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Municipal Elections in Uttar Pradesh

By staying away from the municipal elections in Uttar Pradesh in October-November, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party has played a rather clever move. The BSP also encouraged its supporters to vote for the Congress or BJP candidates (depending on who seemed the better one in a particular area) in a bid to teach the ruling Samajwadi Party a lesson. This might seem to be a self-defeating move but the BSP is conserving its punches for the forthcoming assembly elections.

Municipal Electionsin Uttar Pradesh

By staying away from the municipal elections in Uttar Pradesh in October-November, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party has played a rather clever move. The BSP also encouraged its supporters to vote for the Congress or BJP candidates (depending on who seemed the better one in a particular area) in a bid to teach the ruling Samajwadi Party a lesson. This might seem to be a self-defeating move but the BSP is conserving its punches for the forthcoming assembly elections.

A K VERMA

T
he third municipal elections1in Uttar Pradesh since the 74th constitutional amendment in 1992 were held in October-November 2006 for 12 municipal corporations,2 189 municipal councils and 417 nagar panchayats.3 At stake were 618 elective posts of mayor/chairman and 11,141 posts of members of different civic bodies. In contrast to the nonparty character of panchayat polls (August 2005), municipal elections are fought on party lines and hence, provide an inkling of the political undercurrents in the state. The elections become significant as they were held on the eve of the state assembly elections due in 2007. All the major political parties except the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) participated in the elections.

It is ironical that despite staying away from the municipal elections, the presence of the BSP was felt everywhere. In fact, it would not be wrong to call this municipal election as BSP-centric since the BSP controlled the agenda (to defeat the Samajwadi Party (SP)), dictated the behaviour of the electorate (by allowing tactical voting by the dalits for the first time and forcing Muslims to drift away from the SP and towards the Congress), and decided the outcome (ensuring the victory of the Congress and the BJP candidates, who were themselves surprised at the outcome).

The BSP seems to have a grand design for the “finals”, i e, the assembly elections scheduled early next year. The decision to abstain from the civic polls, the call to its vote-bank to vote for the party best placed to defeat the SP in these elections, the effort to attract brahmins and upper castes4 to the party are all very calculated moves. Mayawati’s careful statement about “Muslim propensity to prefer hardliners” inviting wrath against her must be seen in this light. The SP tried to capitalise on this issue and the Lohia Vahini wing of the party burnt Mayawati’s effigies at the district headquarters. Several Muslims also protested in Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Moradabad, Agra, Bijnor and Saharanpur against her statement. The recently formed United Democratic Front (UDF) appealed to the Muslim MLAs, MPs and supporters of the BSP to redefine their priorities in the light of her statement and leave the party. But, the more Muslims burn the effigies of Mayawati, the more Hindus drift to her defence! Many BJP loyalists confide that Mayawati has done that which even the BJP would not do: she has shown the Muslims their real face! All that becomes very important in the light of the switching of loyalties by the Muslims from the SP to the Congress. Not only that, Mayawati has also targeted the lower Other Backward Classes (OBCs) who seem to be unhappy under Mulayam Singh Yadav’s rule; they allege that the SP is a yadavdominated party in which the non-yadav OBCs have gained nothing in terms of social, political and economic status. To add to the discomfiture of Mulayam Singh, the business community in the state (whom he had been assiduously wooing) has also not given him a helping hand because of the alarming deterioration in the law and order situation in the state threatening trading and business activities.

Many claim that the decision of the BSP to stay away from the municipal elections was a mistake that allowed its voters to drift away from the party and towards the Congress and the BJP. But Mayawati’s moves seem to be very shrewd: she reasons that participation in the municipal

Economic and Political Weekly December 23, 2006

elections would have unnecessarily created problems for the party at the grassroots level as there would have been a mad rush by ticket seekers. As the people vote for a candidate in the local elections on the basis of personal relations and not so much for the party there was not much point in getting involved formally. It would have also made a dent in the party’s resources reserved for the assembly elections. But, the party got a chance to test its cadres and their clout on their own though at the last moment, the party lent a helping hand to the strong candidates in the fray. But to say that the temporary drift of the BSP voters would harm the party in the assembly elections is not correct; as soon as the BSP emerges on the political scene and the elephant (BSP symbol) roams around, they would all ride the elephant. And that would again stun the Congress and the BJP who are going through a temporary phase of elation due to their improved performance in the civic polls.

Lessons for SP

The poor showing of the ruling Samajwadi Party in mayoral elections has upset Mulayam Singh Yadav. It has blasted his pride in the much hyped development of the state and the dole politics.5 The party is shocked to note its defeat in the most pampered constituencies where it pumped money and electricity. It lost the posts of chairperson, municipal councils in all the four constituencies of Gunnur (Badayun), Sambhal, Kannauj and Mainpuri represented respectively by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav (brother), Akhilesh Yadav (son) and Dharmendra Yadav (nephew). In Kannauj, the SP candidate for the chairperson’s post lost his deposit. While the other states are seriously concentrating on development, Mulayam is into populist politics and has forgotten the real developmental and production needs6 of the state. According to media reports farmers are committing suicide in Bundelkhand region where 70 per cent land is non-irrigated; during the last three and a half years about 1,040 farmers have committed suicide there. Official records say 122 died of hunger, poverty and the fear of repayment of bank loans. It is ironical that Mulayam Singh hotly denies this though his own party wanted to raise this issue in the Lok Sabha on July 26 last but was denied permission by the speaker.

Though, the SP received a drubbing in the mayoral polls, its overall showings do not demonstrate any substantial loss. state election commissioner A P Singh to Conversely, the party showed gains all enquire about the fair conduct of elections; around: as compared to the November 2000 the governor subsequently sent a report to civic polls, it won 45 more seats in the the president and the home ministry. One corporations (Table 1), 133 more seats in reason for the SP victories was that many the municipal councils (Table 2), and 254 political parties did not field official canmore seats in the nagar panchayats didates at the wards level. Another con(Table 3). It also won 23 more seats of troversy surrounding the SEC was its dillymunicipal council chairperson and 35 more dallying: at many places, like Etawah and of chairperson of nagar panchayats. How-Atrauli, etc, the poll percentage was very ever, the victories of the ruling party in high, in some cases up to 85-95 per cent. these elections were attributed to a large-The SEC cancelled election at booths where scale rigging and booth capturing with the voting was 85 per cent and above because complicity of the district administration of the complaints of “silent booth capturofficials. Even the State Election Commis-ing”, but the commissioner admitted that sion (SEC) was not spared, and the the SEC received phone calls from governor T V Rajeshwar summoned the Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kalyan Singh,

Table 1: Municipal Corporation Elections in UP 2006 and 2000

Party Mayors Corporators 2006 2000 Gain/Loss 2006 2000 Gain/Loss

NCP 00-00-BSP Not contested 1 Not contested Not contested 119 Not contested CPI 00 -03-3 BJP 8 6 +2 314256+58 INC 3 1 +2 151110+41 JDU 00 -02-2 CPIML 00 -00-CPIM 00 -00-Samata 0 0 -01-1 SP 1 1 -234189+45 SS 00-54+1 RLD 0 0 -1312+1 RJD 00-00-LJSP 00 -00-ABLC 00 -06-6 AD 0-211 -9 RKP 00-00-Independent 0 2 -2 259 110 +149 Others 0 0 -14-3 Total 12 11 979 830

Source: State Election Commission, UP and A K Verma (EPW, January 6, 2001:15).

Table 2: Municipal Council Elections in UP 2006 and 2000

Party Chairpersons Members Municipal Council Municipal Council 2006 2000 Gain/Loss 2006 2000 Gain/Loss

NCP 00-11-BSP Not contested 23 Not contested Not contested 384 Not contested CPI 01 -1 28-6 BJP 41 46 -5 642 686 -44 INC 17 19 -2 239 151 +88 JDU 00 -31+2 CPIML 00 -17-6 CPIM 0 0 -313 -10 Samata 00 -05-5 SP 59 36 +23 703 570 +133 SS 00 -35-2 RLD 2 1 +1 63 21 +42 RJD 00 -80+8 LJSP 00 -10+1 ABLC 00 -10+1 AD 00 -59-4 RKP 00 -30+3 Independent 70 60 +10 3382 2869 +513 Others 0 3 -3 3 26 -23 Total 189 192 5063 4833

Source: State Election Commission, UP and A K Verma (EPW, January 6, 2001:15).

Economic and Political Weekly December 23, 2006 who argued that the public has come out in very large numbers owing to enthusiasm which should not be equated with silent booth capturing. After that the SEC reversed its decision. Many opposition parties put a question mark at the conduct of the comissioner.

Notwithstanding the allegations, there was no doubt that the civic polls showed greater political mobilisation. As one-third seats are reserved for women, so they are able to persuade more women voters to come out and vote. There is already greater mobilisation among the OBCs and the dalit voters. But at some places, the presiding officers were conniving in fake voting: at Mahoba, the presiding officer D K Shukla was arrested. At several places, no identification was demanded by any election officer. At some places, even minors were casting votes. At Badayun, a girl of less than 18 years voted as her name was in the voters list, while at Behraich, an 8year-old girl voted in full view of the administration. The new rule was that if more towards the person than the party, the drop is not alarming. But, the drift of the Muslim voters away from the party and towards the Congress is what really worries the SP. Muslims openly supported the Congress mayoral candidates at Bareilly, where the leader of the ‘barelvi sect’ Maulana Mannan Raza Khan lent support to Congress candidate Supriya Aron defeating the Muslim candidate Shagufta Yasmin fielded by the SP. At Allahabad, the newly floated UDF of Abdullah Bukhari polled 28,000 votes which must have been largely Muslim votes; and the victory of the Congress candidate would not have been possible without the support of the Muslim voters. At Lucknow, the Muslim Congress candidate Manzoor got huge Muslim support. At Kanpur, in the wards falling within the Muslim dominant constituencies of Aryanagar and Generalganj, the SP polled 43,000 less votes as compared to the votes polled by the party in the 2004 LS elections thus clearly showing a change in Muslim voting pattern. Muslims at Kanpur also largely voted for the BSP-supported, lesser known, Muslim mayoral candidate Salim Ahmed who polled more than a lakh votes. Even down the line, in municipal councils, such trend was visible. Not only that, another trend was the division of Muslim votes. At Orai, there was a sharp divide between the ‘barelvis’ (who voted for the SP) and the ‘deobandis’ (who voted for the BJP); the BJP won. At Tambor (Sitapur), Muslims got divided between the rival Muslim candidates put up by the SP (Jhabban Beg) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) (Ishtiaque). In Nighasan (Lakhimpur Kheri), Muslims voted for the independent Kaiyum Khan who defeated the SP candidate Deepak Shah. At Meerut, the UDF leader Haji Yakoob

Table 3: Party Position of Mayor and Members in Municipal Corporation Elections in UP 2006

someone has to challenge a bogus voter, Corporation Mayor’s Party Position in Municipal Corporations he has to pay Rs 5 as objection fees. That Name Party BJP INC SP Shiv Sena RLD AD IND Others Total

deterred many from raising objections. The Meerut BJP 28 4 10 1 7 0 30 0 80 election campaigns were conducted flout-Ghaziabad BJP 32 14 13 0 4 0 17 0 80 ing “code of conduct” with impunity. At Moradabad S P 24 9 24 3 1 0 8 0 69

Bareilly INC 22 10 16 0 0 0 22 0 70

Orai, party stalls were put up quite close

Aligarh BJP 2412 18 0 1 015 0 70to the polling centre, while in Safipur Agra BJP 30 10 12 0 0 0 37 1 90 (Unnao), Langar and Bhandara were Kanpur BJP 33 32 17 0 0 0 28 0 110 Jhansi INC 714 10 0 0 029 0 60

hoisted where alcohol was also served.

AllahabadINC 13 9 26 1 0 031 0 80

The ceiling on expenditure was of no

Lucknow BJP 41 22 33 0 0 0 14 0110 meaning, and many candidates did not Gorakhpur BJP 25 7 22 0 0 0 16 0 70 care to submit their expenditure returns Varanasi BJP 35 8 33 0 0 2 12 0 90 Total 314 151 234 5 13 2 259 1 979

(Dainik Jagran, October 29, 2006, Jansatta, November 9, 2006). There were Source: State Election Commission, UP. no serious developmental issues involved

Table 4: Nagar Panchayat Elections in UP 2006 and 2000

and most of the candidates and the parties

Party Chairpersons Members

were playing patriotic songs and filmy

Nagar Panchayat Nagar Panchayats

parodies in the campaign. The ruling

2006 2000 Gain/Loss 2006 2000 Gain/Loss

party did indulge in violence to which the

NCP 0 0-35-2

district administration remained a silent

BSP Not contested 54 Not contested Not contested 386 Not contested

spectator. The Congress and the BJP

CPI 0 1-1 63+3 gheroed the district magistrate of Etawah BJP 57 62 -5 347 472 -125 alleging the worst rigging of the polls and INC 25 11 +14 236 149 +87 JDU 0 1-1 25-3

violence by the SP with the complicity of

CPIML0 0 -11

the local administration. That was the

CPIM 1 0+1 11scenario at most of the places, and is an Samata 0 0 -0 7 -7 S P 105 70 +35 736 482 +254

ominous signal for the coming assembly

SS 00 -13-2

elections.

RLD 9 1 +8 68 17 +51 RJD 1 0 +1 13 0+13 LJSP 00-50+5

Muslim Connection

ABLC 0 0-60+6 AD 00-27-5

In the previous municipal elections the

RKP 00-20+2 SP had polled 18.47 per cent votes; this Independent 219 201 +18 3667 3118 +549

time it polled 15.30 per cent – a decrease Others 0 0 -3 27 -24 Total 417 416 5099 4778

of 3.17 percentage points. Looking at the nature of the voting, which is oriented Source: State Election Commission, UP and A K Verma (EPW, January 6, 2001:15).

Economic and Political Weekly December 23, 2006

Quareshi caused a division in Muslim votes ensuring the defeat of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Muslim candidate Shaista Begum leading to the victory of the BJP’s Madhu Gurjar.

For the Congress and the BJP the poll results were like the ‘sanjeevani’ (life saving drug). Both the parties had become almost dysfunctional and marginalised in the state. The Congress failed to capitalise on its early initiatives to revive the party through its drive to train its cadres. However, the Muslims have turned to the Congress as they see their honeymoon with the SP coming to an end. But they had no choice; the BSP was not there, and they would, by and large, not turn to the BJP though at some places, some sects of the Muslims did vote for the BJP. The victory of the mayoral candidates of the Congress at Allahabad, Jhansi and Bareilly could be largely attributed to a shift in Muslim voting behaviour. However, the Congress lost the Kanpur mayoral seat, the only one it had won last time though it won 41 more seats in the corporations, 88 more seats in the municipal councils, and 87 more seats in the nagar panchayats as compared to the previous civic polls. It also won 14 nagar panchayat chairperson’s seats. It was indeed ironical that the Congress failed to win even a single seat out of the five nagar panchayat chairman’s posts and one nagar palika parishad chairman’s post in Sultanpur district falling in the Amethi parliamentary constituency of Rahul Gandhi. However, the enhanced vote share from 20 per cent in 2000 to 26 per cent votes surprised the party and fuelled hopes for its revival in the coming assembly elections.

The BJP, though jubilant at the windfall victories at big urban centres, is in panic internally. It lost badly at both the remaining levels: as compared to the 2,000 municipal elections, it lost 44 seats in the municipal councils and 125 seats in the nagar panchayats; it also lost a few posts of chairperson at both the levels (Tables 2, 3). It only gained 58 more seats at the municipal corporations, and two more mayoral seats. However, the party does not know how to take its municipal victory forward. It has no leaders, no agenda, and no direction. The mandir and communal issues are irrelevant in Uttar Pradesh. With all political parties, including the BJP, vying for Muslim votes, there is really no panic among the Muslims and they are cleverly exploiting all the political parties for more gains. The formation of the UDF/PDF Muslim fronts has added one more dimension to the politics of the state. Who is really with the BJP, then? The BSP has almost usurped the brahmins; the SP has largely attracted the thakurs – thanks to Amar Singh and Raja Bhaiya. And many kayasthas are attracted to the SP because of the Amitabh Bachchan factor. The dalits are, of course, with the BSP. The remaining vaishyas’ might be with the BJP. Hence, the coming assembly elections in UP are a nightmare for the BJP. The party fully understands that its victories in the municipal elections were largely due to the tactical voting by the dalits in favour of the BJP to defeat the SP.

The RLD of Ajit Singh not only put up a good performance in western UP, but it also registered some victories in eastern and central UP. The RLD captured the seats of the presidents in the civic bodies at Machhalishahar (Jaunpur), Ahrora (Mirzapur), Azuah (Kaushambi), Hathgaam (Fatehpur), Mallawan (Hardoi) and Ugu (Unnao) in eastern and central UP. The party also did well in Bagapat, Muzzaffarnagar, Bulandshahar, Aligarh, Rampur, Pilibhit, Bijnore, Hathras, Ghaziabad, Mathura and Mainpuri in western UP, though for fear of bickering among party workers, it did not put up official candidates in western UP. The party claimed to have won as many as 35 seats of presidents of the municipal councils and nagar panchayats throughout UP. It won 63 seats in municipal councils and 68 seats in nagar panchayats.

An unusually large number of independents at all levels get elected. There were 149 more independents in corporations, 513 more in the councils and 549 more in the nagar panchayats (Tables 1, 3). One reason for that is the abstinence of the BSP from the polls; additionally, the RLD, Congress and the BJP also did not put up official candidates at many places at the municipal council and nagar panchayat wards level. Surprisingly, the RJD of Laloo Yadav and the Lok Janashakti Party (LJSP) of Ram Vilas Paswan have registered their presence in these local elections. However, every corporation, municipal council and the nagar panchayat has a “hung character” and the large number of independents hold the key to the smooth functioning of the local government proceedings.

The recently held municipal elections have perturbed all the participants. They all want to analyse the results in the light of the coming assembly elections. The ruling party (SP) wants to forget its drubbing in the mayoral polls; it wants an early election to capitalise on the gains in the municipal council and the nagar panchayat elections, and the panchayat polls held earlier in 2005. The BJP and the Congress are attempting to consolidate their respective gains to make a comeback in the state where they both have been relegated to the third and the fourth places respectively. But the most important player – the BSP

– is silently planning its strategy, deciding on tactics, and consolidating its resources. By abstaining from the municipal election, the BSP has given other players a false sense of success and elation; when the elephant is in the field, and the fight is quadrangular in the coming assembly polls, the social engineering of Mayawati could upset all calculations.

EPW

Email: anil_verma@vsnl.net

Notes

1 The first civic polls were held in 1995, the second in November 2000 and the third in October-November (October 28, 31, November 3) 2006.

2 During the previous civic polls in November 2000, there were 11 corporations; this time Jhansi was upgraded from the municipal council to the corporation status, and hence, in all there were 12 corporations this time.

3 Municipal corporation is for a large urban area exceeding the population of 10 lakhs, municipal council is for a small urban area, and the nagar panchayat is for a small transitional area (town area).

4 In the Brahmin Sammelan in Lucknow, just after the municipal elections, Mayawati coined a new slogan: ‘tilak taraju aur talwar, sab hai haathi per sawar’ (brahmins, banias and thakurs all are riding the elephant). This showed a clear drift from her erstwhile exclusionary politics when she used to say: ‘tilak taraju aur talwar, inko maro jute chaar’ (beat brahmins, banias and thakurs all with shoes).

5 Mulayam Singh has been giving Rs 500 as unemployment allowance to the unemployed youth, Rs 20,000 as Kanya Vidya Dhan to the girls, and his latest is to give two saree each to poor women from each family.

6 There is no electricity and industries are closing down. In places like Kanpur, the profit earning Duncan Industries (formerly Indian Explosive manufacturing ‘Chand’ brand urea), and more recently the LML Scooter units have been allowed to close down throwing thousands of workers out of jobs. Hundreds of ancillary units attached to them also closed down. The textile mills of Kanpur, once the Manchester of the east, have simply become a thing of the past.

Economic and Political Weekly December 23, 2006

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