Uttar Pradesh: How the Dalit card backfired spectacularly on the idea of India

Friends, the mother of all state elections is approaching. Obviously, over the next 8 months or so, we will be discussing Uttar Pradesh over and over and over again, analyzing every possible aspect of the election. So, why not get started today?

For a while now, Dr. Praveen Patil, who runs 5Forty3 has been speaking about something called “United Spectrum of Hindu votes” (USHV). As and when we see even a shade of unity among Hindu votes, we know the potent electoral verdict that comes out, Assam being the latest case in point.  But the crowning glory of USHV has been the 73/80 that the BJP got in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, a victory that swept away decades of smug liberal intellectualism… On the morning of May 16, 2014, the ABP news “expert” on Uttar Pradesh strolled into the studio and said confidently that there was no way BJP could cross 35 in the state. By the way, this venerable person is still a regular on the ABP news panel as an “expert” on Uttar Pradesh, with additional charge of Bihar….


Last year, during yet another discussion on ABP News on Bihar, the BJP spokesperson asserted that Dalits would vote for BJP in a big way. The mocking was immediate, with an expert interrupting the BJP spokesperson with something like this:

“What are you saying, sir? How will Thakurs vote with Musahars Dalits? What are you even talking about? Are you nuts?”

Turns out that the Thakurs did actually vote with Dalits in Bihar. Yes, the Muslim-Yadav-Kurmi vote proved too powerful to overturn and so the Mameluks in the media got a chance to gloss over their errors in analysis. Nevertheless, the errors remained, no matter whether they were acknowledged or not. 

There is something the “experts” are getting wrong, despite their claim to having “ears on the ground”. That’s because they are only hearing what they want to hear. Let me break this to the experts, as loudly and clearly as possible:

The Dalit vote has ceased to exist.


What I mean is that the Dalit vote has ceased to exist in a sense that would be useful to the “idea of India” crowd. For decades, the secular jamaat has looked to the Dalit vote in the same way as the Muslim vote, expecting the Dalits to vote in a manner inimical to the so called “sawarna” Hindus. “Hindutva” was painted as a form of upper caste Hindu imposition that would be resented by Dalits and Muslims alike. This is why Mayawati/Kanshi Ram/BSP  have always been overpraised by the secular jamaat. Slogans such as “Tilak tarazu aur talwar, inko maaro joote chaar” once raised by BSP used to warm the hearts of the idea of India crowd.

For friends who might not speak Hindi, this slogan translates to:

“Throw shoes at the people with Tilak (Brahmins), Tarazu (Vaishyas) and Talwar (Kshatriyas)…”

Surely you see why the secular crowd loved this idea. Secular India rejoiced at the idea of a permanent caste war among Hindus, where every step towards a Hindu Bharat would be stopped in its tracks by the Dalit vote. They thought Dalits and the “upper” castes could never come together.

Well, wake up secular jamaatis, the dream is over.

In fact, the dream has been over for a long time and much much before 2014 when Dalits voted en masse for “upper caste BJP”. Let me take you much further back to Uttar Pradesh 2007.

In 2007, Mayawati stunned the nation by winning a clear majority in UP for the first time in a generation. Her secret?

Dalit + Brahmin

Her slogan?

Brahman shankh bajayega, haathi badhta jayega” (Brahmins will blow the shankh to welcome as the BSP’s elephant advances)

At that time, the secular jamaatis celebrated, because Maya’s victory had pushed BJP to a distant third in Uttar Pradesh. But they didn’t realize the full impact of what had just happened in Uttar Pradesh. The  enmity between upper caste vote and Dalit vote had just been washed away. THAT is where the real damage happened to the secular jamaat. If Brahmin votes could go to the so called Dalit party, Dalit votes could also go to the so called upper caste party.. The secular jamaat failed to anticipate this situation. They were still stuck asking questions like:

“How can Thakurs vote with Dalits”?

Well, they can. They have been doing so in many elections for a long time. For sure, the vote is dominated by caste considerations, but the Dalit vote is no longer inimical to the “upper” caste vote. Who will get the Dalit vote in a specific election will depend on local factors, local caste equations, but Dalits no longer give a damn about the secular project of destroying Hindutva.

In 2007, the beneficiary was Mayawati. In 2014, the beneficiary was Modi. Nobody knows who will be the winner in 2017. But, the bottomline is that BOTH Dalit voters and upper caste voters are now fully transferable between BSP and BJP. As Mayawati aggressively woos Brahmins for 2017, Dalit voters don’t care:

On the flip side, as the BJP aggressively woos Dalits for 2017, the “upper” caste voters don’t care either.

The mutual suspicion has vanished. And that means it’s game over for the secular jamaat.

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10 thoughts on “Uttar Pradesh: How the Dalit card backfired spectacularly on the idea of India

  1. 29 crore people were living in urban areas in 2001.In 2030,it is estimated that almost 60 crore people will live in urban areas.I feel that urbanization will go a long way in eliminating the caste divide and this could be a death knell for parties such as RJD which depend heavily on caste.BJP does really well with youth and in urban areas and the demographics in these 2 areas are only going to get better for BJP.


    1. Especially, parties like RJD are bound to die out because they have no ability to provide a second rung leadership. After Laloo, who? Already Laloo is at 18% vote level in Bihar, unable to win elections on his own. In alliance, he cannot even contest half the seats. His kids are total duds… so this party is headed for doom anyways.


  2. Wow, so that means fight will be between BJP and BSP. BTW, CW, do you have any thoughts who may be CM candidate for UP elections from BJP? Last week, there were news that, Rajnath is almost sure, but then we did not get any confirmed news.


    1. Of course it is a two way fight between BSP & BJP. That is why Shah is desperately saying that main rival is SP, trying to split the votes making it a 3 way contest. Am hearing that SP-RLD are tying up. This would be great for BJP. The stronger the SP appears to be, the more likely that it will split the M vote with Mayawati.


  3. It is amazing that nobody even counts Congress as a contender in UP !! Can BJP give Congress party a little slack? Just enough so that it can take away some Muslim votes from Mayawati and Mulayam?


    1. I know! I cannot understand why so many on Twitter care who is Cong CM candidate. Cong should be looking to make sure it can open account in Uttar Pradesh …and not bother about CM candidate. Cong announcing CM candidate for UP is a bit like the time BSP announced CM candidate in Haryana 2014.

      Nevertheless, UP is a huge state and BJP can try to selectively promote Congress in some pockets to cut M votes 🙂


  4. CW

    While electrol prospects are the prime movers of political parties strategies and it is heartening to see that BJP would be beneficiary of Dalit votes,but from the point of view of Hindu society the task of integration of Dalits and amolieration of their long list of dicrimanation should be the top priority and cannot be left to the political parties which have only short term election consideration.
    This has to be undertaken by the social reformers and Hindu saints and religious leaders,as festering problems of Dalits is the soft underbelly of Hinduism and cannot be swept under carpet.


    1. I am a big believer that politics is itself a huge driver of social change. When Modi came and replaced Murli Manohar in Varanasi, it was a deep message sent out to so called “lower” castes everywhere that the Hindutva is a unifying banner under which everyone will be judged on merit rather than birth. It was actually quite interesting to note that Mayawati was perhaps the last politician to speak on the Rohith Vemula suicide; she realized that the era of hardline, shrill, anti-upper caste politics is over. Coupled with aspirations for vikas and rapid urbanization, the old caste divides are simply collapsing under their own weight.


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