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UP-Elections

The much awaited results of the state elections are out. The ‘Éxit Pollsters’ who went wrong in Bihar are thumping their chests and claiming ‘victory’. The SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab was voted out of power from Punjab while the existing chief ministers of Uttarakhand and Goa faced humiliating defeats. In Manipur, Erom Sharmila, the symbol of people’s protest against Armed Forces Special Power Act, was able to get just 91 votes. In the past too, many, intellectuals, activists have lost miserably from the constituencies they worked for people tirelessly and it shows how hollow are our ‘democratic’ values and that it is still true that people suffer but they still love the oppressors. But the mother of all battles was Uttar Pradesh where the saffron upsurge has even surprised their own team though many senior journalists had predicted victory for BJP in advance. The Election Commission data shows that BJP got 39.7% of votes which resulted into 312 seats in Uttar Pradesh while BSP’s share remained 22% but the seats drastically came down to 20. It is also a reality that 60% voters  did not vote for BJP. Traditionally   Uttar Pradesh always had the government with just 29-30% vote share. Samajwadi Party Congress alliance too got nearly 26% of the votes but it could not convert them into seats and that is the crisis of First Past the Post System which needs to be questioned and challenged now. The political parties must now talk about a political system which can claim to legitimately represent the voter’s mind where a majority votes do not get unrepresented.

EVM rigging charges

BSP President Ms Mayawati wrote a letter to Election Commission that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) were tampered with. She points out that  such a clean sweep by BJP was nearly impossible since in many seats where Muslim electorates formed a majority BJP won the seats. While doubts about EVM need to be thoroughly investigated by the election commission as there has been allegations of tampering of machines in earlier elections too. It is important for political parties like BSP, Samajwadi Party, Congress, Janata Dal, RJD, left parties and others to join hand and launch a campaign against such attempt to manipulate elections.

It is also important that the elections for State Assemblies should not be allowed to go for such a long period. For two months there is no administration in the states going for poll.  Similarly Lok Sabha polls too go for two to three months and it is time we must find way out to reduce the time span of elections. The  issue of the electronic voting machine too must be addressed urgently. Even BJP’s national spokesperson Dr G V L Narsimharao wrote a book, ‘Democracy at Risk : Can we trust our Electronic Voting Machines’ in 2010 in which the introduction is written by Shri L K Advani where they demanded a ‘Voter verified Paper Audit Trail ( VVPAT) system’ to be in place so that the voter can see in print the vote he casted. In fact, many Whatsapp messages are in circulations where it is said that the Supreme Court ordered for this system to be installed at all the booths but it seems it was not implemented. I’m not sure about the Supreme Court order.   Mr Waman Meshram had filed a case against the EVM and this decision may be part of the order. May be more details are needed on this.

Difference between statement and communication

So, I will stand for a strict investigation of EVMs . However I will not deny the fact that how political parties claiming to be secular ones, for whom, we put our entire efforts, failed the people. Unlike RSS, which has kept numerous people as strategists, the parties we have supported never needed any intellectual or independent think tanks. They needed loudspeakers who can promote their leaders. Of course, there was a PR exercise going on part of the BJP which created a Modi wave but RSS and its allied organisations have serious people with them who plan and discuss things. A fascist organization is more democratic than most of the democratic parties in India and that is where the time has come to change tactics. We have to think loudly why our political leaders want those ‘intellectuals’ who could justify their political line rather than pointing out to gaps and inadequacies of the party. A number of them started their own media but none can claim that those magazines or journals really were creating debate and discussion among people. They were merely information and reports of the speeches and meetings of ‘leaders’. There was always contempt for intellectuals and social activists terming them as ‘non-political’ arm chair people as if they have no relations with people or they don’t understand the political dynamics of the region. These parties promoted Public Relations exercises to promote their leaders on the style of Modi and Kejriwal but the fact is both Modi and Kejriwal are public speakers and can speak with eye contact, communicate with people in their language even if that look boring and idiotic but people believe them.

During this elections, I was in Varanasi and came to Deoria but I can say convincingly that most of the people that we make our opinions about are already opinionated, hence judging the moods of the voters is very difficult.

Failure to reach beyond particular castes

I have spoken for unity among the various caste groups in Uttar Pradesh but merely that would not succeed if we are not seeking ideological solidarity. Working on merely identity based politics will not bring desired results. If the vast Bahujan masses have to succeed in this first past the post system politics then it is time for a serious thought for a mutually acceptable socio-political programme. The raging debate of identity politics and the  class politics was a debate of extreme viewpoints which never found a common ground and only strengthened the Sangh Parivar. We must understand that our villages are hugely different than the University campuses where students come together on class-caste lines. I have seen people succumbing to caste pressure.

One person in Kushinagar who used to be a proud follower of BSP and had contested on its ticket for Zilaparishad, used to speak of Baba Saheb, BAMSCEF actually shifted to BJP once Swami Prashad Maurya left the party. It was not shocking for me as I have seen people who would shout against ‘manuwad’ but when political opportunism comes they shift their loyalty very easily. It was shocking for me. I was so enraged that I decided  not to speak to him during this trip. But there is a fact that a vast chunk of Kushwahas and Mauryas shifted to BJP because of top leadership of the party ignored them.

I had seen the trends and was apprehensive when I spoke to people other than the traditional BSP voters. The caste polarization was so high that I was shocked to hear that an entire Mushahar village voted to BJP because the Samajwadi Party had fielded a Muslim candidate who had definitely done much better work in his constituency. BJP was able to polarize it with the communities like Mushahars who had nothing to do with urbanized Hindu Muslim issue. BSP as usual ditched its old hand and gave ticket to a ‘sunar’ who was a ‘vote-katua’ for Samajwadi Party. The old hand of the BSP who did not get ticket here then joined BJP and worked to defeat both the Samajwadi and the BSP candidates.

Unable to control anti-Muslim sentiments among local workers

In many places where Muslim candidates were fielded by Samajwadi Party the local leadership did not work for them. I was surprised to hear from friends that they asked their supporter to vote for BJP as they did not get the ticket. Trying to fix up an equation and defending a long time candidate are important thing.

Our friend Khalid Anees Ansari had been speaking about the unity of Pasmanda Muslims with Bahujan Samaj but unfortunately those who play secular communal binary don’t understand the aspiration of the Pasmanda muslims and getting a different perception and going so far as to vote for BJP. Fact is at many places the contradiction of Pasmandas with the elite leadership was used by the RSS and its sympathizers. Friends from Ghazipur suggested that in many places Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance people asked voters to vote for BJP rather than Mukhtar Ansari. On the day before the results, a local reporter who happened to be a Brahmin came and asked me as what is the my opinion about Uttar Pradesh. I said, ‘ I am afraid we will have a coalition government’. He asked me about western Pradesh to which I said I am not sure but felt BJP might lose due to Jat resentment. I asked him about the local situation in Deoria and he said, BJP will win all. He said that even the poor Muslims have voted to BJP. I asked him how was it possible. He told me what was alarming. There was a land crisis between the upper caste Muslims and the poor Muslims but the local Samajwadi candidate who happened to be a Muslim, sided with the upper caste Muslims, hence the lower class Muslims decided to support BJP.

The day after, I had a Muslim friend from Maharajganj, who came to see me with his ‘BJP’ friend. I am not surprised to see the middle class Muslim elite shifting to BJP perhaps thinking that there is no other option than making a useful alliance with them. Last year during the Zila Parishad election, the Kalandar Muslims, who are one of the most isolated communities, lost their livelihood, yet major Muslim leadership don’t even know that they exist, refused to welcome a Samajwadi Party leader in their locality because of his attitude. The victims of Muzaffarnagar violence are mostly the poor Muslims yet their voices are not getting heard in the entire political discourse.

BJP has mixed Mandal with Kamandal and made a great cocktail of it which is now lethal because the so called social justice wallahs failed to address the issue of Pasmanda Muslims and need for Mandalisation of Muslim community in India to strengthen the Bahujan movement. While I feel being Muslim today has become the biggest issue in India as in the absence of an inclusive Bahujan movement, any attempt to address Muslim issues separately gives handsome returns to the Hindutva forces.

I have been speaking about it for long that most of the seats where Muslims used to have their MPs and were Muslim dominated have failed to send their MPs. Uttar Pradesh has fairly large number of Muslim dominated areas but places like Aligarh, Moradabad, Saharanpur, Bijnaur, Meerut, Sambhal, Agra, Deoband are not sending Muslim leaders to either Assembly or Parliament and most of the time it is the BJP which has won these seats. Hindu Muslim binary is going to play a big role in the growth of Hindutva in India. The ‘secular’ parties did not take Muslims more than en-bloc votes hence their issues never got resolved. BJP raised the issue of triple talaq and rather than speaking as what Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar said during the Constituent Assembly debates, Ms Mayawati called it, an internal matter of Muslims while Samajwadis and Congress have no issue. Congress faced the Shahbano brunt and yet it refused to learn. If secularism has to stand in India, it has to be aggressively oppose all those regressive forces who want to deny women their rights. On the Triple Talaq issue BJP would look much more progressive than the ‘secular’ parties who are neither secular nor liberal at all as they only appeased the religious orthodoxy rather than addressing the issue of the communities. To think that all the Muslims do not demand justice and want only religious leadership to thrive and justify every discrimination in the name of Islam, would not work for sure.

FPTP or divide and Rule politics

This First Past the post democracy has made Muslim the biggest ‘villain’ in the entire electoral exercise. The sad part is that democracy which we are celebrating today is actually disenfranchising Muslim community as their representation is reduced regularly. The 19% Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have merely 24 legislatures in 403 member assembly, a drastic reduction from 64 MLAs during the last assembly. The 321 member strong Hindutva party never found a single Muslim leader to contest on the elections in Uttar Pradesh shows how much they care for Sabka Saath-Sabka Vikas.

Three days back, when I participated at a programme on International Women’s Day, a woman from Nishad community asked me to help her get ration card and land entitlement. The Block Development Officer had come that day. When he left the venue, I asked her, as who did she vote? We voted to Modi said she along with some other women. I told her angrily, then ask Modi to get you your land and water rights. In the Mushahar basti, most of the vote went to BJP as the Samajwadis themselves did not campaign for their Muslim candidate and BSP has given ticket to a person who was a new entry, denying ticket to an old veteran who had worked for party for long. Such situation arose everywhere and leaders of the parties converted this battle into Hindu and Muslim crisis. Fact is that secular formations are not really secular and for them Muslims are just an attachment otherwise whenever the ‘secular formations’ gave ticket to Muslims, the locally ambitious non-Muslim leaders preferred BJP instead of their party. It is the biggest scandal of democracy. BJP has succeeded in Hinduising the Indian polity and Muslims are paying the biggest price for it.

The huge mandate that the Hindutva party is claiming and that the paid brahmanical media is now glorifying is defeat of idea of India where India’s second largest community stand completely isolated. That too politically and even ‘legitimately’ through a ‘democratic’ process and that is the biggest crisis of the ‘colonial’ ‘democracy’ which we inherited. It is democracy of the ‘divide and rule’. The British used it yet they were far superior but today’s narrow communal minds are using it to disempower India’s most marginalized people.

Impact Poona Pact

Just a few weeks back, I wrote story of a Dalit leader contesting on BJP ticket canvassing with a separate glass in his hand and touching the feet of even the younger people half his age. He belonged to Valmiki community who did not get any serious efforts from the BSP as the party never really provided any space to Valmikis. The man contesting from Iglas near Hatharas, has won the seat in the name of Scheduled Caste but he is a humiliation for the community. How can such leaders who justify caste discrimination in the name of customs and traditions can bring self-respect among their community. The man who won the election from Iglas constituency in Hatharas at the cost of his community’s self-respect should be called as the outcome of Poona Pact. BSP and like-minded parties in the Bahujan movement raised these issues but forgot once they were in power. It is time we challenge the system, speak up openly and ask for change in electoral system. Today, there are   17% Dalits and 7.5% Aadivasis and all of them will be the leaders after Poona Pact. The Hindutva has revived it. They would only love those Dalits who remain stooges of brahmanical system, who go suggesting that caste system is great and they are following the tradition.

So it is time for serious introspection. First point is about the outreach of Bahujan parties to diverse communities, which is beyond one numerically powerful communities, second, the issues that they raise and whether identity alone will be able to carry or whether ideology matters or not. I am sure, Ambedkarite will vouch that the country does not need Harijan leadership that the brahmanical parties are pushing as an alternative in the name of ‘honest’ and casteless individuals but assertive Ambedkarite leadership which can stand on its own and speak up against all forms of discrimination and provide justice to the community. Third, it is time to demand proportionate electoral system and discuss on the issue seriously. Fourth, provide space to dissenting intellectuals and build a long term programme. Fifth, trying to develop a common minimum agenda which transcends beyond caste and religious boundaries like Land Reform, Common School System, strengthening Public Health and Public Distribution System, Housing for all are the issues which we must have an opinion and a pressing issue for all. That apart, it won’t work to abuse all those who are supporting progressive ideas in support of annihilation of caste and empowerment of the marginalized communities. We will have to find likeminded people of other communities including those who have come out from their higher caste background and want to work for the betterment of society through Ambedkar, Phule,Periyar, Bhagat Singh’s thoughts.

The Way Out

Uttar Pradesh election results are depressing but it has given us opportunity to build ourselves from the ground, introspect and face the challenge. Question is not that India has suddenly become casteist but how the ‘secular’ parties actually provided enough ammunition to the Hindutva’s communal forces to misuse or misinterpret their failures. It is time for aggressive secularism with anti-caste system agenda and promoting the liberal ideas, making space among the opinion making classes and build up our leadership from the grassroots. There is no time for narrow, parochial ideas which thrive on weakness of others but the programme and agenda for future which can attract diverse communities. Remember, people are not ready to listen to same chanting they have been hearing for years as they are demanding agenda for future.

Time has also come to democratize our own parties and organisations, speak up against corruption, nepotism and gender discrimination as failure to do so resulted in many of our friends shifting to Hindutva camp. It is time for a wider agenda to protect the idea of inclusive India which our constitutional forefathers had envisaged but our current generations of political leaders completely failed due to their petty interests and ambitions.

Uttar Pradesh results should be taken as an opportunity to build new secular liberal and inclusive anti caste leadership with a vision for future who can provide alternative module of development to current parochial brahmanical Hindutva leadership. If Indian democracy is unable to accept and provide representation in its structure to the vast Muslim population and if they continue to become the issue of polarization, then it is time for a serious thought. It is time to discuss this issue politically. How long this democracy will be made a tool to totally disempower Muslims at all level? If our polls continue to do this, some people might become larger than life but that democracy would be a sham democracy. But then these hours will be the most important period of independent India where we now have the biggest challenge to counter the communal agenda. Winning elections does not mean they have got legitimacy on everything. In America the media is still fighting for the democratic space and liberal plural values which are under  threat, in India, media is completely sold out and surrendered shamelessly, hence the duty to carry on the idea of secular, liberal and inclusive India now depend on those enlightened activists whose language the people have failed to understand yet we should not lose our heart as the battle for an enlightened India is not yet over, it has started now.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter  @freetohumanity  Email: vbrawat@gmail.com

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Results of the elections are not unexpected though the number of seats won by rightist party is rather more than expectations. The results show contradictions between ground realities and the party winning . This also reflects the weakness of parliamentary system. Keeping caste and communal divide aside, the question of tampering of EVMs must be addressed sooner or later because the doubts of genuine counting arises from time to time. When ballot were caste, the ballot boxes were stolen: elections were rigged and voting continued in violent atmosphere. The problem was open for reporting. Now, everything is remotely monitored. The EVMs work by pressing buttons. Counting takes place electronically. Where is the guarantee that the vote caste has been genuinely counted? Or. The vote caste went to the particular symbol? How can people know the correctness of the counting?
    Many doubts have been raised on parliamentary system. One of them is, it does not reflect people’s choice. As can be observed, a party getting sizeable vote share ends up with less proportion of seats. Even Ambedkar , in one of his last speeches said that he would himself burn the constitution if it doesn’t work. Time has come to debate the perils of parliamentary system dispassionately and work for better representative system.
    Ambedkar was a great visionary. Let all activists keep his dreams alive and thwart brahminical manu forces from occupying power through devious ways. Only a great debate on this system can solve the problem

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