Uttar Pradesh, which sends the maximum number of legislators (80) to the Parliament and has the strength to make or mar the fate of the government at the Centre, is all set to go to the fourth and penultimate phase of the Lok Sabha elections in its 18 constituencies on May 7.
These 18 parliamentary constituencies exist in 22 districts of Central and Western Uttar Pradesh, which is commonly referred to as the “caste cauldron”.
Caste, money and muscle powers will again play a crucial role in this phase. In fact, caste has always played a decisive role, particularly among the illiterate class in the backward states. In Uttar Pradesh, Scheduled caste to which BSP supremo and Chief Minister Mayawati belongs, and Other Backward Class (OBC) whose patron in the state is Samajwadi Party’s (SP) chief Mulayam Singh are the two dominated castes that decide the winner in the elections along with Muslims, which has the largest number in the state, whose favour or disfavour can change the entire equation.
It would be however, improper to say the entire SCs or OBCs support Mayawati or Mulayam as the SCs and OBCs are themselves divided in sub-castes; for instance, while Valmikis support Congress (in general), Jatavas back BSP. Similarly, Jats, Lodhas, Yadavas in OBCs vote their candidates of the same castes, no matter which party they belong. The Shakyas and Gujjars are the other backward castes whose support is crucial for the Brahmins, Thakurs and the Muslims to turn the poll outcome in their favour.
Riding on the caste factor two former chief ministers—Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and former BJP chief minister Kalyan Singh, who has deserted BJP and contesting as an Independent with the support of SP—expecting to tilt the scales in their favour with the support of Yadavas and Lodhas (the caste to which Kalyan Singh belongs).
This election will also be a litmus test for the Mulayam-Kalyan political friendship and will decide the fate of backward caste politics in the state. Spreading hands to the former BJP leader and former chief minister whose tenure witnessed the Babri demolition, Mulayam has taken a risk to losing the support of his trusted Muslim vote bank which considers Kalyan Singh and the BJP the real culprit for razing the Babri mosque to the ground.
Next, money and muscle power are the two key factors that has the capacity to turn the outcome. In the fourth phase poll as many as 49 tainted contestants and 66 millionaires of the 314 candidates are flexing their muscles.
BSP tops the list of criminal antecedents with seven candidates followed by its archrival SP, which has fielded four candidates, and three each by the Congress and BJP.
Interestingly, the CPM nominee from Ferozabad parliamentary constituency, Rajjo Devi, having seven criminal cases, is the only woman bully that dominates the list. Seven candidates with criminal antecedents are contesting from Ghaziabad from where BJP president Rajnath Singh is making his debut in the Lok Sabha elections.
Of the 66 millionaires, the ruling BSP has maximum 14 millionaires in its kitty, followed by 11 from the BJP and 10 millionaires each of the Congress and SP.
According to the Election Watch data, BSP candidates are the richest with an average per nominee assets of Rs 15.88 crore followed by SP (Rs. 3.31 crore) and Congress Rs. 3.28 crore and BJP Rs. 2.4 crore.
Thus, it is evident now that the three crucial factors—caste, money and muscle—which has the strength to change the outcome of elections anywhere will dominate the fourth phase poll in Uttar Pradesh again.