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UP politics still 'caste' in stone

Wednesday February 08, 2012 01:31:26 PM, IANS

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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 state.

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 change.

"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 development".

"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 card."

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 corruption.

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 international renown.

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 Narayan.

Which way they will finally go will become clear on March 6 when votes are counted.







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Picture of the Day

New Delhi,27 Jan 2012-IGNOU Vice-Chancellor M Aslam receiving the "Best teaching practices Award" from noted film director Prakash Jha at the India Today Aspire education summit 2012,in New Delhi on Friday. Also in picture India Today Group's Rekha Puri.

(Photo: IANS/Amlan Paliwal)



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