QUESTIONS BJP NEED TO ASK BEFORE COMMENCING ON ITS STRATEGY FOR UP ASSEMBLY POLLS

THE QUESTIONS 

Is the Assam verdict assuring enough to get complacent over BJP’s chances and challenges in Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state in India with maximum Lok Sabha and assembly seats and therefore with the maximum count of Rajya Sabha claims?

Has BJP not committed blunder by appointing Keshav Prasad Maurya, a Lok Sabha MP from Phulpur constituency in Allahabad district, a virtually unknown face in the power corridors so far, either in Uttar Pradesh, or in Delhi?

Couldn’t BJP find a known face in Uttar Pradesh? Irrespective of credentials and controversies associated with Keshav Prasad Maurya, it goes without saying that even many supporters of BJP did not know much about him before his coronation.

Are the credentials of being an OBC, his association with RSS and hailing from a humble background enough to mobilize votes in India’s most populous state where the ruling party of India of the day was forced to the third spot with a meagre 47 seats out of 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh? Also, Uttar Pradesh is the state from where BJP began its journey to where it is in India’s political circles now.

And what about the baggage Maurya carries? He may have a humble background, but now he is a millionaire with multiple criminal cases lodged against him. His 2014 Lok Sabha affidavit declared assets worth Rs. 9 crore. To name a few, he has a filling station and a private hospital in partnership. Certainly not a saleable package politically (and electorally)!

Before appointing Mauyra, did BJP factor in why it performed so brilliantly in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, winning 73 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, and why it has lost every subsequent bye-election in the state?

Although it is slipping beyond any possible damage control exercise now, has the BJP introspected about why it ignored Uttar Pradesh since winning the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls?

A natural corollary to the previous question is – are the BJP strategists, including Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the RSS leadership, confident enough that they have sufficient time to regain the lost ground and so to reclaim the state – nine odd months now – when the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh are to be held?

A sub-question to that is – does BJP feel honestly that is has lost the much ground it gained during the Lok Sabha polls in 2014? That is the key to do any exercise that it intends to do now – to map the trajectory ahead.

It is beyond speculation that Keshav Prasad Maurya cannot be the BJP’s chief-ministerial nominee. Although he hails from the Kushwaha community (OBC), that forms around 8% of Uttar Pradesh’s population, he is simply not magnetic enough to pull a significant chunk of OBC voters from a population segments that is 40% of the total. What is then the basis of projecting him as the OBC face of BJP in Uttar Pradesh?

Can Keshav Prasad Maurya successfully play the OBC card by equating himself with prime minister Narendra Modi, an OBC and a Chaiwala like him (as Maurya claims), given the fact that BJP has not performed well, in Jayapur, Varanasi’s village adopted by Narendra Modi where BJP lost local village polls recently and in Varanasi, Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency?

And the natural extension to all this is – who will then be the BJP’s chief-ministerial nominee? Obviously, it should be someone from the upper caste communities who have been traditional BJP voters. The upper caste voters were an important factor behind Mayawati’s caste/social engineering in 2007 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh that gave her complete majority. This time also, Mayawati and her party BSP are ahead in the race, as the projections so far say, and therefore, retaining upper caste voters will be a problem for BJP, especially when its new state president has replaced a Brahmin, Laxmikant Bajpai from Meerut. Names of claimants are already doing rounds – Varun Gandhi or Smriti Irani or even Rajnath Singh – or will it be someone else? Certainly, here Amit Shah cannot prop anyone like Keshav Prasad Maurya and it is going to be a difficult decision to take.

And these are just the primary questions BJP needs to introspect before beginning on any activity in Uttar Pradesh. The party needs to take a top-down approach here because there isn’t enough time left for reorganization (and restructuring) of the party and the party should hope it works for bottom-up issues – like galvanizing cadres and district units – to do their best for the names the party finalizes.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

POLLS BEGINNING TODAY WILL WRITE SCRIPT FOR 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS (II) – UNDERDOGS

If the Left Front led by CPI(M) has the potential to emerge as the underdogs in West Bengal, the state they ruled for 35 years till 2011, it is because AITC has come to be known as a party that is becoming just like the Left Front of the erstwhile years – a party synonymous with political goondaism. West Bengal has only extended the culture of political violence under the Mamata Banarjee government.

And coupled with Mamata’s autocratic ways, her intolerance for criticism and huge allegations of corruption on senior leaders of her party, the rational minds would certainly like to experiment with the Left Front block again in absence of any other political alternative – to see if the Left Front has learnt some lessons.

Mamata would sail smoothly this time because of her focus on rural voters but she needs to keep in mind that their patience, too, runs out, and it is just a matter of time – if West Bengal gets any political alternative like AAP.

While West Bengal still has the organized cadre and popular leaders from the Left Front, Congress in Uttar Pradesh cannot claim anything. It has no cadre, no organizational structure and no leaders. Yes, Sonia Gandhi is elected to the Parliament from Raebareli and Rahul Gandhi from Amethi, but that is just symbolic. Sonia and Rahul were never Uttar Pradesh leaders and they have no political currency to affect the electoral mindset for any significant change.

But if the Congress candidates can still emerge as the underdogs, it is because of the frustration creeping in the minds of Uttar Pradesh voters.

The politics in Uttar Pradesh has just two poles for over two decades now – SP and BSP. BJP has failed to capitalize on the biggest chance it had to recover in Uttar Pradesh with the impressive performance in 2014 general elections. The party should have realized by now that raking up the Ram Temple issue in every electoral battle in Uttar Pradesh has become a futile exercise. It doesn’t pull votes anymore. Other parties like JD(U), RJD, AD, AIMIM, AAP, CPI(M), CPI and everyone else are there just to populate the numbers.

And by all measures, from all projections and reports, and by the electorate’s response of changing the government every next time, even if the state’s politics is riddled with caste and community polarizations, we can say both, the SP and the BSP governments, leave a huge trail of anti-incumbency during their respective terms.

The Uttar Pradesh voters need a government of efficient governance which proves effective not only on ensuring strict law and order measures but also on bringing and distributing development to the India’s most populous state with the maximum number of the Lok Sabha seats, i.e., 80.

Every government in the state has failed on it. Power shortage is a decades old issue. Deteriorating law and order situation makes for news headlines. Many politicians have coupled up as criminals and vice versa. Many are in jail and many are facing serious court cases. And all these problems have persisted for years.

And that frustrates voters – at least the rationally thinking ones – and Congress has chance here. The party may not pull a miracle but if it emerges as the third largest party with some significant numerical strength in the next Uttar Pradesh state assembly, it would surprise everyone.

Yes, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi are not Uttar Pradesh leaders but they are symbolically potent enough to lead some of the rational thinking voters to their camps in the upcoming assembly polls – to experiment with the alternatives available in absence of any other political alternative available in the state – and the factors that would additionally help the party – are – the sympathy undercurrent that might be there after its two elected state governments were sabotaged – in Arunchal Pradesh and Uttarakhand – in two months, anti-incumbency against the BJP government in the centre and the status of the Congress party as the only other national political party – in spite of its reduced Lok Sabha count of 44 in a house of 543 elected members.

In Punjab, AAP is not an underdog but a major player now and the battle is out in the open.

In Assam, we know the known underdog, Badruddin Ajmal led AIUDF. Badruddin Ajmal is a perfume businessman worth Rs. 2000 crore and is now a successful politician it seems. Assam has over 34% Muslim population and some 40 of the 126 assembly constituencies are minority concentration ones, i.e., where consolidations of Muslim votes can tilt the results.

Since its inaugural in 2005, AIUDF has made rapid strides in Assam politics. It won 10 seats in 2006 assembly polls that rose to 18 in 2011 and it led in 24 assembly segments in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It tied with Congress in winning three Lok Sabha seats in 2014, raising its tally from one in 2009. The remarkable aspect is its increase in vote share – from scratch in 2005 to 15% in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In 2011 assembly polls, the party had cornered 12.6% votes.

AIUDF is contesting these elections alone – as Ajmal said no acceptable solution on alliance with other parties could be reached. And with the second largest shares of Muslim voters in any Indian state, he is hoping to play kingmaker, expecting to win around 40 seats. Analysts question about his prospects as Assamese Muslims in Upper Assam oppose him and as Upper Assam has the maximum number of constituencies.

The elections have begun. Let’s see if Ajmal can travel the distance from Lower Assam and Barak Valley, his traditional stronghold, to other parts of the state. And to widen his canvas, he has chosen his party candidates accordingly, including other communities than Muslims.

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

POLLS BEGINNING TOMORROW WILL WRITE SCRIPT FOR 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS (I)

Tomorrow, the Indian electorate is going to unveil the next chapter – the anti-penultimate round of the upcoming big finale – the chapter that will write and rewrite the political script for the next general elections (parliamentary elections) in 2019.

Anti-penultimate because the way wind blows now – in these five state elections – in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala (and Puducherry with its symbolic, numerical advantage for political morale) – will decide how volatile the tide would be – in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur elections the next year – especially for BJP, Congress, SP, BSP, SAD, AAP, AIADMK, DMK, Left Front – and all others in anti-Congress, anti-BJP or anti-Congress/BJP camps.

The outcome of these state elections will tell if BJP will be able to fill the void that owes its genesis to the glaring mistake the party has committed in Uttar Pradesh by neglecting the state electorally after winning the absolute numbers in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls – 73 out of 80 (2 with its ally Apna Dal).

BJP had the golden opportunity to regain strength and revitalize cadre in Uttar Pradesh, the base from where the party began painting its wider canvas, but the party has wasted it – and is wasting it. It has no leader from Uttar Pradesh today who can mobilize party workers and masses for a positive outcome in the assembly elections next year.

So, from a sure-looking chance, Uttar Pradesh looks now a lost opportunity for BJP.

A loss in these polls would certainly bring the morale of party workers down and coupled with the ‘law of average factor and anti-incumbency against the BJP led NDA government at the centre’ that have diminished the ‘Narendra Modi wave’, if the party doesn’t score big even in Assam, because it has virtually no chance in other states going to polls this year, the humiliation will render any comeback possibility effectively worthless.

And if it is the scenario in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab is going to be lot worse – because the projections are already being made that it would be an AAP Vs Congress fight there – and the BJP-SAD government would crumble under the burden of sky-high anti-incumbency, mammoth levels of corruption and miserably failed governance that left state’s finances high and dry.

For now, BSP is slated to win Uttar Pradesh next year and that is natural given the wave of anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government. The BSP chances are further enhanced by absence of any political alternative – like AAP became in the Delhi assembly polls and is now threatening established political players in Punjab. And whatever be the outcome in other states, it is not going to affect the Uttar Pradesh equation, at least in 2017.

For Tamil Nadu, it is all about AIADMK. DMK is not in the race. Projections say. Pollsters vouch for. Ground reports confirm. And other parties including BJP there, at best, could only act as vote-cutters – that is the best case scenario for them. It seems J Jayalalithaa (nicknamed Amma)’s ‘Baahubali’ avatar has a different feeler for voters in Tamil Nadu and, at the moment, it seems it is going to dominate every other factor including the widespread criticism that the Amma government faced in handling the devastating Tamil Nadu floods last year.

Kerala would be interesting to watch for a Congress Vs Left Front battle with Congress facing heaps of problems after chief minister Oomen Chandy’s name emerged in the Solar Scam. A good show here by the Left Front, coupled with a strong performance in West Bengal, even if the Left block fails to form the government there, would revitalize the dying Left Front politics in the country, a must for healthy political discourse.

West Bengal looks a clear chess board for Mamata Banarjee and her party AITC though BJP is trying hard to register impressive footfalls here in its camps, like it is trying in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, but the chances are, if West Bengal would throw any underdog, it would be the Left Front block only.

Like it can happen with Congress in Uttar Pradesh!

To continue..

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BIHAR POLLS: THE WATCHABLE ELEMENTS

1. Everyone is saying Bihar polls are again going to be caste-based and the outcome will be caste-driven. But is the growing middle class going to play a different tune – away from the caste asthmatics – to assert a new identity that may be amorphous in nature sociologically but craves for everything that revolves around development that could better their lives?

2. Nitish Kumar promoted the concept of ‘Bihari Ashmita’ or Bihari Identity/Bihari Pride like Narendra Modi did with Gujarati Pride and Identity. But after aligning with Lalu Prasad Yadav, is Lalu’s corruption taint going to make the class, conscious about Bihari Ashmita, apathetic to Nitish Kumar?

3. Who will emerge out the real claimant of ‘Bihar Ashmita’ if it happens to be a major factor in the polls – Nitish Kumar for representing the Bihar government during last 10 years (barring Jitan Ram Manjhi), the time during which Bihar has certainly been able to come out of the administrative apathy synonymous with the Lalu-Rabri rule of 15 years – or the BJP which was an equal party with the Janata Dal (United) in governing Bihar for eight years?

4. Based on poll outcome – if the counting day falls any time around Chhath, that is on November 17, would it affect the decision of Biharis to stretch their visit a bit longer? Also, Diwali is on November 11, and if the last phase, if the Bihar polls are to be a multi-phased one, falls near Diwali, will the Bihari voters make it a point to include the last phase in their extended Diwali and Chhath holidays?

5. Regular diaspora case studies – people living outside Bihar – in different states – even outside India – how they see these polls, especially after Nitish has parted ways with the BJP and is going along with his sworn enemy Lalu Prasad Yadav, who is a convicted person now?

6. Flavour of the poll season – the familiar musclemen in the poll fray – directly or through their wives (or kin) – the possible names doing rounds – the names that could be announced to represent different political outfits – and it will be across the party lines.

7. Important to see how the Yadav votes behave after Lalu Prasad (Yadav) led RJD vehemently pushed for Anant Singh’s arrest, a muscleman and an influential Bhuimhar MLA.

8. Extending that ‘Yadav voting trend’ – it is important to be seen how the Bhumihar voters vote? Bhumihars may be less in number but they are the biggest land owners there. It is important to see if they see Anant Singh and similar episodes as humiliating enough and work to defeat Nitish Kumar, an OBC leader.

9. Emergence of Jitan Ram Manjhi and its impact on Dalit and Mahadalit votes and the pre-poll and thus post-poll political equations accordingly – Jitan Ram Manjhi’s chief-ministerial ambitions and the subsequent seat sharing talks with the National Democratic Alliance.

10. And the usual, most talked about factors – caste and religion – how would they behave – anti-BJP and NDA block would try to corner Muslim votes and a secular alliance of Congress-JD(U)-RJD expects to perform well here. The real fight would for Dalit and Mahadalit votes after Jitan Ram Manjhi has emerged as an important claimant. Also, Nitish Kumar cannot solely claim the OBC votebank constituency as Narendra Modi is also an OBC leader who exploited well this factor in the Lok Sabha election campaign.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

ELECTIONS, NOTA AND QUESTIONS OF AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD

I was watching coverage of Delhi election on TN news channels this morning when my 11 year old niece came to sit by me. It clearly meant I needed to be ready answering questions that she would be picking up from the content.

I have become used to and enjoy it. Sometimes, there are no answers. Sometimes, there cannot be answers. Sometimes, I don’t know the answers. But, thankfully, most of the times, I am able to answer her to her and my satisfaction.

Sometimes, she asks questions that transcend the age boundaries leaving me thinking for a long time as I know how relevant the question is and how desperately the society needs to find the answer. Today was one such day with the questions she asked. Some of the questions were:

Should anyone who doesn’t find any candidate in the fray worthy go with ‘None of the Above/ NOTA option (yes, she was aware of it thanks again to these rounds of questions and answers) or he should go with the best of the lot?

But if we don’t find anyone worthy, why should we compromise, why shouldn’t we go with NOTA?

What if more people opt for NOTA than any other candidate?

What if all the votes cast in a constituency go to NOTA?

What if all the votes except a small share, say in the range of 5% go to NOTA?

Now, we all who are politically aware have thought over and discuss the first three questions.

But, even the last two are not irrelevant, even if repetitive in tone. And the last three may sound utopian given the state of affairs of the Indian politics of the day, but certainly push us to think.

How would our prevailing electoral system handle such crisis points?

Would the moral constraints give way to the constitutional framework where NOTA gets larger or equal vote share, the second one?

What would happen of Indian politics, Indian society and India if the electoral response gets to these extreme outcomes, the last three?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE THREE CARDINAL (BUT LARGELY INEFFECTIVE) POINTS OF EC’S RULEBOOK

With the Election Commission (EC) of India announcing the poll schedule of the 2014 General Elections (GE 2014) today, the model code of conduct has come into force with the immediate effect. The long list of EC’s do’s and dont’s, though, on a whole, fails to discipline the politicians, has certain favourites prioritized on the lips of the election commissioners whenever they enumerate the measures to make the elections free and fair.

Major among them are controlling the flow of money beyond the stipulated limit, disciplining the politicians on their personal conduct against other politicians and disciplining the politicians on making sky-high promises to the electorate.

And therefore, like always, the Election Commission has reiterated the three cardinal points:

Politicians should not make unrealistic promises/unachievable claims.

Politicians should not target each other with unsubstantiated allegations.

The contestants must follow the threshold of poll spending, adding another clause this time to submit details of foreign accounts and assets.

Now, based on the flow of the history and the precedents set, we all know what is going to happen (BJP-AAP violent clash outside BJP’s Delhi office today is just a glimpse of it):

When it comes to making promises, Indian politicians are the unmatched achievers who religiously follow the age-old saying of the sages that ‘impossible is a word that doesn’t exist in the dictionary of achievers’.

  • They ascetically believe that ‘achieving’ means ‘making promises to extort votes’ by making promises look as grand and fabulous as possible.

The war of words that has already reached to juicier levels is slated to scale the deafening heights. The limits of acceptable parliamentary behavior that were already made irrelevant years ago will get even more humiliating treatment.

  • The dictionary of unparliamentarily/abusive/derogatory is scheduled to get more comprehensive and enriched by May 10, 2014 when the campaigning for the last phase of GE-2014 (on May 12) ends.

‘Who spends what’ and ‘who should spend what’ – it has been an evergreen point of rift between the politicians and the regulators, with politicians consistently outdoing the Election Commission. And this foreign accounts and assets clause is not going to be of any use as such accounts and assets are maintained to stash the black money away from the regulatory clutches and identities are either kept secret or are outsourced to others.

So, be ready for the final push of the political assault that began with the five state assembly polls in the last quarter of 2013.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/