In today's episode of NDTV's 'The Countdown', we talk about the caste angle in Uttar Pradesh politics
In today's episode of NDTV's 'The Countdown', Prannoy Roy, Shekhar Gupta, Dorab R Sopariwala and NDTV's Kamal Khan talk about the caste angle in Uttar Pradesh politics and how the ordinary voter casts her franchise along these lines. The Yadavs and Jatavs support the SP and BSP alliance in the majority. However, the answer to this year's election lies in whether the BJP or the Congress can capitalise on the balance of the votes.
Here are the highlights for the third episode of 'The Countdown':
Dinesh Sharma: I think that process is going stronger. There is conversation between educated Muslims. Look at Godhra, Surat. Lots of Muslims still support BJP. Because they know BJP will not discriminate. What I am trying to say is that BJP does not give tickets according to caste or religion. We are political party. BSP-SP try to divide the voters. Those numbers are rising within the BJP. Top leadership among Muslims is with BJP. Christian and Muslim leaderships are now supporting the BJP.
Prannoy Roy: But that's very few. India has 15% Muslims. With you, less than 2%. Why is that?
Shahnawaz Hussain always wins, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi fights. In Rajasthan, we have Yunus Khan. We had corporation elections recently in Gujarat.
Prannoy Roy: But, not even one MP is Muslim, not one MLA in Gujarat is Muslim. At least to show inclusiveness, will there be any MPs from UP who will be Muslim?
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma: I do not know who you are referring to, but I can say this - the way Modiji has worked, the Muslims in Varanasi vote for him. In Lucknow, a sizeable population of Muslims vote for Rajnath Singh. The Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself has a lot of Muslims visiting his ashram every day and voting for him as well. What is said by whom, when, where & in what context, depends on an individual's personality. The scenario for us, in the country & the state, is that we believe in progress & support for everyone. It is an issue the PM believes in, there should be no discrimination, no differences. We are modernising madrasas as well. Instead of reducing funds for the upliftment of minority communities, we have increased it one and a half times. If we were a party that created differences, we would have never done that.
NDTV's Kamal Khan to Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma:
We have not heard the sort of language from you that a handful of your leaders keep using. I don't need to name them, you know who they are. It sends out the wrong message. It creates a sense of victimhood in the Muslim community, a sense of alienation. They feel they are being targetted. The Muslim population would be about 20% in UP and 14-15% in all of India. Isn't there a responsibility to practice inclusive politics, for the top leaders to stop such irresponsible speech from within the party? To act against them? Because you speak of progress for everyone. We have never heard you say inflammatory things.
NDTV's Alok Pandey: Even in Barabanki, where you were. That's a seat where the Congress is known to be strong, because PL Punia has won an election there and he's known to be a strong candidate. His son is contesting this time around, so I'm sure he'll be campaigning. And then you'll likely have someone fighting from the SP. That's going to be an issue there as if they would've been together, they would've consolidated votes. And there is a significant Muslim population there. And if the votes are going to be 60-40, 80-20, there will be a problem.
All our data shows Muslim vote, 80% goes to SP-BSP and 20% to the Congress. That's a big divide.
Shekhar Gupta: None to the BJP.
Prannoy Roy: Very, very few. Among the non-BJP, its 80-20. There are a few independent candidates. But the divide is 80-20, which can make a big difference.
Division of Muslim votes more proof that split opposition in UP helps BJP
Prannoy Roy: Let's look at figures of the Muslim vote. It will be divided if Congress doesn't join the SP-BSP.
NDTV's Kamal Khan: Their worry is that at national level, the Muslim vote can shift. They feel Congress will make the government at the centre. The 19-20% vote can shift to them, is what they fear.
Prannoy Roy: The Jatavs are so focused on Mayawati and little bit on SP and Yadavs in reverse, that they shouldn't be worried about Congress as allied. So why are they worried?
Akhilesh Yadav: "The BJP's divide and rule is of a different sort. The Congress may have done it too, but in the last election I saw, the PM claimed that he came from a backward community. And he took the backward vote. He has divided society & religion. It could be a strategy, so yes, the BJP does have a strategy, where even if one gets 1,000 votes, it is possible that they can be given money and they can be made to fight. This is the strategy of many political parties. But when we lost the UP polls, we lost by a margin of 2 lakh votes somewhere and 2.5 lakh votes elsewhere. When we get to know what our weaknesses are, we can learn how to defeat our opponents."
Dorab R Sopariwala to Akhilesh Yadav:
"In our book we have written a chapter on divide and rule, that my enemy's enemy is my biggest enemy. So, you much rather let the BJP win than tie up with somebody else. This is a way in which divide and rule is what's happening? They say you hang separately."
Senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari:
Let me give you a figure. Chhattisgarh has 96% Hindus. There are about 92-93% Hindus in Madhya Pradesh. Both states were deep rooted bastions for the BJP. There were only 4% Muslims in Chhattisgarh, and 6% in Madhya Pradesh, with 9% in Rajasthan. There was a huge attempt at polarisation with some very dirty tactics used. They made every effort. But a very large section of society had made up its mind that the BJP tells lies, hasn't followed through on its many promises, and needs to be removed. So they were removed.
NDTV's Kamal Khan: "Without an alliance, the perception is that in this polarised atmosphere, a big chunk of the Hindu vote is with the BJP. The smaller castes are with Mulayam Singh, Akhilesh Yadav & Mayawati. So who is forming your support base on the basis of which you feel you will perform well even without the alliance?"
Shekhar Gupta: Even more touching is the other fantasy of Congress, that they shouldn't align with BSP because we have common voter base. There is no common voter base anymore. Congress is living in the 70s.
Dorab R Sopariwala: But question is they're 8% overall and 12% among Brahmins. SP-BSP is 40% overall and 12% among Brahmins. But nothing big is available.
Prannoy Roy: It's unlikely because fewer Brahmins vote for Congress than for SP-BSP. The Brahmin vote, 67% goes for BJP, which is huge. The balance, SP-BSP gets 21% and Congress is 12%. It's not as though Congress will get most of the votes. It's not like they will cut the Brahmin vote from BJP. But they're nothing with the Brahmins.
Congress no match for BJP or even SP-BSP in Brahmin votes
SP & BSP have 79% of the Jatav vote. You don't see this in many of the other states. So who has the rest 21%? Congress has only 3% of the Jatav vote. BJP has 17 %. So Congress is not a threat to Mayawati.
Let's have a look at the Brahmins. A lot of Congress leaders we met said we will take all the Brahmin vote from the BJP. But what's the fact?
Mayawati's competition for Jatav votes is BJP, not Congress
Prannoy Roy: Look at the Yadav vote. SP & BSP have 80% of it. But who has the rest? Not Congress with 4%, the BJP has 16% of the Yadav vote. So, the BJP shouldn't fear the Congress eating into the Yadav vote.
What about the Jatav vote? Is Mayawati worried of Congress eating into her vote?
SP-BSP have more to fear from BJP on Yadav votes in Uttar Pradesh
Scheduled Castes also much more important than all-India level. For all-India, its 17%, but in UP, its 21%, 4% higher. Muslim Scheduled Castes are very important in UP.
Let's take a look at the caste-wise and whether any alliance would, with Congress would damage the fortunes of the SP or BSP. Is that their big worry?
Muslim, Scheduled Caste votes are key in Uttar Pradesh
Prannoy Roy: Let's have a look at the characteristic of the voter in Uttar Pradesh. The Hindu vote (in Uttar Pradesh) is 80%, just like the whole country. But Muslims are much higher than the all-India average. All India average is 14%, but the average in UP is 19%, 5% higher than the all-India average. So Muslims are very important.