Trust Votes And Knife Play

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There is a story everyone in UP wants to tell. It is not the official one. Shoma Chaudhury listens in. Photographs by Shailendra Pandey

Illustration: Sudeep Chaudhury

ON JUNE 2, 1995, Uttar Pradesh was rocked by a scandal — the infamous “state guest house incident” — whose faultlines continue to haunt the state today. Though this incident is familiar lore in India, it bears retelling because it sowed — and is emblematic — of many neuroses that continue to haunt the state today. In 1993, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) had come together to form a government. It was a masterstroke, a historic moment that could have changed Indian politics forever. This alliance meant the consolidation of Backward Caste, Muslim and Dalit votes — 80 percent of the electorate. Transplanted elsewhere, the combination could have become the most formidable political force in the country. But it was doomed from the start by personality clashes, caste antipathies and jostling ambition.

The SP was led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, taciturn wrestler-schoolteacher and already a veteran war-horse, while the BSP was left to the stewardship of Mayawati, Kanshi Ram’s hungry young protégé. The two were like straw to fire. Mulayam was openly contemptuous; she was programmatically pesky. Within months, she earned herself the sobriquet of “super chief minister” — a premonition of things to come. Midway through the term, Mulayam tried to break the BSP by buying its legislators; Kanshi Ram and Mayawati forestalled him, staging a counter-coup backed by the BJP. On the night of June 1, 1995, Mayawati went to the governor and withdrew support. She then gathered her flock in the Lucknow state guest house and waited to be called for the floor test. When Mulayam heard of this coup, he sent over 200 legislators and party workers to storm the guest house and hijack the BSP MLAs. What followed was humiliation and utter mayhem. For more than four hours, rampaging SP workers and MLAs banged on Mayawati’s door and shouted vicious caste abuses while the police watched. Even the electricity and water supply were cut off. This incident — redolent with bitter historic memory — scarred Mayawati badly and is perhaps one of the biggest ruptures in UP’s political landscape. It sealed her already full suitcase of neuroses and flung the state into decades of unprecedented instability and brinksmanship as the two leaders jousted for greater power. Since that grim June afternoon in 1995, UP has had 11 chief ministers and two bouts of President’s Rule. As Ambika Shukla, senior SP leader says, “The political force that could have been born in UP died in UP when this alliance broke. And when friends fall apart, the enmity is greater.”

The scandalous “state guest house incident” where SP legislators attacked Mayawati still haunts UP politics

The legacy of this enmity has turned UP into a thorny riddle in national politics. Two epochal events — the Mandal revolution and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement — had already fractured the state. This bitter new competition atomised it further. UP was home to the largest proportion of Muslims and had the most bewildering Hindu caste configurations (Brahmins, upper castes, OBCs, SCs, Dalits plus 67 other sub-castes). Once Mandal uncorked the genie of new assertive caste identities, the old Congress fell into rapid decline. Its core Dalit vote defected to the ascendant BSP and angered by its equivocations over the Babri Masjid, its Muslim votebank shifted to the SP. The BJP itself was in perplexing disarray. After the first triumphal flush of Hindutva, its moment seemed to have crested and passed. Upper caste Hindus lingered with it, but the rest — some ashamed by the demolition, some tired of the call to hate — devolved back to more atavistic caste identities.

This left UP without any of its old political certitudes and ripe for the SP and BSP. Over the last 15 years, the two warring chieftains have mutated the state into a canvas on which they have played out starttheir ambition with increasing lawlessness and disregard for public opinion. Today, UP is simply a battlefield of extreme identity politics and imploded governance. (Varun Gandhi’s sudden eruption in Pilibhit is of a piece with this. Nothing works in UP anymore except aggravated caste and religious identities.) Ironically, while this has won the SP and BSP — both purely state-level parties — growing leverage at the centre, the two national parties, Congress and BJP, have continued to wither in UP, losing influence at the centre as well. After all, an old political axiom says, the party that rules UP, rules Delhi. With a 20 crore population and 80 Lok Sabha seats, ignoring UP is political suicide. This is why Rahul Gandhi is messing doggedly in the state and why the next-generation BJP is racking its head for a new story.

It is a part of the riddle of UP that as their search for power has grown, both Mulayam and Mayawati have moved galactic distances from the logic of their being. Yet, this does not seem to alienate their constituencies. Today the socialist Mulayam — a man even his detractors call a “once sensitive leader” — is flanked by industrialists, movie stars, stories of sleaze and the sui generisAmar Singh. Old stalwarts have been sidelined, internal discussion is verboten. Even Mulayam’s son, Akhilesh does not dare harbour an independent opinion. Ask him any question and he says, “I am here to do as Netaji (as Mulayam is commonly known) says.”

Uncannily, Mayawati too has crafted herself merely as Dalit wish-fulfillment. An emotional avengement rather than an agent of social transformation. She lives in palatial bungalows, owns untold wealth, a fleet of aircrafts, and is surrounded by Brahmins rather than Dalits. Her closest and most powerful aides in government are the upper caste Satish Mishra and Shashank Shekhar; absolutely no one else can approach her. The BSP has no manifesto, and she has completely neutered her secondary leadership. She has also done almost nothing to improve the material life of Dalits. Yet, the more she fortresses herself from her people, the more they cleave to her. She is the“Dalit ki beti” who has crossed over; she is the symbol of what they can be. The more ostentatious that image, the greater their glee. At a recent rally in Lucknow, she urged her supporters to vote on April 30 regardless of flood or unbearable heat. As her audience baked in the sun, two airconditioners wafted cool breezes at her podium. Her listeners did not seem to mind. She understands her community implicitly, she tutors them accordingly. Ask the Dalits in Kukrail Nala basti in Lucknow why they are still living a wretched life when Behenji is in power. “Her hands are tied,” they say, “when she becomes prime minister, she will do things for us.”

Akhilesh Yadav

For both Mulayam and Mayawati, Uttar Pradesh is no longer anything but a launch pad for prime ministership; the state treasury funding their greater war. (UP might be teetering at the brink of economic disaster, but Mayawati fielded and funded close to 500 BSP candidates nationwide this election — showering their rallies with an expensive confetti of helicopters and Pajeros.)

And so, one is brought to this moment in UP. Today, UP is slated to play a catalytic role in the parliamentary elections. After her landslide victory in the 2007 assembly elections and her paradigm-bending alchemy of Brahmin and Dalit votes, analysts in Delhi feel Mayawati is well positioned to take her Lok Sabha tally above 30, perhaps even 40. Backed by the Third Front, this could make her a king-maker, at a stretch, even a contender for PM.

All of this is mere speculation. The truth is, nobody knows how to read UP any more. Given that two years into her majority government, they have received absolutely no sops, are the Brahmins really still loyal to Mayawati? Is there a section of Dalits who are starting to tire of her? Will the palpable surge in young voters shift the focus away from identity to governance? Is the Congress seeing the first glimmers of a comeback, after 20 years in the wilderness? Is a new moment — a tiny wedge of change — afoot in India’s largest and most problematic state? Has the swing vote gone up crucially from five to 15 percent? Or is the BSP really going to repeat its command performance at the assembly polls?

Indian elections are always notoriously difficult to predict, but as Janeshwar Mishra, an old socialist and co-founder of the SP, says, “No one can understand the voting pattern this year.” BSP minister and Mayawati’s key moneyman, Naseemuddin Sidiqi, is less introspective. Ask him if the BSP has any intimation of a restive votebank, and his voice is a fist punching out from the phone. “What kind of a question is this?” he shouts. “You media are always biased against us. We are disciplined, but there is a limit to our discipline. Do not waste my time with such questions.” He is campaigning in Mumbai; the phone is slammed down. Extreme confidence? Or the irritability of self-doubt?

There is definitely a big wild card in UP this election: the Muslim vote, traditionally a safe SP vote bank. Reeling from poverty, unemployment, arbitrary police action and social stigma, Muslim sentiment was already poised for change this election. “We are fed up of being emotionally exploited and used as pawns against the BJP,” says Mahmood Madani, Rajya Sabha member and head of the influential Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind. “We are advising Muslims not to vote negatively but to vote for those who will bring real benefits and change.”

If Muslims shift base or vote candidates rather than parties, political calculations are bound to go awry. In his urge to raise the stakes, Mulayam seems to have exacerbated this uncertainty with three cardinal errors. First, he backed the Congress in its nuclear deal with the US. Second, he allowed Amar Singh to humiliate Azam Khan, an old party mainstay, over someone as paltry as Jaya Prada. And third, he allied with Kalyan Singh, anathema to Muslims, just to consolidate Lodh votes. Suddenly, ‘Maulana Mulayam’ doesn’t look so savoury to Muslims anymore. “The maths just don’t seem to add up,” says political scientist Ashutosh Varshney. “Why did he decide to ally with Kalyan Singh? It looks like political suicide.” So if Mulayam loses, who gains?

MUFTIGANJ, an old Muslim neighbourhood near the Chota Imambara in Lucknow, offers no barometer. Shopkeeper Syed Hussain Rizvi says, “None of us know how Muslims are going to vote this time. Within our shia community itself, three different maulanas have issued three different fatwas.” “We don’t know who our community will listen to,” agrees Maulana Kalbe Jawaad, “but I think there will be a shift towards the Third Front.” Confusingly, others tell you the Congress — exiled for two decades — stand to gain. “The Babri Masjid is not our only issue,” says Sharafat Husain, a schoolteacher. “We have tried everyone, we are ready to give the Congress another chance. We just want some development.” Poignantly, Rizvi, the cornerstore owner, pulls out a scrap of paper he has been scribbling on while waiting for customers. It is an elegy for UP. “While we are bent under corruption and neglect, our leaders are raking in greater wealth,” he reads. “Who can I send this to?” he asks.

Lucknow is dizzy with rhetoric and throbbing with helicopters airdropping leaders. Polling day is round the corner and every political party has a frantic gig going in some part of the city. But elsewhere in the city, the rumblings are the same. Beneath the faux excitements of elections, a tiny filament of anger is starting to flicker. In Bhangi Colony, a ramshackle slum of sweepers and garbage cleaners, Sharda Valmiki scrubs at a plate. “What has this government got us?” she says. “I have one son and we can barely survive. He goes to the Nagar Nigam for a job and they ask for a bribe of one lakh. One lakh! Where are we going to get that? We will vote because it is the only valuable thing we have. They say that if we don’t vote for them, they will not let us live here. We tell them we will do as they ask, but when we are at the machine, we will vote as our heart desires.”

The Dalit colony is a cacophony of flags: elephant, cycle, palm and lotus. None of them, it seems, can be read for electoral intention. Ramesh Kumar Rawat, a rickshaw-puller in Muftiganj, had twirled a BJP cap in his hand. “They asked me to wear it,” he grins, “so I did, but I will vote as I wish.” Walking the alleys of Bhangi Colony, suddenly a pretty little girl jumps out. “Take a picture of me,” she commands. “Do you go to school,” I ask Sonia. “Yes,” she says, “I am in Class 5.” She looks too little for that, but I believe her. “Government or private,” I ask. “Private,” she answers. A minute later, her parents come out and say she is lying. “We are too poor to send her to school,” says her mother, a domestic help, asking not to be named. The little girl’s face falls, closes in. “And have you seen how the drains stink here?” she adds for good measure.

The Circus is in Town (Clockwise) Amar Singh with a cleric from Ajmer Sharif; BSP workers wait for Behenji’s helicopter; SP scion Akhilesh Yadav leads a cycle rally; BJP’s Lalji Tandon, trying to rally his people; a horse-drawn Congress procession — a bout of nostalgia for the good old times?; BSP flags flutter triumphantly, Mayawati is now experienced the most by her votebank as symbols

Mayawati seeks no one’s admiration, but she is certainly to be admired for turning Dalits into a potent and distinctive electoral force. And the psychological armoury her success provides Dalits is immeasurable. But for little Sonia, Behenji is just a hazy idea; going to school is the wish fulfillment she craves.

The most intractable riddle of UP, in fact, is that, triggered by Mandir, Masjid and Mandal, the most populous state in India has allowed itself to be defined purely in electoral terms for 20 years. Unlike Periyar’s self-respect movement and the caste revolutions of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and despite having upstaged entrenched, elitist, Brahminical parties like the Congress and BJP, neither the SP nor the BSP have catalysed any social transformation. They have no think tanks, no students’ wing, no women’s wing, no internal election, and no agitations. Their only mandate has been the capture of political power.

In fact, goaded by their will to power, the djinns unleashed by the state guest house incident, and their incessant oneupmanship, Mulayam and Mayawati have brought UP to the brink. The crime, the deal-making, the corruption, the muscle power, the intolerance of the media, the subversion of party, government and civil society — everything rotten in the state of UP is the bitter fruit of their tussling egos.

Rubik’s Cube  Mulayam Singh with Nafisa Ali at a rally in Lucknow
Rubik’s Cube Mulayam Singh with Nafisa Ali at a rally in Lucknow

UP was once the political heart of India and sent eight prime ministers to Delhi; UP birthed some of the most significant political phenomena in the country: the 1857 Mutiny, the nationalist movement, the Muslim League, the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the Mandal revolution and the idea of coalitions; UP was home to Ram and Krishna, Tulsidas and Soordas, Benares and Taj Mahal, Ayodhya and Deoband; UP was the land of the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb and evocative cities like Aligarh, Allahabad and Lucknow; UP boasts of an IIM, an IIT and some of the best universities in the country; UP, unhitched from India, would rank as the fifth most populous country in the world — it is no mean irony that this UP is now spoken of only as the badlands, the pit, the canker at the heart of Indian politics.

The state comprises 16 percent of India’s population, but provides only five percent of its GDP. Its growth rate has never gone above three percent and if it really was unhitched from India, it would rank below most of sub-Saharan Africa. But beneath all these dry statistics is a hair-raising story. (Familiar, but too little told.) Merely angle a conversation away from the elections, and everyone in UP is aching to tell it.

It’s a sizzling hot afternoon at the Samajwadi Party office in Lucknow. High excitement is in the air. Thousands of cycles — the party’s symbol — are being off-loaded from tempos; young men are settling red caps and badges. Women are strikingly absent. SP scion Akhilesh Yadav is going to lead a rally across town. As the contingent disappears in a gust of pedals, two veteran Lucknow journalists linger to talk. Ask them questions and it’s like pressing a nerve. The words just don’t stop. “Someone needs to write the true story about UP,” they say. This sentiment echoes across the city. Police officers, bureaucrats, civil society activists, drivers, rickshaw-pullers, weavers, shopkeepers, sweepers: the litany is the same, the hunger to tell the story is the same, and the fear is the same. Beneath the frenzy of elections is a great and growing despair. Anonymity is a precondition to speech in UP these days. But these are some of the stories that people had to tell.

The UP police does its duty
The UP police does its duty

AS THE TUSSLE between Mayawati and Mulayam has grown, and each stint in government has become nothing more than a consolidation of power, things that were bad habits with the Congress and BJP have become near-pathological neuroses. In the last 15 years, for instance, every institution in UP has been completely subverted. To quote a serving IAS officer, “The administration has not just been destroyed, it’s been pulped.” According to him, this is a trend that began most visibly with Mulayam Singh’s government in 1990. The Sahranpur district magistrate was summarily dismissed by Netaji from a stage at a public rally. Since then, says the officer, “Dropping DMs is easier than shelling peanuts.”

According to another serving IAS officer, on average every district has had at least three SPs per year under the Mayawati government. According to figures in Ajoy Bose’s biography of Mayawati, in her first innings as chief minister from June ‘95 to October ’95, she ordered 386 transfers. In her next 6- month stint in ‘97, the number was 470. The toll in her third stint was 305 in less than a month. Herbete noir has been no better. In his first term between December ‘89 and June ‘91, Netaji transferred 419 IAS officers and 228 IPS officers. In his second stint, between December ’93 and June ’95, he transferred 814. The difference has only been in style. Under the SP government, any MLA or even the lowliest party worker could threaten an SP or DM. Under Mayawati, everything is centralised. She is the sole locus of power. His was a “goonda raj”, hers a dictatorship.

The Babri Masjid is demolished
The Babri Masjid is demolished

“Every MLA has the discretionary power to install around 150 handpumps,” says a senior IAS officer, by way of example. “Mayawati withdrew this discretionary quota and called every DM personally, ordering them to install handpumps only at the behest of her MLAs or party coordinators. You can imagine how much credibility we officers are left with. That is the level to which administration has been politicised by these parties.” Says the first officer cynically, “In her latest stint as CM, the transfers of DMs have fallen because we have been made irrelevant. Our only job now is to issue gun licenses.” On an average, a DM issues 70 arms licenses in a month; in Lucknow this number can rise to 200.

Varun Gandhi, Hindutva’s new poster boy
Varun Gandhi, Hindutva’s new poster boy

Turf wars are always dirty business. Across UP, the intense SP-BSP war — aided by Congress and BJP B-teams — has led to a huge law and order crisis. Under the SP, the situation was evident from the synonyms for its government: “goonda raj”, “jungle raj”. “For a party built on a vote base of backward castes, a crucial show of strength lay in manipulating the police. What political clout could you boast of unless you could get your opponents into jail fraudulently and get actual culprits out,” says an officer. This law of inversion — victims becoming unabashed, muscleflexing perpetrators — had total political sanction. It unleashed a reign of unfettered terror: “decentralised crime,” as the journalists in the SP party office put it. The lowliest worker could sabotage a police officer or magistrate. “Netaji was overprotective of his workers,” admits a SP leader euphemistically. Another high-tide mark in the SP’s attempts to “Yadavise” the administration was the police recruitment scam, in which 18,000 constables were inducted into the force at one go.

BUT IT WAS not just the police force that was either subverted or misused. In the SP regime, some of UP’s most dreaded mafia dons were inducted into government. What had been a strain in Congress and BJP governments now became a full-fledged epidemic. Mukhtar Ansari, Ateeq Ahmed, brothers Umakant and Ramakant Yadav, Chulbul Singh, Dhananjay Singh, Raja Bhaiya, Anna Shukla, Ajit Singh, Mitra Sen, Rizwan Zaheer, Guddu Pandit, Amarmani Tripathi — the list is long and terrifying. “These were all made in our factory,” says an influential source in the SP, “Umakant Yadav, in fact, was mentally sick. He used to wake up at night with a sudden desire for blood and would randomly murder people.” Like an action riff in a Bollywood film, Ateeq Ahmed infamously chased BSP MLA Raju Pal for four hours across Allahabad before gunning him down. Like a Bollywood flick, no one intervened.

“Many criminal elements did have patronage in our party,” admits Akhilesh Yadav, “but all other parties are doing it too.” With the entry of these people into formal electoral politics, the state’s entire political culture has been perverted. (See TEHELKA story next week)

Might Elect (centre) Bhagvati Singh of the SP
Might Elect (centre) Bhagvati Singh of the SP

Fortunately, when Mayawati came to power in brief rotations, she came down hard on some of these dons. Raja Bhaiya was neutralised, Ateeq Ahmed’s entire economic empire was shut down. When Umakant Yadav (he of the sudden nocturnal appetite for murder) tried to demolish someone’s house, she put him behind bars — though he was her MLA. Apart from her bold social engineering, one of the reasons Mayawati rode to a landslide victory in the assembly polls in 2007 was that the notoriety of SP’s jungle raj had reached saturation point. But as these parliamentary elections have drawn near, Mayawati seems to have forgotten that mandate. Propelled by complicated caste arithmetic, a pursuit of maximum seats and maximum money, she has given tickets to many dons: Anna Shukla, Dhananjay Singh, and Mukhtar Ansari, whom she calls a “messiah of the poor”. (Her patronage of Anna Shukla and Umakant Yadav are particularly telling. They were among the men who besieged her in the state guest house.)

There are other disturbing strands in the Kafkaesque story of UP. Prakash Singh, former DGP, UP and former Director of the Border Security Force, says the perception that Mayawati has curbed criminal excess is a sham. “In truth, UP is poised to pull down, if not sink the entire Indian Republic,” says he. According to him, once she was in power, Mayawati sent out an order that crime must drop by 70 percent. Terrified of her autocratic temper, most police stations and officers are now scared to admit FIRs — partly explaining the sudden dip in the crime rate. “Nobody seems to understand that crime cannot just disappear overnight,” says Singh. He sent a report to the National Human Rights Commission alleging a massive violation of the constitutional right to file FIRs because Behenji does not want crime to sully her record. The NHRC forwarded the report to the state to respond, but did not call Singh in to depose.

Balance Sheets The poor go nowhere in UP
Balance Sheets The poor go nowhere in UP

Other travesties abound. Neither the socialist government of Netaji nor the “bahujan” or “sarvajan” governments of Mayawati have brought any substantial economic relief either to the dispossessed lower castes or small-scale entrepreneurs. Their only significant programmes have been the ‘Kanya Vidyadan’ and ‘Ambedkar Villages’ scheme started by Mulayam Singh and revived by Mayawati in her first stint as CM. In the former, girls above Class 8 received Rs 20,000 each to incentivise their education further. In the latter, villages with a higher percentage of Dalits or backward castes had first right to state funds. But even these programmes did not get sustained attention and by all accounts now lie suspended.

Party Animals Statuary at Ambedkar Park
Party Animals Statuary at Ambedkar Park

What lies sustained instead are allegations of epic corruption. Mayawati, who started with nothing a few years ago, now has declared assets that run into several hundred crores and is facing a disproportionate assets enquiry from the CBI. According to her last tax declaration, she paid Rs 58 crore just in taxes. PL Punia, who has been principal secretary in both regimes and was once the most powerful bureaucrat in UP, says, “There is absolutely nothing to distinguish between Mulayam Singh and Mayawati. Both are highly corrupt. All one can say is that Mulayam at least has some casteist loyalty; Mayawati can sacrifice anyone for money.” Punia fell out with Mayawati over the Taj Corridor scam and is now a Congress candidate from Barabanki.

SN SHUKLA, another UP bureaucrat, who retired as the chairman of the Central Vigilance Commission, has filed a PIL against Mayawati for her pet project, the giant 125 acre Ambedkar Park — or Samaj Parivaratan Sthal — in the heart of Lucknow, for which she dynamited a state-owned sports stadium, among other buildings. The project costs over 1,000 crore (some say Rs 7,000 crore) and is a hot sandstone vanity of Mughal-era proportions. Although commonly referred to as Ambedkar Park, not one blade of grass grows on its 125 granite acres. The park holds only some of the statuary in her own honour and in the memory of Kanshi Ram.

Iron Lady Steel magnate Akhilesh Das bows before Mayawati
Iron Lady Steel magnate Akhilesh Das bows before Mayawati

Sociologists might marvel at this shrewd construction of a new living religion, but men like Ravi Patodia, the president of the carpet association at Bhadoi, are stung by the irony. “We have 20 lakh workers in the carpet industry, all rural-based. We generate over Rs 4,000 crore for the exchequer, yet the condition of the workers and the infrastructure is pathetic. How can the government neglect such a golden industry? Neither the Centre nor successive state governments have given us any fiscal relief.” (Mayawati recently lost a by-election in Bhadoi: a filament of slow anger?) Affirms DS Verma, executive head of the Indian Industries Association. “A 2002 census mapped 1.28 crore small scale industrial units in the country. Out of these, 15 lakh were located in UP. Ten lakh units are now either sick or closed. Till last year you could blame political instability for all this. But now? One year into Mayawati’s majority government, we thought there would be positive changes. But there is absolutely nothing. We have not even been able to meet the CM or Shashank Shekhar (her all-powerful Cabinet Secretary).” And so another one of UP’s glories is on the verge of collapse. Kanpur’s textile workers are almost destitute; small toy manufacturers are shifting their units to China.

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FRACTURED RULE

UP is notorious for its number of governments

FEB 1970 Charan Singh, Bharitya Lok Dal supported by INC

OCT 1970 President’s Rule

OCT 1970 TN Singh, INC

APR 1971 Kamalapati Tripathi, INC

JUN 1973, President’s Rule

APR 1974 Hemwati Bahuguna, INC

NOV 1975 President’s Rule

JAN 1976 Narayan Dutt Tiwari, INC

APR 1977 President’s Rule

JUN 1977 RN Yadav, Janta Party

FEB 1979 Banarsi Das, Janta Party

FEB 1980 President’s Rule

JUN 1980 VP Singh, INC

JUL 1982 Sripati Mishra, INC

MAR 1985 ND Tiwari, INC

SEPT 1985 Vir Bahadur Singh, INC

JUN 1988 ND Tiwari, INC

DEC 1989 Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lok Dal with support from BJP, then Congress

JUN 1991 Kalyan Singh, BJP

DEC 1992 President’s Rule

DEC 1993 Mulayam Singh Yadav,Samajwadi Party with support from BSP, Congress and Janta Dal

JUN 1995 Mayawati

BSP with support of BJP

OCT 1995 President’s Rule

MAR 1997 Mayawati, BSP with BJP support

SEPT 1997 Kalyan Singh, BJP with BSP support for 28 days

FEB 1998 Jagdambika Pal, INC with SP support (CM for one day)

FEB 1998 Kalyan Singh, BJP with support of Uttar Pradesh Loktantrik Congress

NOV 1999 Ram Prakash Gupta, BJP

OCT 2000 Rajnath Singh, BJP

MAR 2002 President’s Rule

MAY 2002 Mayawati, BSP with BJP support

AUG 2003 Mulayam Singh Yadav, SP with support of BSP defectors and Independents

MAY 2007 Mayawati, BSP

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Why should one be inordinately hard on the Mulayam and Mayawati governments, one might argue. Perhaps because one had hoped that these creations of the non-elites would be the desperately needed vehicle of change and affirmative social action. Mayawati’s landslide victory in 2007 was, in particular, a moment of great hope. But hope seems to have by-passed UP. As SR Darapuri, a Dalit and former IG, Police and Republican Party veteran, says, “She has wrecked the whole Dalit movement. Brahmins hold all the levers of power in her government, Dalits have no place there. After all this upheaval, we are back to status quo. Fed up of her corruptions, Dalits are going to start migrating back to the old Brahminical parties — the Congress and BJP. That is the tragedy. Mayawati is the anti-Obama of India.”

But perhaps betrayals have their place in the scheme of things. If caste politics cease to deliver on promises, perhaps — just perhaps — UP might be on its way towards where Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring Bihar are heading now — a place where governance, not identity, is the new mantra. A place where little Sonia will not have to lie about her school.

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