Beyond the predictions made by most observers and even its own internal assessments, the Samajwadi Party emerged as the sole pole against the BSP, in a neat reversal of the 2007 mandate. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi had a dismal showing, and the BJP too failed to gain. The media, which had been focused on Rahul Gandhi, discovered a new darling in Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam’s son who became Chief Minister.
The SP, fully aware that memories of the ‘goondaraj’ which had become the hallmark of its earlier regime had not faded, projected Akhilesh as a young and new face for the party. Akhilesh made the symbolic gesture of refusing to induct DP Yadav, thereby sending a message that the SP’s new leadership had learnt its lessons well. The State’s voters, tired of the corruption and repression of Mayawati’s rule, voted overwhelmingly for the SP.
Certain trends in the UP elections were notable and significant. One of these was the aspirations of youth, for whom employment emerged as an important poll issue. Even during the elections, Employment Exchanges witnessed long queues of people seeking to register themselves. The SP’s last Government had introduced a Rs 500 unemployment allowance, and UP’s unemployed youth were hopeful that an SP Government would repeat this policy.
The new government has immediately announced an unemployment allowance of Rs 1000 (but only those above 35 who have passed Higher Secondary) and laptops for school students (for only those scoring above 75% marks). But the queues at the Employment Exchange are tell-tale signs of simmering anxiety, resentment, and aspirations of unemployed youth. While unemployment allowance for all unemployed above 21 years is an immediate and urgent need, it must be accompanied by a change in policy priorities – away from pro-corporate, pro-rich policies, and towards generating secure and signified employment.
A closer look also reveals the proliferation of a plethora of smaller parties and fragmentation of votes, even in such a sharply polarised election. This rather under-discussed trend has been emerging over the last decade in UP. Apart from the major players SP, BSP, BJP, Congress, RLD, there were some 14 parties that polled over 1,50,000 votes. Some of these parties (such as TMC, NCP, JDU, LJP) do not really reflect any trend in UP politics but have polled votes by fielding dissidents from main parties and contesting a large number of seats. Kalyan Singh’s party [JKP(R)] and Amar Singh’s party (Rashtriya Lok Manch) may be a temporary phenomenon, but votes polled by parties like Peace Party and Apna Dal which have won seats and those like Mahan Dal, Pragatisheel Manav Samaj Party and Bhartiya Samaj Party which represent caste groups like Kurmis, Kushwahas, Binds or Rajbhars in different regions of UP do represent real life socio-political trends, on however small a scale.
In the wake of the SP’s landslide victory and the emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as the new face of the SP, there is a concerted attempt on the part of many to project the new SP dispensation as not just a replacement of the BSP or a beneficiary of anti-BSP resentment, but as a new regime reflecting UP’s aspirations and prospects for corporate development, akin to regimes led by the likes of Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik or Nitish Kumar. The hype has received rude reality shocks, though, even before Akhilesh Yadav became CM!
As soon as the results were out, SP strongmen began ‘celebrating’ with arson and carnage aimed at Dalit villages. Journalists covering the counting of votes were badly beaten up. During Akhilesh’s swearing-in, the boisterous supporters engaged in fisticuffs and brawls, overturning the very table which Akhilesh had graced a minute ago and uprooting the mike from which Akhilesh had made his first address as CM! Akhilesh might have kept DP Yadav at arm’s length before the elections, but the SP line-up of candidates had its fair share of villains. And to crown it all, the notorious feudal gangster Raja Bhaiyya who won the election as an SP-supported independent candidate has been inducted into Akhilesh’s Cabinet. Instead of being in jail where he belongs, for his criminal acts and feudal atrocities, he is now Jail Minister! Akhilesh dismissed all the serious charges against Raja Bhaiyya as ‘politically motivated.”
The hype of pro-corporate ‘development’ notwithstanding, what has already begun unfolding from day one of the SP regime, are the ominous signs of assaults on democracy, threats to the dignity of dalits and other oppressed sections, and the continued ascendancy of criminal and feudal politicians.
Punjab: CPI(ML) and CPM Punjab had put up respectively 7 and 6 candidates in Punjab. The 7 candidates of CPI(ML) polled approximately 14,000 votes while the 6 candidates of CPM Punjab polled around 18,000 votes. The highest vote polled by CPI(ML) candidate has been approximately 4,000 from Mansa, while CPM Punjab nominee from Bhoa polled more than 5,500 votes. CPI and CPI(M) had contested these elections as junior partners of the Punjab People’s Party led by former Akali Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Total votes polled by the 9 candidates of CPI(M) have been above 21,000 while the CPI polled more than 100,000 votes by fielding 14 candidates.
Uttarakhand: CPI(ML) had fielded 5 candidates in Uttarakhand – the party had seat adjustments with the CPI and CPI(M) (the latter however did not have complete adjustments among themselves). Uttarakhand Assembly seats are smaller than UP seats (3 seats in Uttarakhand are roughly equivalent to one Assembly seat in UP). Here, the highest vote polled by CPI(ML) has been close to 2,000 from Dharchula in Pithoragarh district.
Uttar Pradesh: In UP, the party had put up 41 candidates in all, and total votes added up to a little above 50,000. The highest vote polled was more than 5,600 (RYA National President Comrade Salim finished fifth from Mirzapur seat, ahead of the Congress candidate).
In all these three states votes showed a very slight overall increase from the 2007 level. While votes generally improved almost everywhere in Punjab and Uttarakhand, UP witnessed a drop in votes in several constituencies despite recording an overall increase of 10,000 votes.