
- Daman Deu 1,152 24. Andaman 1,122
- Dadra & Nagar Haveli 725
Total vote secured 2,07,58,251
The approach of the Bhujan Samaj Party chief, Mayavati, to Dalit politics has more variety than what her own wardrobe can probably offer her. This fire brand woman leader in UP deviated from her own political script this time, pitched herself as the sole leader of the party as doubts rose about her ability to lead, and emerged stronger by scotching fears of being politically maimed. BSP’s journey had begun in 14th April 1984 with the politicization disadvantaged lower castes and poorer classes. Population based share slogans to unit the multi-ethnic backward casts helped to some extent and Manybar Kanshi Ram himself came to epitomize the backward caste battle against social orthodoxy. The BSP always aimed at a broad-based party structure. But this time BSP seems to have really succeeded in dispelling the notion that the BSP stood for the Jatavas or the Chamars , and that it is just a Dalit party. Even as BSP kept up it’s aggressive campaign against social orthodoxy, BSP generously allowed for the inclusion of Jhakums, Jadavas, Jats, Kurmis and even Brahmins in her scheme of things. So the sub national identities of the Dalits merged conveniently with contemporary political interests to re-establish a new goal for the outfit. During her poll campaign, BSP supreme Bahen Mayawati told her loyal voters, who often had to wait for long under the blistering April sun, “our time has come.” Her political rhetoric worked like magic on her votes while the highly emotive issues of the Bharatiya Janata party and the rather low-key development appeal of the Congress remained limited in their impact.
Managing her campaign single handedly while her political mentor, Manybar Kanshi Ram, continued to fight a grim survival in a nursing home of New Delhi, Bahenji seized her opportunity.
Bahen Mayawati had asserted in 1999 that her party would do well without an alliance. The alliance with the Congress, she realized would have benefited the Congress more than her own party.
A break up of the BSP’s tally suggests that it has purely been a triumph of the strategy she had adopted. Not known to be strong in eastern UP, the BSP snatched six seats from both the SP & BJP this time. This is part of the area which is considered to be the ‘command area of the temple movement’ BSP used Mulayam Yadav’s own caste formula to outsmart his candidate in these areas. She offered tickets to five rebels candidate of the SP who had parted company with Mulayam yadav on the eve of the polls and joined Behenji. They are Mitra sen Yadav(Faizabad), Bholachand Yadav(Khalilabad) and Ramakant Yadav(Machlishahar), Umakant Yadav (Chandauli) and Kailashnath Yadav (Azamgarh). They have all won. The SP lost some of its key seats here and the BJP lost all its 11 seats. The Congress which had drawn a blank in this area, however managed to get the Varanasi and Bansgaon seats.
In Central UP, Bahen Mayawatiji also used a unique variation in her caste strategy to bag seats. The region, which includes the dacoit-infested hearth land has its share of baddies. Bahinji used the Kurmi-Jatav-Muslim combination to secure her position here. She has snatched Bilhaur from the BJP and Mirzapur from the SP. In Shahabad, she had initially played a Muslim card, but sensing anti-incumbency, she changed the candidate. Thus the BSP won eight seats from the central region. In Unnao, the BSP gave the ticket to a Brahmin candidate to ensure victory.
The BJP’s explanation-that the party lost because its voters did not come out to vote due to the heat wave-does not hold much water. The party faced dissension in central UP. While senior BJP leaders hovered across the skies in their helicopters and chartered planes, party workers at the district level were left high and dry.
It is in the Agra-Mathura-Aligarh-Amroha belt of western UP that BSP fought a grim battle against the SP and a resurgent Congress. The BJP’s attempt to exploit Kalyan Singh’s ability to use Lodh-Rajput and Brahmin voters to split the Muslim vote fell flat. The party not only failed to split the minority vote, it was also unable to make any dent in the backward segments of western UP. The SP here offered BSP a stiff challenge by forging a Jat-Muslim-Yadav axis. The party had roped in the RLD, offering Ajit Singh 10 seats three of which Singh won. By fielding 17 candidates for the polls, BSP sought to put the Jatav- Muslim combine at the vanguaed of her new casts mantra. A conscious attempt was also made to rope in non-Yadav backwards Gujjars and pasis, who have long left marginalized in by other party. In pockets dominated by upper castes, BSP fielded 8 Thakurs and 5 Brahmins.
Despite the drawbacks, BSP is quietly working towards broadening its base by making relentless work toward upliftment of downtrodden people for social transformation and economic emancipation of them.
BSP IS SHINING
Look at just the seat tally in Uttar Pradesh and you are likely to come away with the impression that the BSP has lost out big time in the state,
While the Congress has gained massively, the SP has limited the damage better than many thought and the BJP has barely held on. Examine the vote shares, however, and that initial impression gives way to a more nuanced picture.
For starters, the BSP may have finished third in terms of the seat tally, but it has become a clear number 1 in terms of votes.
With 27.4%, it is now more than 4% ahead of the SP at second spot. So why has this translated into just one seat more than the 2004 tally for BSP?
One key reason is that unlike all the other three front runners, the BSP’s support is more evenly spread across the state. Nothing reveals that better than the fact that apart from the 20 seats the party won, it finished second in 48 others.
In other words, in all but a dozen of UP’s 80 seats, Mayawati’s men and women were among the front-runners. In contrast, the SP won 22 of the 38 seats in which it was one of the two main contenders. The Congress had an even better conversion rate, winning 21 of the 28 in which it was among the front-runners.
This higher strike rate was clearly achieved due to the fact that the party’s votes were more concentrated in a few constituencies than those of any of the other big players. Thus it could win more than twice as many seats as the BJP though its vote share was less than 1% more than the saffron party’s.
The BJP had a lower conversion rate than either of these two parties, winning 10 of the 19 where it finished in the top two rungs. But it would be more alarmed by the fact that in over three-fourths of the seats in UP it wasn’t even one of the leading contenders.
The relatively more even distribution of the votes this time than in the past few elections in Uttar Pradesh helps to explain a rather unusual statistic — while three parties have got 20 or more seats, none has got to even 25, something that has never happened before in UP.
While seemingly even, don’t forget that two parties — BSP and Congress — are on the way up, while SP and BJP are on the decline. Of course, compared to the 2007 assembly polls, BSP’s vote share is down too, but it has always got more votes in state polls than in national ones.
Understanding Mayawati’s Symbols
Santosh Desai, 04 April 2010, 02:46 PM IST
Why does Mayawati do what she does? Why does she build these enormous statues with giant elephants at a huge cost to the exchequer? Why does she have herself garlanded with obscene sums of money while claiming to represent the poorest among the poor? Why does she flaunt her power (and her handbag) in such a transparently magnified way? The answer to these seem to clear enough to a large section of society. Power has gone to her head and converted her into a raving megalomaniac and has robbed her of a sense of reality. She now lords over the very people she was meant to represent and is taking her constituency far too much for granted- It is thus only a matter of time before she gets her come-uppance.
Without wishing to enter into a debate about the morality of her actions, since that is ground covered very well by others, let me instead focus on understanding why she would act the way she does. It is clear that she knows how her actions will be responded to. Her building of statues and flaunting of gargantuan garlands are both highly public activities, and both are designed for display. Far from attempting to hide these kind of actions, something that other political parties do well, she is intent on advertising them.
The core issue is not about misuse of state funds or the use of illicit money in elections- both these could well be the case, but the key here is that there so many other ways of ripping off the state and collecting illegal funds. Most red-blooded politicians in power are adept at both, and practice their craft in the secrecy of their chambers. In Mayawati’s case, the misdemeanor is being used deliberately as a highly visible symbol in order to make a point.
For Mayawati irrational scale is a potent symbol. It is in effect finding a way to accumulate history and reverse it spectacularly. Visible scale is a way of communicating the shift in status of the Dalit community. For hundreds of years, prejudice has been a platelet count in our veins, having manifested in millions of little bits of humiliation that we have handed out in the name of caste. The story of Dalit oppression is not just about the occasional horrific incidents of lynching, rape and mass murder, but also about the everyday slights, the subtle and not-so-subtle process by which human beings were systematically reduced to an under-class, a sub-species that did not merit full human consideration. This prejudice cannot get reversed by a stroke of the pen, or the success of a single generation- it runs deep and howls wild.
Mayawati’s actions aim at making the implicit explicit, this time in reverse. She spectacularises her response; her actions seem to be way overboard, for that seems to be the only way of communicating the magnitude of the prejudice she is seeking to reverse. There is no civilized way of turning back the clock and for giving redress for the wrongs committed in the past. Scale is her primary means of communication; we can become aware of our own misdemeanours through the brazen scale of hers. In her case, remember, that the assault is largely symbolic. For all the crassness of the display she puts on for our benefit, it is still merely a symbolic show. There is no promotion of class hatred and certainly little incitement to violence.
The use of the statues is revealing. Statues institutionalize memory as well as crystallize forgetfulness. We remember what the state wants us to remember, or at least that is what is hoped for. In reality, statues rarely evoke memory for they become a part of the attempt of the state to tell us what to value (like the new names of roads that no one bothers to use). What they do communicate is the intent of the state. And that is what makes Mayawati’s statues a potent sign. It is her answer to the temples, buildings, auditoriums, parks and statues that carry names and insignias of the dominant class. It is her temple to herself and her community bought in the hard currency of today, money.
Which is also why currency notes are so important. Money has no memory- a thousand rupee note is silent on its antecedents. And crisp, new notes have no past at all. Money allows for a celebration of the present and represents power shorn of history. It democratizes even as it finds a new axis of discrimination. With money, the once oppressed can be the now dominant. Consumerism is the ally of the suppressed for it speaks without an accent at least in its early stages. Brands create a caste system of the present based only on who can pay the price for entry.
That is not to argue that Mayawati’s actions are justified. Only that they are not irrational, at least not entirely so. And in any case, there can be no denying that the middle class views here with barely concealed disgust. When someone like Shashi Tharoor gets himself weighed in money, we shrug it off as a quaint electoral practice. When Mayawati does so, we are offended. But then, she does not tweet.
Ideas are fatal to caste
–E M Forster, in A Passage to India
Vineet Mittal is often teased by his friends for being “a baniya”. Kripashankar Pandey’s colleagues show their reverence by calling him ‘Panditji’. Vishal Singh Rathore’s employees always address him as ‘Thakur sahab’, a clear recognition of his authority. And then there are people who use caste names to hurl insults at others, particularly those at the bottom of the pile. India may be an emerging economy but caste identities remain our mindset. Most “modern” Indians won’t admit it but our conversations and behaviour is peppered with caste references.
Listen in on the urban, the middle-class, the upwardly-mobile Indian. Typically, there are jokes that reinforce caste stereotypes. “My friends who are Sharmas and Guptas often remark — ‘We should live like Ahluwalia (Jats are considered casual and carefree), while I tell them one should study like Sharma (Brahmins are supposed to be scholars) and take care of money like Gupta (baniyas are perceived as wealthy but miserly),” agrees Patiala psychology professor Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia.
The caste system has existed since the Vedic Age, but it was during British rule that the census enumerated Indians by caste. The founding fathers of newly independent India wanted to build a “casteless society” and decided to do away with it as a category. But it didn’t go away.
India may have changed but Indians have not. Psychologist Nirmal Sharma in Chandigarh says that India’s modernization and cosmopolitan culture have failed to abolish caste, which is a constant presence in our lives. “Marriage is the most important decision in an Indian’s life. Look at all the matrimonial ads in newspapers. They are classified caste wise. Brahmins seek Brahmins and Kshatriyas seek their own.”
Sharma adds that even the New Age media could not break down caste barriers.
“A host of matrimonial websites cater exclusively to one caste or the other.”
Then there is the proliferation of caste-based organizations such as the Kshatriya Sabha, Aggarwal Mahasabha, which are ostensibly “community organizations” but are really no more than caste cliques. They are patronized by large sections of the middle class, including politicians and bureaucrats. Sasheej Hegde, professor of sociology at the University of Hyderabad says this reflects the pattern of social transformation in India — castes are being transformed into communities. “This is much more in the political domain than in the social domain but the tendency could undermine the pluralist basis of our socio-political order in the long term,” says Hegde.
Does that mean that the Indian essentially has the caste gene? “The fact that we live in a social set-up defined by caste does not mean we are a casteist society. In fact, not every appeal to caste need translate into casteism,” says Hegde.
Not everyone is so sanguine. A Ramaiah, professor at the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion & Inclusive Policies at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences, insists that most Indians “are always conscious of our caste and the nature of our interaction with fellow Indians depend on the caste he/she belongs to”.
Admittedly, this does not always mean all of us discriminate outright all the time. But it does mean that a study by Indian economist Sukhdeo Thorat and Princeton University sociologist Katherine Newman a few years ago found a low-caste surname a great disadvantage when applying for a job. Applicants with lower-caste surnames would mostly not even be interviewed.
The casteism affects even the affluent dalit. Rashmi Venkatesan, daughter of an IAS officer, recounts her nightmarish search for a house in an upper-caste dominated locality in Bangalore. “I found one house but the landlord put a condition that I won’t cook non-vegetarian meals on the premises. I agreed and paid some token money. As I was getting ready to move in, the landlord discovered that I was a dalit. He immediately returned the advance and said I couldn’t have the house.”
But it is the inter-caste marriage — the actual event and its aftermath — that often reveals the caste gene most starkly. Psychologist Sharma says that even families that allow such unions, generally consider the new (out of caste) member of the family “the outsider and he or she has to make extra effort to mix in…Caste bias is so deeply entrenched in our psyche that we can’t shed it for at least another 200 years.”
Perhaps. But Javeed Alam, Chairman, Indian Council of Social Science Research, says there is reason to hope Indians’ caste gene won’t be a chromosomal cancer for the country. “Caste today is no longer what it was a few decades ago. Even though caste discrimination is present, the caste system has died out. In fact, the struggles of the lower castes have led to the expansion of democracy and the greater democratization of society.”
(With reports from Senthalir S in Bangalore)(TOI-16.05.10)