Former Supreme Court judge and a keen observer of Indian politics, Markandey Katju has predicted a win for the Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
BJP, which is seen as a strong contender by many, would be negatively impacted due to the impact of demonetization and the clean image projected by SP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, which is also seen as a likely contender, will also fail as it will not be able to attract the required Muslim votes, Katju said.
“The tilting factor are the Muslims, who are about 18 to 19% in U. P. which is a huge block, and if allied unitedly to any of the above 3 parties gives it a decisive victory. Some say that the Muslim votes will be split. I do not think so. The Muslims perceive BJP as their main enemy, and they have been scared by ‘ghar wapasi’, hate speeches, the Ikhlaque murder, the Muzaffarnagar and Ballabhpur incidents, ‘gau rakshaks’ etc. So it is most likely they will vote unitedly to defeat BJP,” he said.
He said the Akhilesh government’s clean image will prevent a fissure in the Muslim vote base.
“Earlier I had thought the Muslims might vote for BSP. This was because under the SP govt, the.law and order was bad, and Muslims were aggrieved because of the incidents in Muzaffarnagar, etc. But now after the recent dramatic developments in U.P.and emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as the sole leader of SP it seems clear that the Muslims will vote unitedly for the SP led by Akhilesh, and will not split their votes.
“This is because.the party under Akhilesh has emerged as a new party, a new SP without the tarnished image of the old. Till now Akhilesh was perceived as a Chief Minister whose hands were tied by his father, uncle, etc. and he was not a free man. But now he is free of those constraints. Moreover, Akhilesh is a young modern minded man (he has an M.Tech. degree from Australia) and has a clean image.
He also dismissed concerns that the split between Mulayam and Akhilesh will damage the Samajwadi Party.
“Some say that the split in SP will damage the party., but in my opinion it will benefit it. Almost the entire party is with Akhilesh, so there is hardly any split. Also, the party now has a new image, with a young, dynamic leader with a clean image, and free of the party’s constraining elements. With its own 20 to 22% OBC vote bank, and with 18 to 19% Muslim votes, the SP will get about 40% votes, which will give SP a clear majority, possibly even a two third majority,” he predicted.
Katju said he did not big prospects for the BJP, which has been predicted to win the election by some opinion polls.
“In most states, including U.P., voting is largely on the basis of caste and religion,” he said.
“The BJPs vote bank is the upper caste Hindus ( i.e. Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, etc ). These collectively are about 18-20%. It may also get a small section of about 5 or 6% of OBC votes, ( OBCs are not one but several castes ). That may make bring up the figure for BJP to 25 or 26%, which is far less than the minimum of 30% required to win an election,” he said.
On top of this, he said, demonetization will damage the party’s prospects.
The BJP “will lose at least 5% of its votes because of demonetization. Many jobs have been lost because of demonetization and the common man of all castes and communities was put to great hardship because of this harebrained scheme.
Those who thought of making India a digital economy forgot that India is not a developed country like America or Europe, and it is basically a cash economy. So the BJP votes will go down to about 20 or 21%, making it behind even BSP, what to say of SP,” he said.
MODI’S OBC CARD?
Katju’s analysis is largely in line with most other analyses, except in case of OBC votes. While Katju sees only a 5-6% block percentage contribution from OBCs, many others have been predicting far higher support for the BJP this time from OBCs due to the presence of Modi (OBC) and Keshav Prasad Maurya (OBC and chief of state unit of the party.)
While Modi, who traces his political heritage to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, never campaigned on the basis of caste, he started pointing to his ‘OBC’ origins during a make-or-break phase in the 2014 general elections.
Though this upset many in the BJP and RSS, the strategy paid off and the BJP was able to sweep Uttar Pradesh, winning 71 out of the 80 seats in the state.
A similar OBC play could again tilt the scales in favor of the BJP, but it remains to be seen if the card will be brought into play. OBCs form about 40% of the state’s population.
While Katju holds that OBCs may not turn out for the BJP in large numbers, he believes that the party can attract non-upper caste votes under certain circumstances.
“The exception to this is when there is a wave, e.g. the Modi wave in favour of BJP in the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Presently there is no wave, and so voting will be largely (over 90%) on the traditional basis of caste and religion,” he said.
“Demonetization was perhaps done to create a wave, but it has not succeeded in doing so.In fact it is going to damage the BJP as the common man, small and middle level businessmen, farmers, etc have been hard hit.”
“People, especially the youth, voted for BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections because ‘vikas’ suggested that millions of jobs will be created, but far from there being any vikas the Indian economy is stagnant, rather it is in recession. So instead of ‘vikas’ creating jobs, Modi’s version of vikas has reduced even the existing number of jobs. .It is estimated that demonetization alone will reduce 4 lac jobs this year,” he said.
Katju, among the most outspoken high-profile people in the country, said BSP is unlikely to be able to expand its attraction beyond its core Dalit base (22% of the population), while the Congress will continue to remain with no base.
“Congress has hardly any vote bank presently in U.P.,” he said.
“This situation is very different from that prevailing for a few decades after Independence. At that time the Congress Party used to get the SC votes ( 22%), Muslim votes ( 18% ) and the Brahmin and some other upper caste votes ( about 10 to 12% ). This combination gave it almost 50% of the votes, resulting in landslide victories.
“But the present position is that the SCs formed their own party, the BSP, Muslims left Congress after demolition of the Babri Masjid and have gone over to SP, and Brahmins and other upper castes have gone over to BJP. So the entire vote bank of Congress is largely lost.