New Delhi: In a tired
replay, the campaign for the Uttar Pradesh elections that began
Wednesday stood out most for its narrow emotional appeals by all
political parties to caste, ethnic and religious identity of the
voter, clouding any debate on development of India's most populous
As voters queued up outside polling booths in the first round of
the seven-phase balloting in the state, widely seen as having been
a victim of governance deficit for decades, political observers
were one in their dejection that the agenda showed no signs of
"I am disappointed... as usual in the state no real issue has come
up," veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar told IANS.
Observing that the election had been marred by the absence of any
real issue as religion and caste politics took the front seat,
Nayar added: "The Uttar Pradesh polls are once again based in
caste and sub-caste politics.
"The BJP as usual has tried to bring back the religion issue; on
the other hand, the Gandhi family is dominating with now the
son-in-law (Robert Vadra) joining the camp as well."
The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP),
known to practise caste and identity politics, were, of course, no
better than the national parties.
"The Uttar Pradesh elections are being fought as if everyone has a
personal 'jaydad' (property), whether it is the SP or the BSP or
the national parties," the veteran columnist said.
Commentator N. Bhaskara Rao was equally scathing, describing the
Feb 8-March 3 elections as one of "doleouts rather than
"Contrary to the talk of development, caste-based politics has
been at its peak in Uttar Pradesh for the past two decades," Rao
told IANS. "The development plank has really not sunk in yet as
all the parties have confused the voters by playing the caste
According to Rao, "the voters suffering from lack of basic
facilities like electricity, drinking water, schools and
healthcare want a change... But there is little hope that the 2012
assembly polls would put the development agenda at the forefront
of Uttar Pradesh's politics."
Badri Narayan, a political commentator based in Allahabad, home
town of the Nehru-Gandhi family, was in complete agreement.
"The youth is attracted by the development agenda and wants to
break the caste mould but faces a strong limitation in doing so,"
Narayan told IANS.
Over the past year, Nehru-Gandhi family scion Rahul Gandhi
promised to develop the state in five years if the Congress was
voted to power and attacked parties like the BSP and the SP for
But as the polls approached near, the party floated the idea of
giving Muslims nine percent reservation out of the 27 percent
Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota, to attract the 18 percent
Muslims in a state of 200 million people.
Gandhi is also behind a large number of tickets given to the
backward and most backward communities in a party dominated by
Brahmins. He also held out Sam Pitroda, the prime minister's
technology and innovation adviser, as an example of how a person
from the varahi (carpenter) caste could rise to national and
In its eagerness to attract the influential OBC votes, the BJP,
which is banking on backward caste leaders Uma Bharti and Vinay
Katiyar, committed the political blunder of inducting tainted
former BSP minister Babu Singh Khushwaha, an OBC leader.
"People are in a dilemma. They are not sure whether to opt for
development or stick to the caste factor in the 2012 polls," said
Which way they will finally go will become clear on March 6 when
votes are counted.