The BJP’s sweep in the powerhouse states of Bihar, UP and West Bengal shows that people have rejected casteist and communal appeals. UP and Bihar have had a history of voting according to caste alone. And parties like the SP, BSP, RJD, RLSP, HAM and VIP work on the basis of caste arithmetic. In fact, the NDA would not have swept both states had the caste-based alliance translated to votes.
If Muslim, Yadav and Jatav voters had stood together, the opposition alliance in UP would have performed much better. And in Bihar, RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav’s famous ‘MY’ combination (Muslim-Yadavs), along with the RLSP’s Kushwahas, the HAM’s Dalits and the Congress’s upper castes, should have assured a victory for the mahagathbandhan.
But that was not the case. The opposition assumed the electorate had caste and communal biases, with BSP chief Mayawati making overt communal appeals to Muslims. On the other hand, the NDA pitched development to voters; UP CM Yogi Adityanath took schemes such as Ujjwala, Swachh Bharat and Kisan Samman to villages. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar also championed development.
The gathbandhan’s emphasis on Yadav-Dalit-Jat-Muslim unity resulted in a backlash from other communities even as nationalism was influencing youngsters to think beyond caste.
There are about 200 other-backward castes in UP, besides the Yadavs. So the counter polarisation against the SP-BSP alliance was significant. Dalits constitute 20 per cent of the state’s population; of them, the non-Jatav castes (11 per cent) went the saffron way.
In Bihar, while Yadavs stood by the RJD, vote transfers to other parties in the alliance did not happen.
In Bengal, the BJP’s stunning performance was aided by Mamata Banerjee’s perceived Muslim appeasement. And the BJP, armed with themes of nationalism, anti-corruption and development, made huge inroads into Bengal.