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The importance of 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly election February 3, 2011

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Vikas Kumar

The population of Uttar Pradesh (UP) is equal to that of Brazil, the fifth most populous country. It sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha and 31 members to the Rajya Sabha. Unsurprisingly, it has a decisive influence on national politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged as a national party because of its spectacular performance in UP during the 1990s, when it successfully hawked Hindu nationalism. Ironically, by the late 1990s UP also demonstrated the limits of Hindu nationalism, when caste-based provincial parties began to cannibalize BJP’s support base. In fact, by the late 1990s, other national parties had also been marginalized in UP. In recent times, UP has served as a passive constraint on the freedom of national parties, forcing them to follow coalition dharma in the face of impossibility of attaining majority on their own.

However, the forthcoming assembly election is likely to mark the return of UP to national politics as an active player. There are two reasons for this. First, it will significantly influence the choice of prime ministerial candidates of non-Congress coalitions. If Kumari Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) loses then Nitish Kumar will gain in influence because he is one of the very few mass leaders, acceptable to both the Left Front and BJP. Recall the ease with which Nitish resisted Hindutva in 2010 Bihar election. BJP hadn’t forgotten Navin Patnaik’s effortless leftward swing in 2009 Orissa election after it played the communal card. However, a comfortable majority for Mayawati will erode Nitish’s bargaining power by providing the Left Front-led Third Front with another prime ministerial candidate. Once his outside option is vitiated Nitish will lose his bargaining power within the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), giving BJP a freehand to choose NDA’s candidate.

Second, the forthcoming election will have an enormous impact on whether political parties across India will rely on good governance to win elections. Nitish’s successive electoral victories in Bihar, one of the strongholds of politics of authenticity, have raised hopes that good governance can help win elections. However, this hope might be premature because his success was driven among other things by factors not obtained elsewhere, which is why the forthcoming election in UP is important.

Bihar is perhaps the only province where an extremely corrupt party dominated by one family and sub-caste ruled for 15 years (1990-2005) and made infrastructure and law and order conspicuous by their absence. Consequently, Bihar was drained of human capital because people, irrespective of caste and class, migrated to other provinces in search of better educational and employment opportunities. To make matters worse the successful among the migrants deemphasized their provincial identity. The poor, illiterate Bihari migrant labourer who builds other provinces on sub-son-of-the-soil wages was left alone. Poor and, more importantly, amenable to stereotyping, he was an easy target. New Delhi chose not to intervene when attacks on Bihari labourers were souring the migrant dream.

Biharis were left with the choice between exclusive dependence on other provinces where they were electorally powerless and rejuvenation of their own province, which would in turn improve their outside option by breaking stereotypes. Nitish, a clean, soft spoken politician, entered at this stage. And rest is history. In short, other provinces might not necessarily support a Nitish. However, a positive outcome in UP will consolidate the Nitish-effect, at least, in the North.

But who can play Nitish in UP? Kalyan Singh (BJP), who began his career with a clean, developmentalist image, is unable to get off the Hindutva-Secularism merry-go-round. Ageing Mulayam Singh (Samajwadi Party), who almost implemented the Bihar model in UP, is unable to hold together his party. As per its own admission, the UP Congress leadership is nothing sans Rahul Gandhi. This leaves us with BSP’s Mayawati, presently serving as the chief minister for the fourth time. For reasons beyond the scope of the present discussion, she began her career with most divisive and foul sloganeering. But slowly and steadily she graduated from a leader of the lower castes into a mass leader. In the 2007 assembly election, her rainbow team of lower and highest castes and minorities promised good governance and fair representation to all communities to defeat Mulayam’s internally divided middle caste-minority coalition.

However, once in power, she recklessly spent public money on memorials dedicated to cherry-picked Bahujan icons, including herself, and quickly lost focus. This has changed over the last year or so. As corruption cases related to her previous terms faded from public memory she became more confident in fighting corruption. However, the turning point was the gruesome murder of a young engineer, unable to pay a huge contribution for Mayawati’s birthday bash, on December 24, 2008 by a BSP legislator. Stung by criticism her government threw the legislator behind bars. Since then she has willingly or unwillingly punished corrupt officials and party members.

Mayawati knows very well that good governance alone can return her rainbow coalition to power and no longer relies solely on her identity to answer her critics. Parallely, Rahul Gandhi, a prime ministerial candidate, is putting together a centrist agenda for the forthcoming UP election, focussing on good governance and addressing community disabilities as broader developmental rather than ascriptive problems. (I am deliberately ignoring Digvijay Singh’s counter-rant.) If a developmentalist agenda helps Mayawati’s return to power and rejuvenation of the UP Congress then in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh (MP) Shivraj Singh Chouhan (BJP), another prime ministerial candidate, will be encouraged to rely on his good governance credentials in 2013 assembly election.

Some small and medium-sized provinces have already shown preference for good governance in elections. Once good governance is established as the decisive factor in elections in Bihar, UP, and MP, which account for a fourth of the parliament, national politics has to change for good.  So, let us hold our breath till 2012.

Vikas Kumar is an independent researcher based in Bangalore.


1. Umang - April 28, 2011

I would like to see Rahul Gandhi as the ‘CHIEF’ ministerial candidate for UP in 2012. Two reasons to justify this are:
1. RG might actually make a difference in terms of actual development in the state.
2. He would have a good opportunity to prove his credentials to climb up the ladder to PM’s post.

This will be good and healthy both for UP as well as INC. However, it’s very unlikely to materialize.

2. Vikas - April 28, 2011

The Mughals used to send their sons to provinces to learn statecraft first under the guardianship of an able official and then as independent governors. But Shah Jahan adopted a dual policy. Aurangzeb was sent to Deccan and Dara was retained in the capital. Sonia/Congress (or may be Rahul himself) has chosen the Dara model. Unsurprisingly, Rahul suffers from the Dara syndrome, namely, inability to translate ideas into reality. However, the Dara model does not necessarily entail the Dara Syndrome. Consider, for instance, Vajpayee, who was retained at centre right from the beginning. (But he had four decades of experience at the centre before emerging as his party’s prime ministerial candidate.)

A defeat in UP will obviously limit Rahul’s capacity to deal with provincial satraps and regional parties. Sonia/Rahul/Congress seems to be guarding against such a possibility because they think that ultimately Rahul’s prime ministerial prospects depend on his acceptability as the leader of a national coalition. However, a victory in UP as a chief ministerial candidate will establish him as a mass leader and also obviate the need to depend on a coalition at the centre. Even if he lost the exposure will provide him with a much better understanding of the country that India is.

3. tourist - June 21, 2011

until fools remain in this country congress will rule n never let this country prosper as it should do as its in their favour. as education flourished n people became aware n medias reach grew in masses nationalist parties like bjp seats grew in parliament. I dnt know why people vote for regional parties in loksabha election. in up i think as per the present scenario bjp would gain .

4. sahil - July 31, 2011

In the coming UP election, Congress is going to emerge as the largest party in state. It will be dificult to get full majority, but with support of RLD and SP, surely congress will form a govt.

As far as Mayawati is concerned, she is the most corrupt leader of UP and another replica of Mulayam Singh for keeping gundas with her. and including gundas in her party.

The BJP is struggling to come up and surely will have better result than before.

So net net rank:

1. Congress
2. SP
3. BSP
4. BJP
5. RLD
6. others

5. Vikas Kumar - August 10, 2011

Mayawati is NOT the MOST corrupt leader of UP and her BSP is unlikely to end up a distant third behind SP and Congress, parties whose grassroot activity is incomparably inferior. But the hope that she would mount a largely developmentalist-rule of law campaign against her opponents in 2012 is fading. She is the only leader who could have taken the risk of playing Nitish in UP. But perhaps that is expecting too much of her (or, for that matter, any politician in UP). She seems to be keen to stick to an identity based agenda coupled with limited developmentalist commitments. Her choice is driven by complacency as well as risk aversion. While risk aversion is understandable her complacency is surprising.

6. ankit - August 11, 2011

mayawati will get around 253 seats in 2012 elections as people have appreciated her works on law and order.

7. ankit - August 11, 2011

people do not want gundaraj and loot to come back so they will not be voting for mayawati but for (anti-mulayam) candidate which will be only of BSP.

8. JUSTICE - August 11, 2011

mayawati’s vote do not talk and do various propaganda but lives simple life and on the day of polling silently goes to the polling booth and votes for her.if muslims will be voting for her this time in huge numbers she will bag around 289 seats

SP 81
BJP 20



9. JUSTICE - August 11, 2011

People do not want goondaraj and loot to come back so they will be voting for BSP. Even upper castes will be voting for her as they dont want gundas to come back and start their kidnapping busuiness.BJP and congress both are good parties as considered by the general public but will be reduced to less than 50 seats in the mayawati wave.AND this will all be due to common man who wants to stay away from mulayam and his bihar model.

10. Kanishk Kumar - August 12, 2011

An interesting blog. Though i dont agree to the fact that Mulayam Singh Yadav came close to implementing a Bihar model of developmental politics. During his tenure, crime had increased with several high profile criminals belonging to his party.

It would be really interesting to see who wins the ballot in UP as it will decide the course of politics at the Centre. Talking about the general public of UP, it would be a tough choice as most of the CMs in recent years have either not been able to control corruption and crime or have actively taken part in them. So taking a decision and voting for that person who is least corrupt, would be a difficult situation. Bihar was lucky to have found Nitish, but i suppose UP is still in search of its Nitish.

11. Vikas - August 12, 2011

Kanishk, When I said “Ageing Mulayam Singh (Samajwadi Party), who almost implemented the Bihar model in UP”, I was referring to the (Lalu) model for which Bihar was famous at that time. Nitish’s Bihar model attracted attention an year or two after Mulayam’s ouster from power. Vikas

12. Subrata - August 16, 2011

Hi, Vikash
Brilliant Analysis, Agree to the point that Mulayam was voted out because of Gundaraaj( and might Struggle to Wriggle back), but the Same Syndrome has stung Maya, Most of the educated and upper caste people might not vote for her (unlike past, wherein Brahmins tactically voted for maya) anymore beacause of the recent Corruption, Murder(Sacchan), Land Accquisition etc. this leaves two Central parties namely congress and bjp. Congress Could have Countnued its upward trend from 2009 Election, had the year 2010 and 2011 been removed from india’s history for the rampant Corruption and Shameless Arrogance Shown by Congress, not to Forget the Infaltion, this leaves Bjp as a most Viable alternative , where the tradiotnal Saffron Voter (Brahmins& Lodhs, not to Forget Bania’s have always been loyal to BJP) may migrate backwith the Saffron party…which would disintegrate the Muslim Votes in 3 Corners …What i could See is a Hung assembly with Surprisingly BJP as the Single largest party……..(Not a BJP Supporter, i am CPI-M member)

13. Vikas Kumar - August 16, 2011

Hi Subrata,

Thanks for the comment. Despite an unprecedented level of corruption at the Centre BJP has not been able to corner the government and the anti-corruption league is headed by a-political Hazare. Why? Because BJP’s cadre is in a disarray. Its grassroot activity is gridlocked. For this reason it might not be able to turn the dissatisfaction with Mayawati into advantage BJP. And voters know this to be the case.

Furthermore, lower caste voters know that if Mayawati loses OBCs will come to power and they will lose whatever little they have gained during Mayawati’s tenure. Upper caste voters think that if Mayawati loses (and OBCs come to power) then their standing will be diminished at a greater rate. The reason is simple: compared to lower castes, OBCs have greater capacity to translate institutional power into economic, etc power. But both lower and upper castes know that on their own they cannot defeat OBCs. Hence, the alliance between them is the only way out. So, Mayawati’s alliance is unlikely to unravel and suffer dramatic loss of support. To the contrary, some OBCs might find BSP a good bet. This conclusion seems sensible because this season BSP has been the net beneficiary of inter-party defections in UP assembly, with defectors coming from different caste and religious backgrounds.

See, for instance, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-08-06/lucknow/29858058_1_sandhya-katheriaya-mla-from-kawar-constituency-sarvesh-singh-mla

So, despite corruption (e.g., the state govt has earmarked a tens of crores for Mayawati’s post-retirement residence) and growing incidence of lawlessness Mayawati benefits from there-is-no-alternative.

Also, BJP’s and SP’s disarray could shift some anti-BSP high caste, OBC, and Muslim voters to Congress. To conclude, we should expect a BSP-Congress contest. If BSP (Congress) is smart it’ll try to form a coalition with BJP (SP) to consolidate high caste (Muslim) vote.


14. JUSTICE - August 17, 2011

anna hazare,s movement is gaining momentum.it will make some wave for the BJP. but the anti-BJPvote like muslims,yadavs,will vote in a wave for SP . so to prevent this dalits and BJP vote should combine and should vote for BSP one more time. I HAVE MEET PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT WE WOULD LOVE TO VOTE FOR BJP BUT ONE MORE TIME IN UP WE WANT

15. rajeev dutt misra - August 25, 2011

I and many political observers in UP believe the Anna movement is boon for Mayawati. There are 3 class of voters..1.The absolute villagers, these people nowadays vote on basis of image of party leader and basic amenities recieved by village..in former aspect definitely its Rahul Gandhi who takes the lead but one should also know that Maya has done silent works of providing amenities in villages leading to more vote converting …2. General public…who are highly dicy and only vote on basis of canditate in constituency, and here every party has equal vote share..3.Administerative class,which is totally divided on Maya, very few openly, but majority oppose Maya, decision lies with class 2, and with congress rudeness in Anna and Ramdev matter it is highly likely to cause Maya take lead.

16. JUSTICE - August 29, 2011


17. Vikas Kumar - September 28, 2011

My name is also Vikas Kumar and try to follow politics, but may be not as expert as above Vikas Kumar is. Based on the current events which are happening like 2G Scam and ANNA Hazare episode, and then Modi factor, so where do you think BJP or other non-UPA parties benefit from all that?

18. rachit - October 1, 2011

Hello guys,

I don’t like BSP maya. However, most probably she would win the game. There was possibility for Congress, however everything is invisible currently. Rahul Gandhi was hero, but became zero and did not present himself as a competent candidate during Anna mission due to internal politics. Senior leaders had stopped Rahul to comment anything during Anna days. If he would have been come forward, it could have been miracle.

Let see

19. Bala - October 3, 2011

Baba Ram Dev is going to affect more in UP 2012!! Congress dealing with BRD left the OBCs turn towards BJP more!! BRD himself is a OBC!! in 2012, there will be below trends as per my understand.
1) all upper castes will vote massively for BJP. Remember Bihar 2009? All upper castes voted for BJP there by BJP strike rate was more that JDU!! Upper castes are currently angry with Cong!! Ofcourse, they doesnt want BSP either!!
2)Dalits will vote for BSP no matter what!!
3)Muslims will go back to SP thanks to Azam Khan!!
4)OBCs are crucial for all parties!! Yadavs will vote for SP!! Kurmis will split between BJP and Cong thanks to beni prasad verma!! Lodhs will come to BJP thanks to Uma!! Other OBCs will split between BJP and SP!!
So, % wise.
1) BSP(18% Dalits, 3% upper castes, 4% Muslims) : 25%
2)SP(10% yadavs, 12% Muslims, 3% OBCs) : 25%
3)BJP(12% upper castes, 8% Kurmis, 5% Lodhs, 1% dalits) : 26%
4)Cong(4% Muslims, 2% Upper castes, 2% OBCs, 2% dalits) :10%

The other people now becomes crucial. If Muslims vote tactically to ensure BJP defeat, then, BJP will suffer most!! if Muslims think that BJP is not their enemy and can be given a chance, then, BJP will form the next Govt!!

20. Vikas - October 4, 2011

@Bala: Calculus seems to be fine but you need grassroot workers to translate demographic divide into votes. BJP is still unsuccessfully trying to avoid infighting.

Further, in Bihar upper castes voted for BJP because they knew that Nitish-led alliance will keep OBCs out. Now-a-days, they vote for anyone who can keep OBCs out of power and only Maya’s BSP seems to be capable of this in UP. If this claim is true then BSP will win with a comfortable margin.

21. karan datt upreti - October 5, 2011

bjp will win. people want a new political ideology in uttar pradesh.

22. Raj - October 5, 2011

With U.P we talk of a the most illiterate,unaware and gullible voters of the country. The majority of the vote is in the villages so we, english speaking, blog writing, educated and politically aware residents of U.P are a fractional minority and have no clue, whatsoever, to the mentality of the voters in U.P.
The 2007 elections of U.P should be an eye opener for all who dare to predict U.P. The voters are told, at the last minute, on which symbol the rubber stamp is to be put, usually by the surpanch…That’s the way it rolls in U.P…..

23. Sumit - October 6, 2011

my self sumit want to tell about UP assembly election 2012 prediction based on present situation

Ranking may be like that


but i think this time may be a “Gath Bandhan”….

24. Vimal Pratap Singh - October 15, 2011

It was really nice to read all the views.I am really impressed the way few blogs explained every bit of it.In my view UP electorate is highly unpredictable.Surprises might be in store.But if you see current situation
Today Congress seems to be the biggest looser at least in urban areas.But How can BJP translate this in its tally,is really a tricky question as infighting in BJP has not stopped and they are in really very bad shape(organization wise).Mulayam may be choice of rural area in specific belt but this tendency is going to polarize his opponents in a big way.BSP is favorable right now but whether it would get full majority is a million dollar question.My best guess is coalition of BSP & BJP.

25. Haripada - October 20, 2011

BJP will capture power because of huge corruption in both centre and state. Mayawati is supporting a corrupt government in centre. Mulayam is also supporting that government. For this reason Congress led UPA can hold its power. People are suffering by price rise, which are the result of milibhogot of these three parties.

26. patel - October 27, 2011

I agree karan BJP will not only win the next UP election but the 2014 central election too.

27. Anup - November 14, 2011

mayaji will be again in power again.

28. manish - December 8, 2011

Its very sad that no political party is neat and clean.The present government in UP (BSP) topped the corruption list.Mayavati government proved to be a company of rapists and gundas.Total 10 MLA are charged with rape cases.Almost 700 carores rupees wasted in statues.And like wise not much development of dalits.Congress is not having a team of dedicated candidates.People are not happy with BJP due to Ram Mandir Issue.Moreover BJP is less active in the state.Samajwadi Party having bad reputation in past,doing well.Akhilesh is charging the youths.Due to the dedicated team and main opposition party status SP will gain.Akhilesh is smart and modern.I think SP has the strength to defeat mayavati led BSP.In my view SP is going to become the largest party,BJP second,BSP third and then congress.Let us wait and see.

29. sajin - December 23, 2011

i think because of the effects of umabharathi and anna hazzare BJP became the single largest party in UP
Bjp 165
Bsp 138
Sp 50
Inc &Rld30
Others 20

30. somnath singh - December 23, 2011

As far as corruption is concerned, people of this country have understood it very well that most of the politicians if not all are corrupt. Even those who are so-called honest, don’t oppose the corrupt practices of their colleagues, if they belong to their own party. so, important thing is that decides the fate of election is who can get the things done, whether he or she is corrupt or not. And Matawati really score here. The way she has controlled the law & order situation is much appreciated by public. Also, her developement agenda is bound to show good results. With the proposed Yamuna Expressway opening in Jan 2013, Mayawati’s prospects look bright, as she has shown she can deliver her promises.

31. I know All - December 26, 2011

Congress has hope if they can dare to field Rahul as their chief ministerial candidate in U.P. otherwise they should forget 2012/2014 election also. I know Sonia cant take this kind of bold decision. Other option is too project Priyanka as CM. That alao not seems happening. This means voters have no choice but to rally behind BJP so their votes do not go waste.BJP has this opportunity but their leadership is weak and too many middle level contenders making thing worse for them bot at state and centre both. BJP should use both Uma Bharati & Varun Gandhi without any hesitation if they want to make potent bid for a possible miracle in U.P..

32. Ankur - January 9, 2012

Election 2012 will goign to be unexpected like the ram jamjanam bhooomi verdict by the high court….the whole country was expecting that there will be rights in UP (Most sensitive areas) but nothing happened….secondly in assemble elections UP gave almost 22 seats to congress but still in power at centre, congress could not do anything.NAREGA is the old history now and will have no effect on these elections.People of UP are looking forward for development and are now screewed up with the fake promices of the netas….This time BJP will get some advantage from OBC, the tally will improve from 48 to somewhere 250 seats and BSP will get around 100 seats with votes from Dalits and Upper castes.SP will get only yadav’s vote and will merely get 30 to 40 seats. COngress and RLD will finish 20 seats.The Muslim vote will got to the congress but will be overcast by the strong OBC votes.

33. Rohan - January 11, 2012

On TimesNow they showed the internal surveys conducted by BJP and Congress.
Congress conducted survey


BJP conducted survey


34. ashok yadav - January 16, 2012

i am not going to predict that who will win UP assembly election 2012 but i want to say that BJP should get chance to make govt.in up
Bcoz we are seeing that all state ruling by BJP or NDA are far better performing state is india like GUJARAT,BIHAR,CHHATTISGARH,MP,PUNJAB,HIMACHAL AND UTTRAANCHAL, Where other side congerss ruling state like Maharashtra Govt not able to control MR. raj thakrey and farmer death and now days electric problem in Maharashtra,sacm like aadarsh also not good also security is not so good, local train and hotel taj attacked by terrorist, and delhi is known for rape capital,rajstahn half dozen MLA including ministers is in jail in bhanvari case

35. Dr Ajay S - January 30, 2012

This election will give a new youth leader to country. Rahul, Akhilesh and Varun are the main contenders. BSP has no youth leader. Varun has been made flop already by Rajnath Singh and co. Fight is among Rahul and Akhilesh Singh. Being a progressive socialist and a CM material Akhilesh has taken a clear lead over Rahul whose gorilla campaign and lack of political wisdom, allies like Diggy have made Congress weak. Anna and Baba Ramdeo will also damage congress to some extent. Final tally will be like this;

SP 182
BSP 158
CONG+ 44
BJP 45
Others 18

36. Madhukar Singh - February 15, 2012

In view of “uncertainty haunts even till booth”, the young would have only option to opt Cong spearheaded by RG. Thus the outcome would be:

Cong: 160-170
BSP: 90-100
SP: 80-90
RLD: 20-30
Others: 35-45

37. Dr Ajay S. - February 24, 2012

High voter turn out is due to efforts of EC and BRD-Anna factor. This will bring unexpected results this time. Depending on how many seats four main parties – SP, BSP, Congress & BJP – get, there are four likely scenarios in UP after assembly elections.

Scene 1: If SP gets 180+ seats

It will be difficult to prevent it from forming a govt. If it gets 180+ seats, it can even form govt with support of independents & minor parties.

Scene 2: If SP gets 150-155 seats

Cong may not support it and instead plug for President’s rule in UP. It will hope to bring some key officers to UP, pump in money and create a buzz about development. It will hope to go for Lok Sabha polls with the goodwill it might have created.

Scene 3: If BSP gets 140 & BJP gets 60-65 seats

BJP will be tempted to lend BSP support and perhaps join the govt, if only to prevent central (proxy Cong) rule in UP.

Scene 4: If scene 2 pans out and Scene 3 looks a possibility

SP may withdraw support to UPA govt at Centre. The Cong leadership will prefer to go to the people and appeal for sufficient number of seats to avoid blackmail by partners like TMC, DMK, and off course SP, BSP too.