The Telegraph
Thursday , April 17 , 2014
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The BIG round
BJP awaits fruits in lab of action-reaction

New Delhi, April 16: The BJP is hoping to reap gains from a polarised election in the second phase in Uttar Pradesh tomorrow. Eleven constituencies, swaddled in the Rohailkhand sub-region of the west, vote tomorrow in the state.

The election has got polarised for a number of reasons, prime among them being the perception that “in tandem”, the UPA government at the Centre and the Samajwadi Party dispensation in Uttar Pradesh have “pandered” to the minority community and “ignored” the Hindus.

The Akhilesh Yadav government’s “Hamari beti, uski kal” (Our daughter, her future) scheme has become the focal point of resentment among the Hindus. Conversely, its implementation has partially neutralised the anger that had set in among the Muslims, following the administration’s failure to contain the communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in 2013.

The scheme was perceived as “discriminatory” because the one-time entitlement of Rs 30,000 is given only to girls from the minority communities who have cleared high school to enable them to pursue higher studies.

Therefore, chief minister Akhilesh scores a high rating from Hasim Saifi, a 39-year-old electrician in Gajraula (Amroha Lok Sabha seat). But Teerath Prakash, a former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) activist also from Gajraula, claimed: “For every ‘kriya’ (action), there is a ‘pratikriya’ (reaction).”

In addition to the “Hamari beti, uski kal” scheme, the Uttar Pradesh government also doles out a general grant of Rs 20,000 to girls of all communities under the “Kanya Vidyadhan” scheme.

Therefore, the Hindus repeatedly asked what was “special” about the girls from the minority communities that entitled them to Rs 50,000 (Rs 30,000 plus Rs 20,000) while those from the majority community were left with Rs 20,000.

The Akhilesh government appears to have failed to explain to the people the grim picture brought out by the Sachar panel report and the need for schemes to help sections of Muslims in the state. Uttar Pradesh is among the major states in which Muslim literacy rate is below the state literacy rate. As many as 25 per cent Muslim children do not either reach or have access to schools and the percentage of Muslims among graduate and post-graduate students are 4 and 2, respectively.

The other sore point appears to be the government’s endowment of Rs 400 crore to build boundary walls for burial grounds while nothing was allegedly given for crematoriums.

The biggest casualty of the “kriya-pratikriya” syndrome appears to be the BSP, which fears its core Dalit-Jatav voters may switch sides in significant numbers to the BJP after citing the latter’s “commitment” to “nationalism and safeguarding Hindu interests” as the reason.

In a socially volatile state like Uttar Pradesh, caste loyalties are seldom frozen in time. Therefore, if the Brahmins and the Rajputs, for whom the BSP was an anathema, gravitated towards Mayawati in the 2007 Assembly elections to defeat the then Samajwadi government, 2014 marks another milestone, signified by the Jatavs teaming up with the upper castes to vote for the BJP.

The Yadavs of Rohailkhand too were apparently abandoning the Samajwadi, regarded as their natural habitat, for the same reason as the Jatavs.

The rare coalescence of the Jatavs and the Yadavs — who make up the base of the political pyramid of the Samajwadi Party as well as the BSP — with the upper castes came about also because of an overweening sentiment that it was time to vote out the UPA and bring in a BJP led by Narendra Modi. “We propagated the line that a vote for the Samajwadis or the BSP is in effect a vote for the Congress because in the end, both back a Congress government under the secularism bogey. It has succeeded,” claimed Vinod Aggrawal, a Moradabad businessman and BJP worker.

Dominating the BJP’s layered campaign — that sought to underplay “Hindutva” and emphasise “development” and “nationalism” — was Modi’s persona. “Ours is not a vote for the BJP or its lotus symbol, it is a vote for Modi,” declared Moradabad lawyer Roshan Yadav.

The “Modi factor” has gone so viral that in Rampur, many Hindus could not recall the name of their candidate, Nepal Singh.

On the flip side, the expected consolidation of the Muslim vote —Rohailkhand has the highest concentration of Muslims who outnumber Hindus in Rampur and almost equal them in Amroha and Moradabad — has not happened.

Mohammad Lataf, a teacher of the Arabic language at the Jamia Madaniya Ashraf Uloom in Godhi village between Moradabad and Bareilly, articulated a general sentiment felt by Muslims: “No party, not the Congress or the Samajwadis, is genuinely interested in our welfare. The BJP attacks us upfront, the Congress does it under the sheath of secularism. So why not try out the BJP? Modi at the Centre will be under pressure and can’t cross limits.”