This morning The Bookkeeper received this from a friend:
It has been The Bookkeeper’s base case for some time now that there is a tacit understanding between Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress (CON) in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP). The understanding appears to be that CON will target Brahmin/ Upper Caste votes leaving BSP to pursue a purely Dalit or OBC agenda. They may believe that Muslims, who are a sizeable portion of the voter base, will go with whoever will be able to defeat BJP on a ‘constituency-wise’ basis. While this leaves Samajwadi Party (SP) in a lurch, a post poll alliance between BSP-CON will keep BJP out of power in the most populous and electorally significant state just before the general polls in 2019.As such, the abovementioned news item does not come as a surprise to this analyst.
This strategy also puts into perspective the spate of news items detailing how Dalits are being targeted by so-called upper castes on a particularly Hindu issue of cow slaughter. While The Bookkeeper is loath to believe news items particularly of such divisive nature given the dubious reputation of journalists in general, the attempt to divide Hindu votes along caste lines with a Party for each division is writ large.
It is alleged that this is an old strategy that public intellectuals execute for their political masters to vitiate polls. An ‘intellectual booth capturing’ if you will. Since the entire liberal narrative works on buzzwords (so that their key audience is not mentally taxed with the details or nuances), The Bookkeeper decided to use the same ‘buzzwords’ to reveal it. While not definitive by any means, the charts below are indicative of this strategy:
Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. Likewise a score of 0 means the term was less than 1% as popular as the peak.
A Google trendsmap shows that there was no mention on ‘intolerance’ for five years till near Bihar polls when “intolerance” suddenly went to its ‘peak popularity’. Readers can do this exercise for ‘Beef’ and see very similar results. The same strategy is in play now, as can be seen from the trend below (for the word ‘Dalit’ and ‘Gau Raksha’ respectively):
Readers will know that The Bookkeeper is not an advocate of the ‘win first – decide CM later’ strategy and has personally backed Smriti Irani as a winnable CM face for UP. In light of the strategy to divide Hindus along caste lines, The Bookkeeper is however going to add one more person to the pool of possible CM candidates, that is Yogi Adityanath. While many feel that Yogi is a hardliner, The Bookkeeper feels that Yogi will counteract the apparent strategy to divide Hindus and unite them above caste-lines. Like it or not, the key to winning UP seems to be gaining a 60% vote share of 3-4 major caste groups. There is likely to be the worry that Yogi will see muslim votes being polarized away from the BJP, but The Bookkeeper does not see this as a huge electoral setback. For this we will need to analyse the voting patterns across caste lines to understand the vote blocs of each Party (data taken from CSDS and other net searches):
‘Upper castes’ account for about 18-20% of UP’s population with Brahmins alone about 9% of the total population. This is the mainstay of BJP vote bank along with sizeable popularity among Kurmis, Jats, and Other OBCs. BSP is primarily a Jatav and other Scheduled Caste (SC) party with some support thrown in from muslims (steady 18-20% vote share) and other OBCs. SP is an out and out Yadav and Muslim party, and with a parochial mindset can afford to be. After all, Yadav’s are 8-10% and Muslims 18-20% of UPs total population, so it is indeed no wonder that their leadership allegedly wants only Muslims and Yadavs to remain in UP and the rest banished!
The above table puts the strategy of the Congress+BSP as envisaged by The Bookkeeper in perspective. In 2009 LS polls, Congress had managed to get 20-30% share of upper caste votes and is thus targeting to do the same now. This will hurt BJP’s key voter base. With an anti upper caste tirade BSP is likely looking to shift so-called lower caste’s opinion in its favour which had shifted to BJP. Other OBC vote share to BSP had halved from 19% to 11% (2009LS to 2014LS), Jatav vote share had gone from 86% to 68%, other SC from 64% to 29%. BJPs vote share in the same caste groups were up from 29% to 60%, 5% to 18% and 8% to 45% respectively. This is what BSP wants to reverse back.
SPs situation is even more precarious. Even Yadav’s, its traditional voter base had shifted to BJP in 2014 (over 2009LS polls) with SP’s share in Yadav votes falling from 74% to 58% and BJP’s increasing from 6% to 27%. The only group that stuck strong with SP were the Muslims (SPs vote share nearly doubled to 58% in 2014 v. 2009) perhaps because Muslims backed the one Party they thought that could defeat the BJP. If they do similarly in the upcoming elections, ie back the party most likely to beat BJP, SP will face an electoral decimation of epic scale. It is this desperation that is forcing SP leaders to put tirades on tape (such as the one above).
This also brings us back to the point where the Bookkeeper is not of the opinion that a hardliner who can unite Hindus will result in loss of Sunni Muslim votes, as BJP does not have a lot of them to lose anyway. The other fear that Sunni Muslims will unite behind one party is also unlikely to hurt the BJP materially as was demonstrated by the 2014 LS elections. As per this report in Muslim Mirror, Muslims (presumably Sunnis) dominated 45 parliamentary seats in UP, they even consolidated behind SP with a staggering ~60% vote share. Despite this SP managed to win only 5 seats. In fact the DNA reported that BJP won 75% of the Muslim dominated seats. It can be argued that Narendra Modi was projected by the Media as a similarly hardline candidate as Yogi Adityanath , but even a 60% consolidation of 18-20% of the population could not result in any meaningful opposition to him as other caste groups had en masse rallied behind him.
Thus, the question BJP must ask itself is not whether Yogi will cause a consolidation of Muslim votes against itself (as that does not matter electorally), but whether Yogi (or any other candidate) will be able to unite the masses above caste divisions to vote BJP.
The Bookkeeper is by no means backing out from supporting Smriti as a potential CM candidate. She has her own unique strengths. As a woman, she will appeal to the ‘silent majority’ across caste and religious lines. Having her at the helm would also mean that Muslim votes will be less consolidated (than if Yogi were to be projected) thus keeping Samajwadi Party in contention with BSP, thus weakening both these parties. In the background of a woman, Swati Singh (wife of Dayashankar Singh) and her daughter, being allegedly targeted by some BSP leaders the nomination of a woman as a CM candidate sends a strong message. The caste-ambiguity of Smriti Irani also makes the job of the opposition to play up the caste angle while seeking votes against her very difficult. She could also be the face of a soft Hindutva campaign as well. Smriti can be used to push a developmental agenda to fit in with rest of the plan for India.
In conclusion, while polarization of polls is undesirable, it is anyway bound to happen with the media narrative being shifted increasingly to drive a schism between so called upper and lower castes. The opposition knows that it was the consolidation of Hindu votes that gave BJP a dramatic victory in UP during the 2014 hustings. The choice for BJP is clear, it can either take this salvo head-on, by nominating a persona like Yogi Adityanath to play on larger Hindu unity, or it can use a softer approach by fielding someone like Smriti Irani who has her own voter base (women) and can also appeal beyond caste. But make no mistake, a CM candidate is essential to win this poll. When the Chess Board is laid out, BJP can choose to open with the Danish or the Queens’ gambit, or it can choose to forfeit.
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No guarantees expressed or implied for quality or accuracy of data. Author claims no credit for collection of the data or its ownership. Views personal.
Image courtesy: http://www.narendramodi.in/narendra-modi-addresses-rallies-in-uttar-pradesh-assures-of-serving-the-people-by-being-their-sevak-and-the-nations-chowkidaar-6202