For the first time, UP seems to have stood up against all the main faultlines of India’s politics including caste, class and community.
With the BJP sweeping almost 80% of the 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh, the focus has shifted on how a new crop of voters has emerged — voters who cared little for caste, class or community cards that had ruled the state.
According to the Indian Express, all the main faultlines of India’s politics, along the axes of caste, class and community, are etched here.
The Modi-Amit Shah BJP’s sweep confirms that what UP is seeing is a new phase of politics that builds on Mandal and Mandir but cannot be fully explained by them. The vote reflects a disillusion and exasperation with the narrower agenda and the older antagonism.
In the campaign for UP in 2017, Modi successfully propelled himself into a space that rose above the divisions on the ground. He had done it earlier in 2014 by projecting himself as an agent of change against the jaded UPA regime in the Centre, relegating the memories and ghosts of Gujarat 2002. In this election in UP, his feat was even more remarkable than in 2014 — on two counts.
Even after heading a government at the Centre for nearly three years, Modi was able to, helped by imaginative schemes like the opening of Jan Dhan accounts for the poor, and free gas connections for those in the BPL list under the Ujjwala (CARD) scheme, capture the plank of “parivartan” (CARD) or change in UP, at a time when new communication technologies are opening up larger worlds, making voters more impatient, and quickening their aspirations.
And, second, he was able to project demonetisation, or notebandi, a disruptive decision, as a big overarching idea that they must support for the greater good. Across the state, voters said that despite the evident economic distress it had caused, demonetisation was “desh ke hit mein”, or in the national interest. They saw it as something that affected everyone, as a leveller that had brought about “barabari”, placing on an equal footing the poor and the rich.
In the end, Modi and Shah crafted the most multi-tonal agenda in the state that was able to rise above the appeals to caste and religion
Modi’s UP success is made up of the remarkable inventiveness of a leader in his political prime, tirelessly upping his game. It is also made up of the inability of his political opponents to keep pace — either with him or with the people.