UP’s Dalits Remind Mayawati: Democracy is a Beautiful
The higher you fly, the harder you crash. Kumari Mayawati has just learnt this lesson, and is finally giving her ever-expanding fleet of air-crafts some rest. There was clear evidence before the results were out that Dalits were not going to the polling booths to vote; if they did they wouldn’t be able to press any button other than the elephant. Dalit activists in UP had been telling me this for some time now. There were rumours that the UP police has also informed the administration of this trend.
Low Dalit turnout worries BSP
May 3: Perturbed by the low turnout of Dalit voters in the first three phases of polls in Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is now making special efforts to mobilise Dalits to cast their votes in the remaining two phases of the elections. According to party sources, the BSP president, Ms Mayawati, has sent out instructions to party coordinators to start mobilising Dalits to reach the polling booths on May 7 and 13 when votes are cast for the fourth and fifth phase of elections. The BSP president is said to be rather upset over the Dalit turnout in the first three phases of elections in the state, which has been “alarmingly low” — as low as 30 per cent. [Deccan Chronicle]
Then again, another news report just before the results did some hard work to establish the low turnout of Dalits, otherwise difficult to prove empirically:
A look at the decline in voting percentages in the traditional BSP strongholds of Agra area suggests that the Dalit voter who has stood like a rock behind BSP for the last two decades is showing signs of indifference if not outright disillusionment in some measure.
Booth number 58 at Tehri Baghiya under Etmadpur assembly of Agra (reserved) Lok Sabha seat, a traditional stronghold of BSP, recorded a mere voting percentage of 27.37%. In Naraich area of the same assembly segment, booth number 67 again recorded a lowly 29.17% votes. At booth number 84 the voter turnout was still less at 27.20%. Here at booth numbers 81, 82 and 83 the voting percentage could not even cross the 25% mark. Significantly the average voting percentage at these three booths in the last assembly elections was above 42%. At Nunihai booth number 126 the percentage was 24.32%. In Agra South assembly segment two polling booths in Bodla area, again a stronghold of BSP, recorded a dismal voting percentage of 27%. At Nagla Burhi in the Agra North assembly segment, which has a predominance of Jatav voters, the percentage was an abysmal 17.20%. [Central Chronicle]
After the results were out, the BSP got some pollster to fetch detailed caste-wise break-ups. These are the figures Mayawati must have looked at, and they confirm the above reports.
A CSDS post-poll study of the 2007 assembly elections had said that the BSP had got 80% Dalit votes – that is, 4 in every 5 Dalit votes. This time, the figures obtained by the BSP say that 62.2% Dalits voted for the BSP. That is nearly a 25% drop. It also means that other parties put together took away 38% of Dalit votes! This includes 12% to the Congress. The rest 26% or so has to be divided between the BJP, SP and the myriad Dalit independents and small parties.
But this statistic is of the votes Dalits cast. There is no way of ascertaining what per centage of Dalits who voted in 2007 did not come out to vote at all this time, but most in UP agree it must be around 25%.
For those who are interested*, I have phase-wise details of the Dalit votes:
Mayawati clearly knew this was coming, and thus locked herself up three days before the results. These numbers explain why the BSP got only 21 seats when, going by the assembly elections performance of 2007, it should have gotten 42. These numbers also explain why the BSP was the runner-up in 48 seats. This means that along with the 21 they have won, they were in the fray in a total of 69 seats, and only in 11 seats did they not stand a chance. In 16 of these 48 seats, the losing margin of the BSP candidate was less than 30,000 votes. That is why the paradox of the BSP getting the largest vote-share in UP and yet getting the third-largest number of seats.
This means for sure that had the Dalit voter not decided to make her/his resentment apparent, the BSP could well have got 35+ seats, and perhaps halted the Congress and become a key coalition partner.
But UP’s Dalits knew she was flying too far and fast. They didn’t want to lose her to Delhi. But more on that later.
Muslims and Brahmins
First, a few myths need to be busted. Myth One: That the Muslims deserted her. And Myth Two: That the Brahmins deserted her.
Mayawati’s press conference after the debacle said Muslims were to be blamed as they didn’t vote for her, and that they didn’t do so because the Congress and SP managed to convince them that she wouldd ally with the Muslim-killing BJP.
She is creating a false bogey here, and given that she knew Dalits are not turning out to vote for at least a month, it seems she is deliberately creating the Muslim bogey. For, the figures obtained by me, the same figures that she must have looked at on Sunday morning, say that more Muslims voted for the BSP in LS 2009 than they did in Vidhan Sabha 2007 elections. The Muslim vote was split exactly three-way between the SP, Congress and BSP – Muslims were clearly not united enough to do their famous “tactical” voting, resulting in the decline of the number of Muslim MPs from UP to 6 from 11 in 2004.
The 2007 CSDS study had said the BSP got 17% Muslim votes. In the 2009 Lok Sabha, far from a dip the Muslim votes increased tremendously for the BSP. The aggregate Muslim votes for the BSP this time was 26.5%. The Congress got less than that – 22.5% Muslim votes. This is contrary to the perception that the SP’s Muslim votes shifted mainly to the Congress. At 32.3%, the SP still managed to get more Muslim votes than the others. The three-way split meant that as compared to 11 Muslim MPs in the last Lok Sabha this time there are only six. The notion of tactical voting by Muslims has gone for a toss.
For anyone interested in the Muslim break-up, here we go:
(Shia – 34%, Sunni – 41%)15.5%
(Shia – 18%, Sunni – 13%)18.5%
(Shia – 17%, Sunni – 20%)
In phase 2, BSP actually got more Muslim votes than the SP or the Congress! Why then is Mayawati blaming Muslims? I think what she means is that she expected the Muslims going away from ulayam to come to her in much larger numbers. Instead, the split of the disenchanted Muslim votes between BSP and Congress meant that Congress got an edge in many of the seats it has won – such are the idiosyncrasies of the first-past-the-post system!
Mayawati had hoped her extra-harsh punishment to Varun Gandhi – locking up a Gandhi under NSA! – would convince voters of her secular credentials. As Netaji Mulayam Singh Yadav said regularly – at one point, three days in a row – that Mayawati would ally with the BJP after elections, he managed to save some Muslims votes for himself and the Congress. What Mayawati needed to do back then was to declare, loud and clear, that she’d never ally with the BJP. Such a declaration would hurt only baniya votes, because the Brahmins were being wooed by her anyway. But she didn’t do this, hoping to be part of an NDA government or BJP support of a Mayawati-led government. Now that she has paid the price for such ambitions, she realises she can’t have her cake and eat it too. The same Mayawati who campaigned for Narendra Modi in 2004, the same Mayawati who managed her previous two governments in UP with the BJP, the same Mayawati the RSS loves, that same Mayawati has now declared, for the first time ever, that she won’t have a truck with communal forces ever in the future!
“As for our future course of action, let me make it loud and clear that we will never join hands with communal forces.” [Link]
We must celebrate this!
Now, what about the Brahmin votes? I have the figures only for the BSP and not for other parties, and the figures show that the BSP’s Brahmin votes, coming one presumes mainly from the 20 constituencies where the BSP candidates were Brahmins, dipped only marginally. The CSDS survey had said that the BSP got 17% Brahmin votes in 2007, contrary to the hungama about the Dalit-Brahmin alliance made by the media and soem self-styled Dalit intellectuals. This time, the Brahmin votes dipped to 15%.
For those interested in phase-wise break-up:
Phase 1: 23%
Phase 2: 15%
Phase 3: 15%
Phase 4: 15%
Phase 5: 9%
So the pundits in Delhi who kept saying that the social engineering formula of the Mayawati of 2007 is breaking, were completely off the mark.
Why were the Dalits disenchated with the BSP?
When Mayawati won in 2007, she feared that her party workers, officials and MLAs would become the law of the land just as the Mulayam establishment had become. Riding on that anti-incumbency way did she come to power with an absolute majority. She didn’t want her party to become the same. So she repeatedly told her party not to pressurise the administration and the police, to let the bureaucrats function independently, to not influence transfers and postings. She wanted a clean image lest it hurt her national expansion plans and prime ministerial ambitions. But UP is UP, and to think that bureaucrats are saints is to think there’s life on the sun.
“We have to literally beg before officers, who treat us like petty servants, while they openly indulge in corrupt practices.” [Link]
Thankfully, this may change now.
The first 100 days of Mayawati did see a lot of the classic Mayawati that many in UP love: the Mayawati who doesn’t tolerate criminals and mafia, the Mayawati who established ‘tehsil’ and ‘thana’ diwas – a day of the week each for administrationa dn police when the poor in the districts line-up with their complaint letters. But if the BSP cadres can’t pressurise an SP to file an FIR in a Dalit atrocity, when the cadres can’t get an educated Dalit a government job, when the officials openly defy them, what hope is there that dalits can get anything done?
After the intial euphoria, Mayawati became so apathetic to administrative matters that till date, two years after Mayawati became CM of UP on 13 May 2007, the Below Poverty Line list of UP is the one that was made under the Mulayam regime, and one in which many deserving Dalits were left out. Since Mayawati became CM, the list has been revised twice, but the BSP workers say every time that the administrative officials have done hanky-panky with it, and every time Mayawati orders a fresh revision. So how long will a landless Dalit family wait to be able to buy cheap ration? And if such is the concern their Behenji has for them, how will he have the enthusiasm to turn up at the polling booth to press the elephant button?
In Delhi’s air-conditioned media “election war rooms,” the journalists and editors don’t know how important BPL lists are. Heck, they don’t even comment on what the state of the country is if governments can be re-elected by offering rice for Rs. 2 a kg. All they can do is sit and conjecture, ‘The Brahmins seem to be shifting’. In fact, in the results Mayawati has more Brahmins than any other caste in her 21 MPs:
This time the BSP had fielded 20 Brahmins, 20 OBCs, 17 Dalits, 15 Muslims, and six Thakurs in the state. Of this, Brahmins won at five places, Muslims and Thakurs won at four each, OBCs three and Dalits two. [Link]
And for all those who think that the BSP is only about Dalits and Brahmins, please note the figures about OBCs. And please do bring them to the notice of Dalit intellectuals.
How could the Dalits be shifting? According to the stereotype that the Delhi media has of Dalits, that is impossible, they vote for Mayawati only because of caste, Mayawati’s voters don’t engage with governance and development, that is the problem with identity polics. The proud and brave Dalits of Uttar Pradesh are not the target consumers of the Delhi media. But they are the target audience of Mayawati. They have sent told her what they wanted to, and Mayawati has listened, the Delhi media can continue being oblivious.
But it is not just ‘development’ kind of reasons. It’s also that the ‘bhaichara’ or inter-caste brotherhood committees didn’t do their job well this time. Upper caste candidates, having bought tickets from the BSP for crores, said that delivering the Dalit votes was the BSP organisation’s responsibility. They wouldn’t even go to mobilise dalit voters. The BSP cadres were also lax. Dalit voters felt bitter that the BSP thinks they have bought their votes forever.
Mayawati may blame Muslims, but she knows it’s the foundation that has shaken. She’s started responding. She has issued a warning to government officials that not solving people’s problems will result in punishment, the way it used to be in her previous governments.
Indeed, administrative officers in UP are rattled after reports that those in charge of constituencies where BSP lost by narrow margins could get transferred. If sources in the state bureaucracy are to be believed, in the line of Mayawati’s fire are officials in 12 districts where BSP lost to Congress. There are six other districts where BSP lost marginally. [Link]
She has directed her four principal secretaries to conduct ground inspections of the work under the Ambedkar villages and Kanshi Ram Urban redevelopment schemes – schemes that primarily benefit Dalits. In an emergency meeting of the secretariat on Sunday, a day after the results, Mayawati asked that the tehsil and thana diwas be conducted properly. She has asked all IAS officers to visit one Dalit village each and find out of the development schemes were reaching the poor.
Mayawati has also made good her promise of axing several political appointees if the BSP didn’t get 50 seats. On Monday she collected resignation letters of over a hundred heads and members of several government-owned corporations who were entrusted with the task of mobilising voters. Contrary to what our enlightened papers say, these people have not been sacked. The resignations will be accepted one bye one, as Mayawati finds out exactly who in which constituency was responsible for the debacle. Last but not the least, the biggest threat of all: Mayawati plans to do site inspections of development work, the way she used to in her earlier terms, and instantly suspend officials where work was found to have been done only on paper. She called a meeting of the secretariat on a Sunday to complain that the pace of development is too slow. Which it indeed is.
All of these were features of past Mayawati governments. It is by being thus tough she had earned the ‘Iron Lady’ image. This time, the decisive 2007 victory made her lax, she started dreaming of prime ministership and neglecting administrative work. She closed herself in her ivory tower, making herself inaccessible to workers and surrounded only by a coeterie of sycophantic bureaucrats who assured her day and night of 50 seats.
If Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati were friends, Mulayam would probably tell her at this juncture, “I know how it feels.” For Mulayam knows what it is like when the ground beneath your feet shifts without a warning. Mulayam was CM of UP before Mayawati, and he didn’t realize the extent of anger that voters had against the mafia raj presided over by his brother Shiv Pal Yadav. It wasn’t the ground, it was the carpet you were standing on.
In her rallies Mayawati had completely stopped using the word ‘Dalit’ – a senior BSP leader told me Dalit was a word as bad as Gandhi’s Harijan! I was shocked. In the book Behenji, Ajoy Bose writes that Kanshi Ram came to know of Mayawati only when she created a ruckus at Delhi’s Constitution Club when in a debate some speakers used the Gandhian term ‘Harijan’ rather than the Ambedkarite term ‘Dalit’. That Mayawati today wants to be Dalit without being Dalit. Given that the BSP is wooing ‘Sarvajan Samaj’ these days, they even object to the media calling her “Dalit queen”.
On Tuesday 19 May, Mayawati addressed a large gather of her party workers, MLAs, MPs, cand candidates who had lost the election. Many from outside UP were also invited. In the three hours long address, Mayawati spoke at length about BSP founder Kanshi Ram. Let’s remember Manywar Kanshi Ram ji, let’s follow the path shown by Manywar Kanshi Ram ji. It is not these workers who forgot Kanshi Ram, Behenji. It is you. It is you who has replaced Kanshi Ram with a coterie of bureaucrats and Brahmins. Kanshi Ram’s legacy does not live in them. It lives in the Dalits of Uttar Pradesh who worship him as god, and they would do so regardless of whether you put up your own statues next to his or not.
The BSP became so confident about its formula of identifying the right caste for a constituency and giving the ticket to anyone from that caste who could shell out the crores, that it forgot that even people of that caste will look at how serious the candidate is. This seems to be another realisation.
It’s great that Mayawati wants to ‘return’ to the Dalit agenda, but was it really important to point out that her friend-turned-foes PL Puniya is a Dhanuk rather than a Jatav like her? The path shown by Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram, I thought, was one of dissolving caste differences between dalits and unite them. Imagine, Behenji, what impact this will have on your party’s efforts in Haryana. Will Haryana’s Dhanuks ever vote for you? Do you not want their votes? Are Dhanuks to Sarvajan Samaj what poets were to Plato’s Republic?
And does it help to falsely blame Muslims? Will they not ask: does she have the guts to ever blame Brahmins? And will the Brahmins, seeing you openly behave in this desperate state of panic, not be forced to think that rahul Gandhi is a Brahmin!
Mayawati wants her party’s Delhi unit to give her a report on how Sheila Dikshit manages to fight anti-incumbency, Clearly, she is thinking of 2012 assembly elections. For 2007, she had prepared for two years. There’s going to be no relief now for her party or the administration. In the Congress, on the other hand, Rahul Gandhi is going to believe the lie that he had something to do with the Congress performance in UP. The Congress did this wonder in UP because of the shift in Muslim votes, a nostalgic longing amongst some voters for Congress, the fact of some good candidates such as Azharuddin and Annu Tandon, etc. There’s still no sign of a Congress cadre or organisation, which is so much more important in the Vidhan Sabha elections. The BSP and SP will again be the principal players in 2012, and if Mayawati continues giving her helicopters some rest, she may spring yet another surprise.
Dalits kept at home to give Mayawati a reality check. The Dalits of UP know this and Mayawati knows this. But who is Chandra Bhan Prasad blaming for Mayawati’s poor showing? The OBCs, of course!
In opposing the nuclear deal, Mayawatti was sucked into the Third Front, mostly a conglomerate of Shudras/OBCs. Brahmins of UP along with Dalits want freedom from the Shudra/OBC rule of Mulayam Singh Yadav. [Link]
Some things never change.
* Uttar Pradesh went to the polls in five phases, with nearly the same number of seats in each phase, roughly from east to west. So phase one was east-most and phase 5 west-most. See map here (.pdf) and for the names of constituencies in every phase, see page 29 of the .pdf file here.