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Read Editorial – Assembly election results: U.P. and away

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MEANINGS are given in BOLD

In the post-Mandal (taluk) era (a long and distinct period of history), Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous State that is made up of diverse regions, has rarely witnessed a landslide, leave alone of such dimensions, in an Assembly election. As the State went to the polls, there was a clutch (grip; tightly) of arguments marshalled (assemble and arrange (a group of people, especially troops) in order) by sundry (of various kinds; several) political commentators on why the BJP could not repeat its huge sweep in the 2014 Lok Sabha election — the magnitude of which had surprised the party itself as much as its rivals.

It was pointed out, for instance, that this was a State election, the implication (the action or state of being involved in something) being that a totally different political dynamic would be at play. Other factors such as the effect of demonetisation, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance, and the fading (gradually grow faint and disappear) appeals of Prime Minister Narendra Modi were thrown into the mix. As it turned out, none of this seemed to matter much as the results of the two elections were eerily (in a strange and frightening manner) similar — both in terms of the geographical spread of the victory and vote percentages. The BJP managed to effectively tap into segments among the Other Backward Classes and Dalits, besides its upper-caste vote base.

The popularity of Mr. Modi contributed in no small measure to the election result, but the party succeeded by also feeding (supply with material or power) into the disgruntlement (dissatisfied) over the narrow social alliances forged by the SP and the BSP. The SP and the BSP, following their 2014 debacle (failure; disaster), chose to make two tactical changes. By revolting against his father and party patriarch (the male head of a family or tribe) Mulayam Singh Yadav, incumbent Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav presented himself and his party as agents of development. But he was unable to convince the electorate that the party had moved away from caste and, more specifically, Yadav-led patronage (the power to control appointments to office or the right to privileges).

Despite the alliance (the state of being joined or associated) with a weak Congress party, the SP’s support remained limited to its core traditional vote. The BSP tried a newer (up to date; latest) tactic (an action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end), an abstract Dalit-Muslim alliance, and ran on the hope that fielding candidates based on identity would break the coalition (a temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government) of forces that had supported the BJP in 2014. But the expediency (advantage; useful) of this strategy based on caste and community failed, partly because of perceptions that BSP leader Mayawati was ambivalent (having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something or someone) about who she would join hands with in the event of a hung (emotionally confused or disturbed) Assembly.

U.P. is a communally sensitive State and the BJP — which failed to field a single Muslim candidate — must not interpret the scale of the victory as an endorsement (support; acceptance) of majoritarianism or an excuse to raise the political pitch on divisive issues such as the Ram temple in Ayodhya. Going into the 2019 general election, Mr. Modi and his party will be closely monitored on how much they adhere to his promise of taking everyone along. The last thing that a “new India” needs is an escalation (a rapid increase; a raise) of denominational politics that raises unnecessary passions and subverts (unsettle; overthrow) the developmental agenda.

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