In a late night meeting held in Bundelkhand’s Banda district in the early ‘80s, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder late Kanshi Ram used the pencil in his hand to explain his formula of ‘Pandrah vs Pachasi’ (15% upper caste vs 85% dalits, backwards and Muslims).
Pointing to the pencil that he held loosely like a weighing scale, he told the leaders how this 85% population could tilt the scale.
His formula, which changed the political landscape in Uttar Pradesh, was to get in motion in Bundelkhand — the region that was riddled with a feudal character where the upper castes traditionally dominated the lower caste people.
The Bundelkhand region gave the BSP its first-ever victory in Orai, Jalaun, where Akbar Ali defeated the BJP candidate in 1989.
In 1993, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was riding on the Ram Temple wave after the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya, Kanshi Ram joined hands with then Samajwadi Party (SP) president Mulayam Singh Yadav to take on the saffron surge.
The BSP increased its tally of 12 seats in 1991 to 67 in Uttar Pradesh. The success was largely credited to Yadav as 51 of these seats were from east UP which was the pocket of his influence.
The BSP too stood out by winning nine seats out of the total 19 Bundelkhand seats on its own.
The BJP came down to seven seats from 11 that it had won in 1991 in Bundelkhand.
After 25 years, the SP-BSP are one side and the BJP, which holds all the 19 assembly and four Lok Sabha seats in Bundelkhand, is on the other.
Bhanu Pratap Sahay, a poll analyst, says: “The social engineering of the SP-BSP alliance will face the real test against Hindutva-based social engineering of the BJP in Bundelkhand.”
“The BJP has gone from strength to strength since 2009 Lok Sabha elections when three out of four party candidates lost their deposits and the party’s vote share went down,” he adds.
In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party bounced back in the region with over 45% vote share that went unchanged in 2017 UP assembly elections.
“Bundelkhand has diametrically changed in the last two elections. New equations have emerged and old ones have disappeared,” says Shekhar Dwivedi, a poll analyst from Chitrakoot.
The BJP has worked on social engineering within the ambit of its Hindutva agenda to woo dalits, non-Yadav OBCs, and young voters.
For SP-BSP alliance, unlike other places in the state, its strength overlaps in Bundelkhand. Traditionally, both the parties have a strong presence in the region.
The BSP won the highest number of 13 assembly seats and SP came close with 12 seats in 2012 UP elections. The two parties stood second on two seats each — BSP in Jalaun and Banda and SP in Hamirpur and Jhansi — in 2014 Lok Sabha election with a combined vote share of 42%.
But there is caution in the air — neither will this election be a 1993-like affair for the SP-BSP, when it made major gains to unitedly trounce the BJP, nor will it be 2014 for the BJP.
In the ‘80s, the backward castes rallied behind the SP and BSP in rebellion against the upper castes. The younger generation is largely independent in outlook and decision.
“This is where the real challenge for the alliance lies. Instead of pandering to their traditional vote bank, the alliance will have to tap the younger generation and its aspirations,” says Durgesh Yadav, a senior lawyer from Banda.
“Youngsters do not relish the mafia culture. That is why many big names lost elections in the region last time,” he adds.
The heavyweights who have lost elections include Bal Kumar Patel and Veer Singh, brother and son of Shiv Kumar ‘Dadua’, the dacoit who used to issue printed ‘firmans’ for candidates of parties he supported.
He used to intimidate the rivals who refrained from campaigning. The winning candidates in turn extended protection and partnership in government projects.
“Caste arithmetic and the way it has been re-jigged is one part of this game. The alliance looks to battle it out with the BJP on performance, people’s issues and unfulfilled promises. This will not be 2014 for BJP either,” says Vimal Sharma, president of the Bundelkhand Kisan Union (BKU).
“Here is an example of how things have worked in Bundelkhand. All the medical equipment and machines at the Banda medical college remain packed even after four years. Every patient is referred to Kanpur or Jhansi but he or she cannot be treated at this medical college,” he says.
In the last six months, while the local leadership of the BSP and SP has been working on assimilation of workers, the BJP has further firmed up its cadre at booth level in Chitrakoot-Banda-Mahoba.
The SP is playing to its strength in Jhansi-Babina region to negate any impact of age-old Yadav-Dalit rivalry and has put controversial faces like Chandrapal Singh Yadav and Deepak Narayan Singh in backroom operations.
“The alliance will benefit if it succeeds in carrying the local issues at the micro level as a counter to BJP’s social engineering,” says Rudra Prasad Mishra, a poll analyst from Chitrakoot.
“Surely, the selection of right candidates will be crucial. In the last two years, the BJP has presented grand designs for Bundelkhand but struggled on the execution part,” he says.
Mar 16, 2019 10:17 IST
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