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India: Sweeping Victory of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh [assembly elections 2017] – Is it an outcome of the Modi Wave? Its implications | Uday Mehta

9 June 2017

Version imprimable de cet article Version imprimable - 9 June 2017

The recent sweeping victory of the BJP in UP assembly election was far beyond expectation of even the party leadership both, at the State as well as the Central Level. In a sense it is a continuation of the Party’s march in Lok Sabha Elections of 2014. Lok Sabha election Victory was also equally shocking and beyond expectations of even proponents of the party. Obviously such massive victory calls for a serious appraisal of the factors that contributed for such success and shortcomings of the political formation which also put in their best efforts for their success. In order to better appreciate the present electoral outcome, it would be appropriate to keep in view the historical backdrop of the Uttar Pradesh political scenario. We shall attempt to make a brief appraisal of this rise and decline of the major political formations in Uttar Pradesh.

Historical Backdrop

Jasmin Z Brotel while discussing the rise of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh notes that, the decline of the Congress and the growth of sectional politics openly based on caste and community have been factors of growth as well as barriers for the BJP. While the communalization of UP society made the 1991 Victory possible, when the party registered the victory over 51 seats in Loksabha elections, it had since then prevented the BJP from regaining power in the State. The fragmentation of Uttar Pradesh Hindu electorate along caste lines also proved a major drawback in the BJP’s unknown approach, best expressed by Hindutva. This fragmentation had led to a dead end situation where no party on its own had been able to win elections and because of which the State had undergone three spells of President’s Rule since 1993.

Facing the growth of sectional parties in the UP turf and of regional parties in most of the other States in the country, the BJP has chosen as the same author points out to distance itself from a political agenda favouring Hindus too overtly and to re-appropriate much of the Congress’s former electoral platform of nationwide stability. Though Hindutva remains the party’s central ideology, it is not expressed in the usual aggressive way. The agreement reached with the BSP in March 1997 and the breaking of this alliance barely seven months later illustrates both the BJP’s new strategy and the tensions it provoked.

The consolidation of the BJP after 1991

By the beginning of the 1990s, it seems, two features characterized the Congress party in UP. On the one hand, its organization, once present in every district and virtually every tehsil of the State with workers able to mobilize voters at short notice, had by then completely collapsed. So-called party workers were still there but were not acting any more as a link between the electorate and their political representatives. On the other hand, the security which the party had enjoyed in the State since it had assumed power after Independence had reduced it to a monumental body unable to react quickly to new challenges. ‘Energy’ and contact with the masses indeed appear to be what the Congress had slowly lost during the years in power. After the BJP’s victory, it did not regain that ‘energy’, even when it dismissed the Kalyan Singh Government after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Years 1993-95 actually saw the completion of the collapse of the Congress organization in UP and the shrinking of the party’s capacity to determine the country’s agenda.

The violence of the 1980s which escorted the decline of Congress rule gave the BJP the opportunity to assert its image as a clean, organized and efficient party that would revitalize the State. The Kalyan Singh Government scaled the fate of the Congress system of patronage and later dominance of the State apparatus by upper castes.

After 1990, the caste polarization around the Mandal issue played two different parts in BJP’s evolution. For one, it kept the OBCs hoping to benefit from the Mandal reservations away from the party. But it also brought support from Brahmins, forsaking the Congress for the BJP, while recruitment of OBCs excluded from the benefits of Mandal or in conflict with the numerous and powerful Yadav caste, also played an important part in bringing the BJP to power as in broadening its social base. For instance, the gains in Western UP have as much to do with the Jats’ exclusion from Mandal and the Sainis and Lodhis enmity with Yadavs.

The proportion of MLAs of the various caste groups in 1985, 1989 and 1991 shows that the BJP gave particular attention to balance them and to integrate some of the smallest castes. In 1996 again, a similar process was repealed.

The years 1985-91 also the BJP’s scheduled caste base expand following the same process of integration of different caste groups.

By 1996, upper caste accounted for 20 of the party’s 52 MPs – Brahmin and Rajput in equal proportion – while the numbers of the OBCs had risen to 8 and that of SC to 14. Therefore, it seemed that the type of social equation put together by the BJP has varied with the disappearance of religious mobilization and has to some extent followed the demands for wider representation coming from a section of the OBCs and the SCs.

The expansion of its social base appeared to have been identified as the main challenge towards gaining power in the 1996 elections. In 1995, by deciding to support the BSP government, the party appeared to have made the portent conclusion of going the way the Congress party had done in the 1970s and 1980s: associate its own forward Caste base with the Scheduled Castes. The alliance also seemed workable due to the Dalits unclear approach to Hindutva. The indifference of Dalits to Hindutva is an interesting phenomenon which paradoxically helped the BJP. To some of them, Hindutva is not perceived as a threat and it seems that since 1995, the BJPs support of the Mayawati Government had led to more Dalits to vote for the BJP. To quote an influential exponent of the Dalit views, the threat of Social Fascism (power to the Backward Castes) is greater than the threat of communal fascism (power to the BJP) (Conference of Chandra Bhan Prasad from the Dalit Shiska Andolan – New Delhi, Teen Murti Library, 12 Aug 1997).

Instead of trying to break Chamar Votes for the BSP or Pasi Votes for the Janata Dal, the BJP has focussed on employment of the other castes. This strategy has paid dividends electorally. In the Scheduled Castes Categories, the smaller castes are often unhappy with the larger Chamar - dominated Dalit movements, in particular the BSP, and thus willing to associate with non-Scheduled Castes groups in order to enter the political mainstream.

The changing features of caste mobilization from one region to another have made it difficult for the BSP to build a stable base around the larger caste-groups in the whole state.

The tensions at work across the BJP’s support base have found one channel of expression inside the party in the resistance of the Backward Caste Section to a further commitment to the BSP and another one with the other components of the Sangh Parivar in dissatisfaction with the dilution of the Hindutva rhetoric.

Social engineering as Jasmine Z. Brotel brings out seemed to have taken over the lead over religious polarization in the BJP’s strategy in UP or as the expression familiar in Congress circles. The BJP is hesitating between Rama and Kanshi Rama. However, the general context of the OBC assertion had made some of the upper caste leadership of the party uneasy about the impact of this evolution. Thus sharp tensions appeared between the general and assembly elections in 1996, over the interpretation of the results between Kalyan Singh’s group and the upper caste lobby headed by Kalraj Mishra and Lalji Tandon and supported by Murli Manohar Joshi. In the eleventh general elections indeed, nearly 80 percent of the BJP backward caste candidates were returned against 45 percent of the forward Castes. The results of the 1996 Assembly elections have led the central leadership of the party to introduce a counter weight to Kalyan Singh and to try to limit the dissensions born from his bias for the Backwards. Like the general elections, the Assembly elections were marked by rebellion and protest by the sitting MLAs who had been denied tickets and a total lack of coordination was deplored as one of the causes of the failure to gain a majority.

Strategically speaking as Jasmine concludes, de-communalizing the political field has become particularly important in UP where the electoral expression of Muslims consternation at the destruction of the Babri Masjid has compromized the party’s chances of re-seizing power. In that sense, consensual politics has become a necessity for the BJP, all the more so as divisions inside the Hindu electorate were sharpening.

However, the close interactions between the Sangh Pariwar’s members, as the same author brings out, make it impossible for the BJP to stray too far from the RSS’s founding commitment to Bharat Mata or the VHP’s claim to construct the Ram Mandir. Electorally, it might have to be more receptive to the demands and feelings of its upper caste base without antagonizing its OBC and Dalit Voters. Thus the field of options opened to the BJP and the other parties remains limited by caste and community issues. (The BJP in Uttar Pradesh: From Hindutva to Consensual Politics? Jasmine Zerinini Brotel from the BJP and the Compulsions of politics in India edited by Thomas Blom Hansen – Chritophe Jaffrelot – Delhi Oxford University Press 1998 PP 72-100).

Sweeping victory of the BJP in recent UP Assembly election could not be easily explained in terms of its adoption of the policy of social engineering as it evolved during the nineties. Social engineering policy was based on the principle of the dilution of the religious i.e. Hindutva thrust, in forming electoral alliances. Its choice of Kalyan Singh as the Chief Minister of the State was based on wooing OBC Castes, especially non-Yadavs, other less dominant caste like Lodha, which Kalyan Singh represented and also opting for non -Yadav Dalit castes which could break stranglehold of BSP and its leader Mayawati on depressed castes in the State. This formula of co option of OBCs and Dalit did enable BJP to expand its social base from the upper castes. But one could see the problems such alliance created for the BJP as its coalition with Mayawati as the Chief Minister, was not successful as it broke within a short passage of over a year in mid-nineties.

Thus, the dilemma for the party of its extending its social base by adopting the policy of multi caste alliance could not be resolved. This was also evident from the isolation of the BJP in UP electoral scene during the first decade of this century and its much smaller representation in the state assembly.

This policy of banking especially on OBCs under the leadership of Kalyan Singh also created a sharp rift in the party leadership. The dilemma of finding winning coalition remained unresolved.

In this context the party’s quite unexpected sweeping victory initially in 2014 Loksabha election and subsequently in UP Assembly poll has come as a pleasant surprise and terrible shock to the rest of the opposition parties.
Hence, we also strongly feel that the recent spectacular success of the BJP in UP assembly election needs a careful and critical appraisal.

Times of India’s appraisal of the recent assembly election and of the factors that could have contributed to such unprecedented success of the BJP in this context deserve special consideration.

Times of India team in its survey of the massive victory of the party notes that BJP has delivered another knockout performance in the latest round of assembly elections. Once again, against heavy odds, Amit Shah has leveraged PM Narendra Modi’s popularity to pull off a record - shattering win for the party. The scale of victory in politically pivotal UP may have shocked opponents and pundits, but it just about surpassed Shah’s own estimate.

Having fashioned the saffron sweep of 2014, when the party won 71 out of the 80 (it helped ally Apna Dal beg two of the rest) Lok Sabha seats from the sprawling State, Shah was confident that BJP could achieve a repeat if it avoided the mistakes that led to its defeat in Bihar in 2015. It enlists the “10 things BJP did to bag 312 seats this time”.

We are reproducing its major findings for the recent sweeping victory of the BJP.

  1. Astute ticket distribution to non-Yadav, backwards who were given more than 130 nominations.
  2. Targeting of non-Jatav Dalits, with Parsis getting 25 tickets and Dhobi’s cornering nine. This amplified the signal given by Shah’s earlier decision to appoint Keshav Maurya, a Kushwaha, as state party president.
  3. Induction of other backwards and non Jatav dalits in the central ministry like Krishna Raj, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Apana Dal’s Anupriya Patel.
  4. Poaching of influential BSP members like Swami P. Prasad Maurya and R.K. Chaudhary. This made BSP look like a party of Jatav alone. The same tactic was used to highlight Akhilesh Yadav’s dependance on Yadav’s.
  5. BJP used demonetization and surgical strikes to project Modi as a leader capable of taking decisive action and pro-poor measures.
  6. Speedy implementation of welfare schemes like Ujjwala, subsidy for toilets, and better supply of Urea. Promises of more populist measures like farm loan waiver and interest - free loans were a hit.
  7. Stroked resentment against SPS perceived tilt towards Muslims and Yadav’s and benefited from a backlash, Modi and Shah promised end of ‘discrimination’ in ‘Rozgar and FIR’.
  8. A not-so-subtle messaging to Hindus through promises to shut down mechanized abattoirs and set up anti-Romeo Squads.
  9. Denial of any tickets to Muslims helped to present itself as a Hindu party correcting its rivals’ politics of ‘appeasement’.
  10. Did not project CM as it had no leader to match either Akhilesh or Mayawati. Any choice would have led to caste rivalries and unraveled the coalition. Focus remained on Modi who trumped rivals. Modi’s interventions, BJP feels, boosted its prospects in 50 marginal seats. (Sunday Times of India, Mumbai March 12, 2017.

Apart from the Modi factor, as the frontline appraisal of the recent UP Assembly election brings out, “Three years ago, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had successfully forged a pan-Hindu electoral identity that fetched the party 42.30 percent of the total votes polled and a massive victory in terms of seats. The average loss that the BJP has suffered in the 11 State Assembly elections after 2014 is about 10 percentage points. Even if a similar loss of votes occurs in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP would be the number one party in terms of vote share, at around 32.30 percent. In the electoral system of India, where the concept of first past the post is the norm, this vote share will be sufficient to get a majority.

Significantly, the loss of the BJP vote share from what it was in 2014 was not to the tune of 10 percentage points but just 2.6 percentage points. The party garnered 39.7 percent of the votes. This was unambiguously, an insignificant vote share loss and practically held together the pan-Handu electoral identity that the saffron party had crafted in 2014. The phenomenal scale of the victory of the BJP and its allias, 325 seats out of 403, of which the BJP accounted for 312, the Apana Dal (Soneylal) for nine and the Suchel Dev Bartiya Samaj Party four, was also in keeping with this retention of vote share. In 2014, when the BJP won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha Seats in the State, it had led in 328 Assembly segments.

On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party (SP) - Congress combine, the main challenger to the BJP and its allies, could rustle up only 28 percent of the vote shares – which incidentally was less than what they had obtained in the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections. Three years ago, the S.P. had 22.20 (now 21.8 percent) and Congress 7.50 (now 6.2 percent).

Thus, in spite of coming together, the combine cumulatively lost 1.7 percentage points from its 2014 vote share. In other words, not only there was no value addition from the coming together of the two parties, but it actually led to a decline in the core vote base of both the parties. The combine ended up with 54 seats, the SP winning 47 and the Congress seven, registering the lowest ever tally for both the parties in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the SP won five seats out of 80 and the Congress two; together they led in 57 Assembly segments. Once again, it is more or less a repetition of the 2014 electoral trend for these parties too. Interestingly, the third major force in the State, The Dalit oriented Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) actually increased its vote share from what it had in 2014, but still ended up losing big time. Its vote share rose to 22.2 percent from 19.6 percent in 2014. Still, the party could win 19 seats, its second- lowest tally in Uttar Pradesh. Its lowest tally was in 1991 when it won 12 seats, at a time when the party was still considered to be building up its mass base. The results upset the perception that dominated the election scene throughout the long drawn out process. After, the final phase of polling, the dominant view, even within the BJP was that the State was headed for a hung assembly.

However, beyond this sense of befuddlement and anger, as this appraisal brings out, there are several tangible factors that led to the BJP’s comprehensive victory. Three kay factors among these were the ability to retain a Hindutva communal narrative throughout the campaign, the supplementation of this through the advancement of post -truth pronouncements and exercises from the party machinery, including top leaders and finally the deployment of a superior organizational machinery.

Discussions within the SP-Congress combine as well as sections of the BSP are increasingly revolving around the absence of a Bihar-Style grand alliance (Mahagatbandhan) as a key factor in the phenomenal triumph of the BJP. Once again, plain electoral arithmetic is cited to buttress this point. “The SP-Congress combine has 28 percent of the vote share, the BSP 22.2 percent. Put together, it is massive 50.2 percent.

The excellent gains achieved by the BJP and shocking reversals suffered by the other political parties, especially SP compared to their position in previous State Assembly from the Comparative figures, for their strength in two Assemblies. We are reproducing figures of their positions in UP Assembly for 2012 and 2017 respectively.

- - 2017 2012 Percentage (%)
1 Bhartiya Janata Party 312 47 39.70
2 Samajwadi Party 47 224 21.8
3 Bahujan Samaj Party 19 80 22.2
4 Apna Dal (Soneyal) 9 1 1.0
5 Indian National Congress 7 28 6.2
6 Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party 4 0.7
7 Rastriya Lok Dal 1 9 1.80
8 Nirbal Indian Soshit Hamara Aam Dal 1 0.6
9 Independents- Allies of BJP 3 6 2.6

(Ref. Frontline March 31, 2017, Cover story Arithmetic of Success PP 9-13)

Apart from the strategy of successfully bringing together non Jatav, Non-Yadav which represented the core constituencies of the BSP and the SP respectively, one should take note of other equally relevant factors that contributed in SP losing sizeable chunk of its vote base.

Appreciation of the Akhilesh Yadav government’s performance as reported, became less important as polling neared, primarily on account of the SP’s alliance with the Congress. It became more and more evident through the poll process that the anti-Congress perception that reigned dominant during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was not yet subsided.

The allotment of as many as 105 seats to the Congress meant dropping close to 60 SP candidates. Many of them contested as rebels. A similar situation developed within the Congress too. Many Congress aspirants fought as rebels, bringing down the chances of both the parties. Cases in point are seats like Shamli and Lucknow Central. In Shamli former Congress MLA Pankaj Mullick was allotted the ticket. He got 40,365 votes and SP rebel Manish Kumar 31,824 votes. The seat was won by the BJP’s Tejendra Nirwal by securing 70,085 votes.

The results could, in the medium term, pose challenges to the BSP’s ability to hold on to its core Dalit vote base. Although it boosted its overall vote share, the party could win only two of the 84 seats reserved for Dalits. It could not win even a single seat of the nine in Agra, considered to be the capital of Uttar Pradesh.

This is also true of SP and its miserable defeat in its own strongholds. The feud within the SP’s first family, involving party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav, also damaged the party in strongholds such as Kannauj, Badaun, Etah and Etawah districts. The party lost all four seats in Etah, five of six seats in Badaun, two of three seats in Etawah and two of three seats in Kannauj. Prof Sudhir Panwar, the SP’s defeated candidate from Thana Bhawan, said that while all the limitations of the combine must have contributed, it was the BJP’s success in bringing about communal and casteist polarization, especially among sections of OBC, and Dalits against Yadav’s and Muslims, that tilted the results in its favour (Frontline, March 31, 2017, P. 13)

In our concluding observation, we would like to highlight the impact of the neo-liberal reforms and the socio-economic and cultural processes initiated and accelerated over the last three decades in rural and urban areas of the relatively backward state as Uttar Pradesh. Its impact of electoral choices also could not be overlooked. As so aptly brought out by Dipankar Gupta in his central page article in the Times of India “Modi got his sociology right which is why BJP left its opponents in the dust.”

In Mainpuri, where yadavs are over 18%, the SP won. But, in other places, like Ghazipur and Jaunpur, where with an identical population profile SP lost. In Jaunpur, for example, it was a Yadav but from BJP who swung the seat away from those other Yadavs in Akhilesh’s camp. This is also applicable to Jat dominated Western UP where RJD headed by the son of legendary Jat strongman Charan Singh, lost every seat in that part of UP.

Not only is it a fact that no caste numerically dominates any constituency but caste votes are also divided. This truth is demonstrated election after election.

Modi learning from Bihar experience sought to un-shuffle the caste cards and pull in everybody. BJP fielded every caste. There was a smattering of Yadavs, but also Brahmins, Baniyas and Rajputs as well as Kushwahas, Kurmis and Shakyas, Musehars and Dosadhs. If one were to talk in caste terms then all castes, from forwards to backwards to SCs received equal opportunity treatment. This made both caste chemistry and caste arithmetic look silly but what stands out instead is sociology.

The reason why Yadavs and Jats as the same writer brings out looked larger than life till about two decades ago was these two were socially the best endowed of all the peasant castes. They were the most literate, had the most land, leading to better connections with police and bureaucracy. As a result, they acted as patrons for the rest and conducts for the less privileged to reach out to the bigger ‘World’.

So, if a rural Kurmi or Saini wanted an application forwarded to get a water connection, a ration card, or a job as peon, the first part of call would be either a Jat or a Yadav. This gave the impression to both outsiders and insiders, that certain areas were dominated by Jats and Yadavs. The elementary mistake they all made was to confuse social prominence with numerical majority.

After seven decades of democracy many things have changed land reforms and reservations have upturned old social arrangements radically. There are no landlords, only a swarm of owner cultivators. Literacy and urbanization have, over the years, created a class of literate and virtuous among non Jats and Non-Yadavs too. They are not as well equipped as anybody else to push applications for urban jobs or stand up to a local cop.

This has led to the collapse of the old vote banks where one had to just win over the notables to one’s side. In those days it was patron versus patron and this is why Jat and Yadav presence appeared so magnified. This was equally true of among the Yadavs, though this process started a little later. In the 1980s SCs like Dusodhs and Musahars went to Yadavs, who were the best positioned among them for help. Now, they no longer need to be so dependent as literacy and urban occupations have come down to their ranks too. Mayawati’s isolation in recent times is largely on account of the diminishing charm of her Jatav Vote bank.

Under these conditions to think in terms of pure caste numbers or specific caste unities makes little sense (Dipankar Gupta, The Great Caste Delusion – The Times of India, Mumbai, Saturday, March 26, 2017.)

Is there a Modi wave that account for the BJP’s victory in UP elections?

The overwhelming influence of Modi’s grip and strategy he evolved and Amit Shah’s organizational skill in winning UP’s Assembly election cannot be overstressed. But by any stretch of imagination it cannot be equated with the Modi wave in winning elections. Had there been a wave how do we account for the BJP’s miserable failure in Punjab and the serious setback it suffered in Goa Assembly elections? But one cannot underestimate the lion’s share of Modi’s ability to recreate the 2014 wave to storm up as comprehensively as he did three years ago. (Arati R. Jerath, The Times of India : Modi Wave Defines election, March 14, 2017).

Nevertheless Narendra Modi along with Amit Shah deserve full credit for successfully handling the entire electoral battle in UP evolving effective modifications in the strategy for winning electoral elections during the long course of electoral process. Yogendra Yadav aptly sums up the implications and relevance of this astounding victory. He suggests that one should not underestimate the implications of this mandate. “This is not just about UP and Uttarakhand, one should not overlook the fact that BJP has done better than it should have done in the remaining three States. In UP and Uttarakhand there was no strong anti-incumbency sentiments to assist the BJP. And as in Haryana and Maharashtra, it did not have local leaders to protect. This is something only Indira Gandhi could have done, a national leader winning a state election without a local face. Such a big shift cannot be explained merely by factors like smart election management or social engineering or tactical mistakes by opponents. The fact is that Modi has captured the national political imagination and has become the poll around which national politics is conducted.

There are serious caveats to Modi’s widespread legitimacy one, it is not spontaneous. A lot of media management has gone into manufacturing this consent. Two, it is not truly cross-sectional: it firmly excludes minorities, especially Muslims. By not giving a single ticket to a Muslim candidate in UP, BJP sent a loud signal to delimit its electoral universe.

This verdict has again exposed the political bankruptcy of non BJP parties. Social Justice espoused by SP and BSP, is shown to be nothing but casteism. Secularism is shown to be either pandering to Muslims or keeping them hostage. “Socialism” has failed to meet the needs and touch the aspirations of the poor. The opposition is playing a simple-minded anti-Modi politics, which does not click with voters. Modi is positive, proactive and aggressive.
The opposition is defensive, reactive and negative. With regard to the Congress debacle, Yogendra Yadav argues that “Congress’s” problem is that it is an organization where political lightweights float and heavyweights sink. Thus from top to bottom, the leadership needs an overhaul. (Yogendra Yadav “It is a hegemonic moment for BJP.., non-BJP politics needs a fundamental reorientation”. The Times of India Tuesday, March 14, 2017.)
While concurring with this critical appraisal of the factors for the BJP’s victory and the debacle of the SP and the BSP in UP. Assembly election, we strongly feel that it is imperative to keep in view the striking difference in OBC and Dalit leadership and their parties repentant than in Bihar and their counterpart in UP. Nitish Kumar or Lalu Yadav along with host of other leaders at the State and even grass-root levels have a glorious past of being a part of the Kisan movement and student movement at least since the initiation of JPs movement in seventies in sharp contrast to this UP Yadav or Dalit leaders barring a small Section have hardly any close acquaintance with such movements or aspirations. Mulayam Singh who has much understanding of such grass root politics kept more or less from this electoral campaign and was quite critical of his son’s politics. Mayawati also could hardly be compared with Dalit leadership in Bihar.

Secondly, Akhilesh Yadav’s entire approach to politics sounds more managerial rather than that of a grass root activist who would be quite sensitive to grass root caste and class politics and loyalties. Hence, the BJP in spite of Modi and Amit Shah with all their endeavors and tricks could not succeed in Bihar. In UP ground reality is different and the party could succeed in its maneuver in forging a formidable caste alliance that could assure electoral victory. Apart from this, Bihar has a rich history of Kisan movement and, radical leadership right from pre-independence period.

Dilemma of the BJP since the Victory

Since the BJP government under Adityanath Yogi has come into power and the measures it has initiated initially, it has led to sharp criticism of the steps announced by the government from the neo-liberal critics who initially wholehearted supported the Modi and its victory in UP Assembly election.

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria a well known exponent of the liberal economy has shown sharp displeasure of the recent steps announced by the Yogi Government in Uttar Pradesh. He Points out Modi the economic developer has been upended by Modi the populist. The farm loan waiver and other measures announced in Uttar Pradesh recently amounted to an emphatic change in BJP policy direction. Given scarce government finances, the explosion of give aways can only come at the co cost of development schemes, which are urgently needed in Uttar Pradesh and other polls bound States Astonishingly, after thrashing Congress Style populism at the polls, Modi is adopting that very failed strategy. It bodes ill for the economy.

The loan waiver for small and marginal farmers in UP will cost a whopping Rs. 56,729 Crores. UP has also announced a procurement bonus of Rs 10/quintal over the minimum support price for wheat. Earlier Modi drew praise for restraining increase in the support price, thus helping tame inflation. He has now reversed gear and gone populist here too.

UP says it will float bonds to finance the Rs. 36,000 Crores bailout. But it is already fully stretched to stay within its fiscal deficit limit of 3% of GDP set by the FRBM Act. That same Act says the revenue deficit should be zero, yet the entire bond issue, amounting to around 8% of annual revenue will represent a revenue deficit, something that should have vanished according to the FRBAM Act. The loan waiver will burden the State with huge debts, whose servicing will squeeze future funds for development.

State finances have already been hit by the mass closure of slaughter houses, hitting two of its major industries, meat processing and leather. The Supreme Court has further worsened its financial woes by banning liquor sales within 500 m of State highways, eroding another major revenue source (Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar. The Times of India Sunday, April 2017).

Neo-liberalism and Hindutva

Before we discuss the neo-liberal reforms in the context of the Hindutva, it would be imperative to keep in view the contrast between pre and post-liberal phase of development in this country.

Prabhat Patnaik while focusing on the distinct features of neo-liberal policy in Indian context aptly argues that central to economic liberalization is the opening of the economy to the vertex of globalised capital flows. Any economy open to global financial flows is vulnerable to sudden capital flight, which forces the state to ensure that it retains at all times the confidence of international financiers. It is constrained therefore, to pursue policies that finance capital demands, such as fiscal responsibility, tax concessions to the rich and the corporates, and eschewing direct state activism for promising the level of activity and people’s welfare. The state does not retreat as is often claimed; it intervenes by way of providing incentives to globalised capital, with which the domestic corporate-financial oligarchy gets closely integrated; in fact the so-called retreat itself becomes a euphemism for the promotion of corporate interests.

This has an obvious implication for democracy. No matter which political formation comes to power, it pursues the same economic policies as long as the economy remains within the vortex of global capital flows, not because these policies are optimal in any sense but because not pursuing them would bring financial crisis and hence transitional suffering even for the poor. This makes the electoral choice between alternative political formations as meaningless exercise, at least as far as people’s economic destinies are concerned.

There are, however, three economic characteristics of a liberalized regime, all of which have manifested themselves in India and which shape its overall dynamics.

The first is the withdrawal of support of the State from traditional petty production including peasant agriculture. The anti-colonial struggle in India had taken off in the 1930s with the support of peasantry that had seen acute distress because of the Great Depression, and it had held out the promise that such distress would never again visit the peasantry in independent India. The regime, seeing itself as a legatee of the anti-colonial struggle, had accordingly adopted an array of policies for protecting and promoting not just peasant agriculture but traditional petty production in general, that is, not just the peasantry but craftsman, fisherman, handloom weavers and other such producers. Not that all sections among them were equal beneficiaries of such measures, but notwithstanding internal differentiation within this segment (within peasant agriculture, for instance), the encroachment by corporate capital from outside upon this segment was kept in check, as was the vulnerability of this segment to world market price fluctuations.

In agriculture, not only was there tariff protection and quantitative restriction for insulating the sector from world price fluctuations, but also ‘remunerative prices’ and public procurement, including for a number of cash crops where commodity boards were entrusted with the task of market intervention.

There was a substantial step up in public investment, research and development in public sector organizations (which were responsible for the high yielding variety seeds, subsidized inputs including credit, the provision of which was an objective of bank nationalization), and a network of public extension services. Similar measures were instituted for other traditional petty production sectors. All these not only directly aided traditional petty production, but also ensured that big corporate capital whether domestic or foreign had no direct access to this sector and hence not subjugate it.

Liberalization changed this. The neo-liberal state, with a changed focus towards the exclusive promotion of the interests of globalised capital, marked a departure from the earlier bourgeons state which appeared to stand above society and to intervene benevolently in favour of all classes including the traditional petty producers, and even on occasions, the working class.

The state under neo-liberalism withdraws substantially from its earlier role of protecting and promoting the interests of traditional petty producers, which is evident in the case of agriculture with the drying up of institutional credit, a rise in input prices including of credit, a dismantling of the public extension network, a removal of the marketing function of commodity boards, trade liberalization that makes domestic prices mirror world price fluctuations, a cutback in public investment, and the direct access of corporate capital and agribusiness to the peasantry. Procurement, on the verge of being abandoned some years ago, got a fresh lease of life because of the inflationary upsurge that began around that time. But its continuation remains uncertain even according to this year’s budget speech (i.e. Year 2015-16).

The reduced profitability of agriculture, the spate of peasant suicides, and the broader agrarian crises, neglected in the fact of peasants abandoning agriculture to flock to cities in search of non-existent jobs, and also in the fact that the number of labourers in agricultures now exceeds that of cultivators for the first time in the country’s history are all consequences of the state’s withdrawal from the role of defending and promoting petty production. This has meant leaving traditional petty production to encroachment and subjugation by corporate capital and agribusiness, and indeed being complicit in the process (which facilitates what Marx had called “primitive accumulation of capital”).

It is noteworthy that between 1990-91 and 2013-14 (a peak year) per capita food grain output in the country remained virtually stagnant. What is even more striking is that per capita food grain availability actually decline over this period. (Prabhat Patnaik – Economic Liberalization and the working poor - Economic and Political Weekly, July 16, 2016 PP 47-48)

The above observation of Prof. Prabhat Patnaik brilliantly sums the distinct features of the pre and post liberal state in this country. Since nineties, all governments at the central as well as the state levels have clearly followed neo-liberal policies. Consistently irrespective of their populist manifestos, red, trio or the Bhagwa colour, this is also equally true of all the left state governments in West Bengal as well as Kerala.

UP State Government in any case cannot be an exception. However, in case of the UP government one finds duel deviations in terms of implementation of the neo-liberal model of economy. The major deviation in terms of waving off the farmers’ loan and assurance of minimum procurement prices for farmers produce. Similarly assurance for the minimum support price for potato, involving huge amount of the subsidy could be to the tune of Rs 36000 Crores for the state government.

Secondly, the Hindutva deviation in terms of ‘Go Rakshaks’ atrocities on cattle traders and raid and closures of abattoirs in the State which as Ankleswara pointed out would lead to closure of two main economic pillars of the state economy.

Such major deviations from the basic premise of the neo-liberal state could have serious economic, social and cultural repercussions in the state. It would be almost impossible to sustain such contradiction within the prevailing neo-liberal framework.

The prevailing neo-liberal set up does not leave much room for any such populist maneuver.

BJP under Adityanath in Power

Since Adityanath Yogi government assumed power, instead of problems, right from law and order issues to communal violence, incidents of Dalit atrocities and hostilities, incidence of robbery, violence of the Go Rakshaks and Romeo squads, indiscipline and disobedience among the state employees, or a pretension of the blind submission among employees have become more visible. The recent ghastly incidence of day light robbery in Mathura jewellry shop resulting in ghastly murders and indifference of the local authorities is a major and quite shocking blow to the image of Yogi as an able administrator. As a matter Yogi appears more like a circus manager with rod in his hand, attempting to control circus crowd, along with a flock of clowns and animals running the show. In one of his recent session of the BJP assembly where Yogi is shown conducting class for the BJP elected members on the virtues of GST for the state, most of the MLAs were shown either sleeping or totally inattentive to this speech. One could easily imagine how serious they are about their administrative responsibilities. This sharp contrast in Uttar Pradesh people placing faith in the party and its leadership and gross indifference and insensitivity of its elected representatives at this initial stage of the state governance is starkly obvious.