It has been suggested that the caste factor could not help the regional satraps of the caste-based parties of north India — most conspicuously in the Ganga-Yamuna states of UP and Bihar — survive the BJP’s onslaught crafted under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Evidently, this new element cannot entirely be overlooked, but it may not serve the requirements of rigorous analysis to oversimplify matters.
What does appear true is that the parties of stalwarts like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar polled fairly high percentages of votes (Mr Lalu Yadav’s vote share was higher than in 2009), but could not convert them into seats — Ms Mayawati, in fact, did not win a single seat in UP (like the DMK in Tamil Nadu) although she bagged a smart 20 per cent of the vote, not much less than in 2009.
While more research may be called for to understand the details of what happened on the ground, it seems fairly clear that the caste leaders did not lose their support. Where they appeared to have missed out this time around is the backing of other social segments (from among the Hindus) while the Muslim vote was splintered among several claimants on the secular side.
As for the BJP, it was more successful than in the past in getting the votes of reasonable numbers of even backward caste and dalit votes in UP and Bihar and succeeded in picking up the votes of other non-Muslim sections. What seems undeniable is the underlying subtle “Hindu” messaging of the BJP campaign which commenced with the Muzaffarnagar riots of September 2013 and helped the saffron party consolidate its vote.
It is a striking fact of this election that the BJP managed to win majority seats in the Lok Sabha with a mere 31 per cent of the national vote (in spite of unusually collecting some backward and dalit votes in north India). The previous lowest was 40 per cent recorded by the Congress in 1967. To what extent the BJP’s vote share can be apportioned between Mr Modi’s initial stress on the development plank — jobs and infrastructure growth — and “Hindu consolidation” is a conundrum research can help us crack. But the strong cultural Hindu messaging continues.
Witness the political use of the “Ganga aarti” in Varanasi by Mr Modi, and the comparison of yoga entrepreneur Baba Ramdev with Mahatma Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan by top BJP leader Arun Jaitley last Sunday....