Can Modi make Uttar Pradesh connect with him?

Listen to Narendra Modi begin his rally in Deesa in Gujarat on Saturday:

Listen to the first word, for it is the one word in Gujarati that we all know:

Kemcho

And just listen to the roar from the audience that followed. The spontaneous roar that came from a gathered crowd of over two lakh people the moment they heard their beloved Prime Minister’s voice.

Gujarat.

That is Modi’s Fortress Gujarat. Impregnable.

Incidentally, the Prime Minister mostly spoke in Hindi thereafter, obviously speaking to a national audience. It didn’t matter. With one joyous roar, the people of Gujarat confirmed another BJP sweep in the 2017 Assembly polls.

What is happening here? What explains this magic? For the people of Gujarat he is the ultimate rockstar. They identify with him. Here, let me take you back to the moment in history when Sachin Tendulkar completed 17000 runs.

Listen to Sunil Gavaskar’s quaking voice as he explains the moment:

That’s it… 17000 runs for the little master. Amazing. Amazing player. And look at the crowd. …They were sure he would get it here … They had gathered in anticipation and now they are all unfurling those banners…. It’s not just Sachin Tendulkar’s runs. These are all runs that the crowd feel are their own“.

Even now, I cannot listen to that audio without feeling a lump in my throat. I dare you to listen to it without feeling like you have tears in your eyes. You were right, Sunny Gavaskar. Growing up, we always thought that Sachin Tendulkar’s runs were our own.

We identified with Sachin Tendulkar. And that’s also the relationship between Modi and Gujarat. The people of Gujarat see Modi’s successes and his failures as their own.

In the 2017 elections, what we will really see is whether Narendra Modi has been able to establish a similar connect with the people of Uttar Pradesh. It’s a sentiment that goes beyond merely evaluating the Prime Minister, it is about identifying with his fortunes. As Praveen Patil tweeted on Saturday:

There is something happening in Uttar Pradesh that goes beyond the normal framework of politics. Look at this survey from Dec 2 about people’s sentiments regarding demonetization in 5 different states.

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(http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/consumption-down-but-cash-ban-gets-a-thumbs-up/articleshow/55916182.cms)

Notice anything?

Okay, the ratings are spectacularly high. But we already knew that. Forget that.

Notice anything else?

Yes. The urban rural approval divide in Bihar is 15%, in Madhya Pradesh it is 12%. Not only are the ratings highest in Uttar Pradesh, but something new and amazing has happened there: the urban-rural divide vanished!

Just look in the same chart and observe the urban rural gap in Delhi which stands at 8%. Obviously, “rural” in Delhi means something vastly more privileged than “rural” in Uttar Pradesh. And yet, rural UP is in lock step with urban UP. What does that tell you?

Something is happening in Uttar Pradesh. Something out of the ordinary. Is the voter beginning to identify with Modi? Do they see Narendra Modi as a  UP-wallah? I wonder.

The PM is popular in Bihar, almost like he is popular anywhere. But, that’s not the point. He was beloved but at the end of the day he was not a Bihari. Nitish played “Bihari vs Bahari” to the hilt. Did you see Akhilesh try that even once?

Because UP is different. Perhaps for cultural reasons, perhaps for being such a large state or whatever, the people of Uttar Pradesh are tremendously secure  about their importance in India’s politics. As a corollary of this confidence, UP does not feel the need to assert the pride of being an “authentic UP wallah”, unlike Biharis, Bengalis, Tamils, Maharashtrians, Gujaratis…almost anyone else. With the exception of UP and perhaps MP, every other state has a clear tinge of regional identity in its politics.

As another corollary of this confidence, the people of Uttar Pradesh do not have a problem accepting Modi as one of them. He’s from Gujarat. But so what?

The Opposition is placed very precariously in UP at this moment. Obviously, their campaign will be built on hardships due to demonetization. I have a sense that people of UP are beginning to identify with the PM. This nullifies the entire opposition strategy on harping on the failures of demonetization. Because, when people identify with the PM and you attack his most audacious project, you end up looking like you are attacking the people themselves.

So, as on date, there are three UP-wallahs in the Assembly election battle: Modi, Maya and Akhilesh. And one of these three towers like a skyscraper over the other two pygmies. Turning it into a referendum on Modi will be a disaster for his opponents. Especially when the anti-Modi vote is divided into two equal parts and the pro-Modi vote is rock solid behind one party.

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10 thoughts on “Can Modi make Uttar Pradesh connect with him?

  1. I was happy with the Demonetization till I read the news yesterday that Sekar Reddy’s (ADMK) home was raided and found crores worth Rs 2000. How did this happen? How come he got crores of Rs 2000 when ordinary man is in ATM line to get few thousands. How many Sekar Reddys are there? Did the demonetization really work or did the black money hoarders were able to outsmart the govt?

    Again, I do not find any mistake in the intention of the Govt or our PM. But, my only question is did Demonetization really work to get the black money from the top 10 or top 100 hoarders?

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    1. Good point Anand. Lately IT raids have exposed quite a few hoarders with many many 2000 Rs. notes. Now next logical steps should be to interrogate these culprits and find out identity of corrupt banks and bank officials who supplied them with these new notes. Make sure that they get exemplary punishment.

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    2. Anand – our bureaucracy is still laced with many who are loyal to the previous regime and, more generally, to the lack of accountability and transparency that has sadly been the hallmark of our politics over the last 70 years. I have no doubt that there is behind-the-scenes machinations to sabotage the demonetization scheme by somehow ensuring that there is not enough liquidity in the system by 31st December – which is the time the PM asked for. This will give the opposition some ammo to beat down the demonetization scheme with even more than they already are. However, I genuinely feel that the people of India are so strongly behind Modi now that the opposition is only going to tie itself up in knots. Also, it is heartening to see the # of raids happening because it shows people that the government did not just declare a scheme and sit back but, to the extent possible, is following that up with strict action, enforceability, and accountability.

      CW nailed it when he said that the people of India are beginning to identify with Modi. They can see that bit-by-bit, he is trying to eliminate all the small and big issues and challenges that we have persistently been exasperated by as a common citizen of India (corruption, lack of accountability, bureacracy etc.)

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      1. CW, once again gr8 post. Good analysis. So, this proves that, there are high chances for BJP to win UP.
        Dear Anand, I agree with Dallas and PB Josh that, there are many forces which are working against government. Sometimes I believe that, if people themselves are so corrupt, we really do not need an honest government. We deserve crooks like kejri and RaGa. Anyhow, I believe that, Modi knows many bank managers are involved. He must be watching. There is also news that, there were sting operations in many banks by GOI. Atleast 200 CDs have gone to GOI. So, wait till Feb or March for actions on these corrupt bank officials. As of now, he cant take any step against corrupt bank system at least till 31st December. Well, there is a joke in social media. Is there any real nano chip inside 2000 notes? Otherwise, how come many raids are happening?:-)

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  2. Just as people feel Sachin Tendulkar’s runs as their own, people feel Modi’s decisions as their own. Everybody felt Pakistan had to be hit, Modi hit them. Everybody felt need for cleanliness, Modi launched the Swach Bharat Abhiyan. Everyone wanted corruption to be hit, Modi has done it with demonetization.

    No, these are not Modi’s decisions. These are our decisions.

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  3. crores of rupees all new have been seized in karnataka also ,mostly from politicos close to congi ministers and jdu ministers with help from corrupt bank officials. all stashed in secret lockers inthe bathrooms

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  4. I am wondering why there is no opinion poll for UP election by Lutyen Media after Surgical strike and Demonetization. I Remember when Fake Dalit’s Attach’s Propaganda was there around mid July then everyday there was a opinion poll for UP election by Lutyen Media…I want to know latest opinion poll for UP election.

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