UP Rejects Minority Appeasement, Fake Secularism

The massive victory of the BJP in UP has many lessons for India's political parties. A great majority of the voters are below the age of 40 and their world view is largely shaped by the heady growth in GDP of 8.4% in $ terms per annum over 25 years. They want growth, development and jobs, not caste politics, Mulayam and Lalu's brand of crony socialism, or religious conflict. Women seem to have voted largely for PM Modi as they felt that he would protect them and ensure respect and economic opportunities, not the Goonda Raj of the SP.

There has been a consolidation of the Hindu vote too, driven by a perceived feeling of being ignored and being made second-class citizens in their own country despite being the majority by political parties who felt their salvation lay in wooing the Muslim Vote. Their false narrative of secularism is now largely being seen all over India as being anti-Hindu, a fact which AK Antony acknowledged in his report on the failures of the Congress in the 2014 elections. Overall, a refreshing change, overcoming stale-old narratives and seeking new ones based on growth and development. 

For all political parties in India, the message is clear: create a new narrative based on the aspiration of citizens, with the youth being the majority, if you want to be politically relevant. The old tired ideas of caste, socialism, povertarian policies, false securalism, anti-Hindu tirade, minority appeasement and divide and rule social combinations no longer sell. The Left has already fallen by the wayside, consigned to the dustbins of history, the Congress in terminal decline in a world of its own, the regional parties grasping for new thoughts to regain their power. India's youthful electorates want growth, development and jobs. Election 2019 is near and unless they change, their future is bleak.
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The BJP rode a Modi super-wave to a massive victory in Uttar Pradesh, winning 312 of the state's 403 seats; its allies getting 13 seats for a grand total of 325

The SP-Congress combine canvassed on their old ideas of caste, Muslim votes and their love of securalism, glossing over the bad administration, gross corruption and appeasement policies that the SP used. They projected Akhilesh and Rahul as the new youth leaders, along with Dimple and Priyanka to bring in balance, but the electorate was not convinced of their bona fides. Of course Mayawati played the same old Dalit card, retaining her committed voters, but failing to attract new voters. The future won over the past, for the electorate was fed up of the failures of the past. The BJP gave the hope of a bright future and Hope won handsomely.

The media from Delhi once again created a negative narrative in their own image, reflecting their own biases and prejudices. They openly showed their hostility to the NDA and PM Modi. Instead of being objective and reporting on the change on the ground, they projected their own prejudiced views as that of the electorate. They were playing up the demonetization issue, as if people were angry and upset, forgetting that the poor saw it as a blow against the cronies and black marketeers and corrupt contractors. Yes, the poor suffered, but the poor were happy that the corrupt were hit more! Vicarious pleasure at the slights they had suffered for long- and in PM Modi, they saw their champion. The BPL LPG scheme seems to be a big hit for women. Once again, the Delhi Media, consumed by their own hatred for the BJP, missed the biggest shift in political preferences in India. 
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The Samajwadi-Congress combine came to be etched too firmly in voters' minds as narrowly focused on the Muslims and the Yadavs

PM Modi carried the day in UP through his personal charisma and his message of inclusive growth. He drew massive crowds who lapped up his every word, giving a massive 325 seats and 42% of the popular vote, something not seen for the last 40 years. This has been a personal triumph for him, overcoming the reverses of the Bihar Vote. Bihar seems stuck in caste politics, while UP seems to have overcome it possibly impacted by the bright lights of Gurugram! UP seems to have overcome caste loyalties to create a "New India". Well, maybe some of this is wishful thinking! But the vote from UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha and now in 2017 Assembly elections, both massive shifts, cannot but be a vote for change, and it seems to be a sustained change. 

After the victory, PM Modi spoke about a "New India" built on high aspirations, where the youth, women and the poor have hope of change, of jobs, of growth and development. With over 21 crore citizens, over 17% of our population, UP certainly has clout in our economy and in politics. In politics, they have shown their huge power, voting the BJP to power both at the centre and in the state. In economic terms, UP, over the last 10 years, has grown at a rate lower than the All-India growth rate, dragging the overall rate down. It now needs a new economic agenda, a big vision and bold leadership to make it an engine of growth for India. For PM Modi, this is certainly a vote of full confidence, possibly emboldening him for more radical reforms for India. Fiscal 2017-18 promises to be a year of growth and jobs, possibly showing the benefits of massive investments in the last 2.5 years.

Overall, UP is rich in water and fertile land. It can be the agricultural basket of India, growing enough to feed the entire country. It lacks infrastructure, urban centres, industries and good universities. The new government needs to show growth and jobs by 2019 to keep the momentum if the BJP wants to come back to power in 2019. The BJP has made the right statements that as the elections are over, they will work for the benefit of all. 
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PM Narendra Modi campaigned extensively for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections 

The priority for the new government is clear. Peace and Justice dominates the agenda. Rule of Law should be enforced and Goonda Raj dismantled. Women and the poor should feel safe again. The Muslims need to be made comfortable again to come out of the tight control of the Mullahs and participate in the new economic opportunities that will come their way. UP needs a good road network across its 60 districts to connect villages to markets. It needs power in every household, safe drinking water, toilets in every house, and houses for the poor, improvement in the quality of life - all programmes the NDA is committed to and which solely needed in UP. Increased funding for the towns and cities are needed if jobs are to be created and distress migration reduced. 50% unemployment of the youth needs a special program to create jobs. The focus has to be on labour-intensive industry, not subsidising capital intensive ones. Eastern UP suffers from abject poverty, lack of water, lack of urbanisation and needs special focus. 

UP suffers from an ineffective administration as the state is too large to be effectively governed: with over 21 crore citizens, as big as Brazil which has many states within. It needs adequate governance and social infrastructure. UP's governance infrastructure needs to be massively increased to ensure development. Education needs a massive push to create the human capital for this century. Tamil Nadu has clearly shown that it is human capital that is the greatest differentiator. A big challenge indeed for the new government. India can only grow if UP and Bihar grow at a faster pace than the rest. 

(Mohandas Pai was the CFO and then the head of HR at Infosys. He is now Chairman, Aarin Capital Partners.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Disclosure: Mohandas Pai is an investor in NDTV Convergence's e-commerce venture, smartcooky.com