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Saturday, June 06, 2020

Uttar Pradesh: A political history

Over the last 25 years, a fractured verdict has been typical of India’s biggest, most important, and most complex political battleground.

Written by Shyamlal Yadav | Updated: March 11, 2017 4:38:26 pm
Uttar Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh assembly elections 2017, BJP, samajwadi party, akhilesh yadav, narendra modi, rahul gandhi, mayawati, mulayam singh yadav, congress, indian express news Uttar Pradesh is India’s biggest, most important, and most complex political battleground

When Akhilesh Yadav, and before him Mayawati, completed their full 5-year tenures, they achieved something no Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh had done before them. Over the last 25 years, a fractured verdict has been typical of India’s biggest, most important, and most complex political battleground. As UP prepares to announce another decision tomorrow, at stake are several reputations and, possibly, political futures. SHYAMLAL YADAV writes a short electoral history of the state, describing the background for what comes on March 11.

1951-67: The age of Congress dominance

In the first Assembly that was created in 1952, there were 346 seats — 83 of which were double-member seats. In the elections of 1951, the Congress won 388 of them, and Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, who was already serving as Chief Minister, continued in the post. He remained Chief Minister until December 1954, when he moved to Delhi to be Union Home Minister, and was succeeded by Varanasi-based Sanskrit scholar Sampurnanand. After Congress won the 1957 elections, Sampurnanand stayed on as Chief Minister until 1960 when, following problems created by Kamlapati Tripathi, he had to make way for Chandra Bhanu Gupta. Sucheta Kriplani, the wife of Acharya J B Kriplani, replaced Gupta in 1963, becoming the first woman Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

PANDIT GOVIND BALLABH PANT (far right), Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister until 1954, seen here with Babu Jagjivan Ram (third from right).

1967: Charan Singh’s first non-Congress government

In the 1967 elections, the Congress tally fell to 199 — short of majority in the 425-seat Assembly — and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, precursor to the BJP, won 98. Kriplani went to Lok Sabha, while Chandra Bhanu Gupta scraped through at the Ranikhet Assembly seat by just 72 votes. Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh won the Chhaproli seat by over 52,000 votes, and then broke with the Congress to form his Bhartiya Kranti Dal (BKD).

He was backed by socialists Ram Manohar Lohia and Raj Narain, and Jana Sangh’s Nanaji Deshmukh — and was, in April 1967, sworn in as Chief Minister at the head of the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD), a coalition ranging from CPI(M) on the left to BJS on the right, with the Republican Party of India, Swatantra Party, Praja Socialist Party and 22 Independents in between. This was the BJS’s first taste of power — an experience about which Nanaji Deshmukh subsequently wrote, “Our party lost the image of a party with difference… Our people rose as important leaders but… the party of workers was converted into a party of leaders.”

The 4 years that followed Charan Singh’s rise to power saw 4 Chief Ministers and 2 phases of President’s Rule. Despite emerging as the leader of North Indian farmer communities such as Jats, Yadavs, Gujjars, Kurmis and other backward classes, and also of Muslims, Charan Singh faced many problems in his government. SVD partner Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP) began an Angrezi Hatao movement, and 2 cabinet ministers courted arrest and resigned. Some other parties too withdrew from the coalition and, in February 1968, Charan Singh resigned and recommended dissolution of the assembly.

After a year of Central Rule, elections were held in 1969. The BKD won 98 seats and Jana Sangh, 49. Congress won 211 in the 425-member House, and Chandra Bhanu Gupta returned as CM. Within a year, however, the Congress split, and Gupta lost majority and resigned. Charan Singh returned in February 1970, this time with the help of Indira Gandhi’s Congress (R).

CHAUDHARY CHARAN SINGH (left), leader of UP’s first non-Congress government, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Within months, there were fresh problems. Charan Singh asked for the resignations of 14 ministers belonging to the Congress (R) who, led by Kamlapati Tripathi, refused. Charan Singh recommended the ministers’ dismissal, but Governor B Gopala Reddy instead asked Charan Singh to resign. After a short spell of President’s Rule, elections were held, and Tribhuvan Narain Singh was sworn in as Chief Minister at the head of an Samyukta Vidhayak Dal government put together by leaders of the Congress (O), the old guard that was opposed to Indira.

Tribhuvan Narain Singh lasted barely 5 months in the chair — he suffered the ignominy of becoming one of the first Chief Ministers to lose an Assembly by-election (from Maniram in Gorakhpur in March 1971), and had to resign. Kamlapati Tripathi succeeded him and remained Chief Minister until June 1973, when a revolt by the Provincial Armed Constabulary in demand of better pay and work conditions forced him out.


After a few months of President’s Rule, the Garhwali Brahmin Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna became Chief Minister in November 1973. He resigned in November 1975 following differences with Sanjay Gandhi, and was replaced by the Kumauni Brahmin N D Tiwari, who was very close to Sanjay Gandhi at the time.

1977-80: The Janata Party experiment

After Janata won the 1977 Lok Sabha election, Morarji Desai’s government sacked Congress state governments, including Tiwari’s in UP. In elections that took place in June after a spell of President’s Rule, Janata won 352 of the 425 seats, but a fight for the chief ministership broke out between Chandra Shekhar — who wanted the Dalit MP from Lalganj (Azamgarh) Ram Dhan, his friend and one of the three original Young Turks — and the Charan Singh-Madhu Limaye group. As a compromise, Raj Narain floated the name of OBC leader Ram Bachan Yadav, but Limaye suggested the more experienced Ram Naresh Yadav, the MP from Azamgarh. But there was no consensus, and finally the MLAs voted for Ram Naresh Yadav, who went on to win the Assembly bypoll from Nidhauli Kalan in Etah district.

The Jana Sangh, as part of the Janta Party, participated in Yadav’s June 1977-February 1979 government — Kalyan Singh was Health Minister and Keshari Nath Tripathi, now Governor of West Bengal, was in charge of Institutional Finance. The young socialist leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, then in his late 30s, was Co-operatives Minister.

N D TIWARI,, CM in the 70s and 80s

Ram Naresh Yadav resigned in the wake of the infamous Narayanpur (Deoria) case of police atrocities, and was succeeded by Benarsi Das, a leader of the Vaishya community, in February 1979. In February 1980, soon after coming back to power, Indira sacked the Janata government.

1980-88: 8 years, 6 CMs, Cong on road to eclipse

The Congress swept the 1980 elections, winning 309 seats out of 425, and V P Singh, Raja of Manda in Allahabad, became CM. In the coterie around Indira, Singh’s star was in the ascendant, just as the importance of the Raja of nearby Kalakankar, Dinesh Singh, was declining. V P Singh’s government saw several allegations of fake police encounters and major law and order incidents, including the Behmai massacre of 1981, in which 20 Rajputs were killed by the bandit Phoolan Devi. After dacoits killed his brother, Justice Chandrashekhar Pratap Singh, in 1982, V P Singh resigned, and was replaced by Shripati Mishra, a Sultanpur Brahmin.

V P SINGH and MULAYAM SINGH YADAV, who held the post from 1980-82 and on several occasions after 1989 respectively.


After a stint of 2 years, Mishra was removed in August 1984, and N D Tiwari got his second shot at Chief Ministership. He led the Congress to victory in the elections held months after Indira’s assassination — however, Rajiv Gandhi remained true to the Congress culture of clipping the wings of regional leaders, and replaced him with the Gorakhpur Thakur Vir Bahadur Singh within months. Singh was CM from September 1985 to June 1988, when Tiwari returned. But the Congress under Tiwari suffered a historic defeat in 1989, and has struggled ever since.

1989: The politics of Mandal and emergence of Mulayam

There were two contenders for Chief Minister as the Janata Dal — formed in 1988 under the leadership of V P Singh — went into Assembly elections. Mulayam Singh Yadav was chosen over Ajit Singh, and formed the government with the BJP’s outside support — mirroring the situation at the Centre. Once Lalu Yadav stopped L K Advani’s Ram Temple Rath in Samastipur in October 1990 and arrested the BJP chief, however, the BJP withdrew support from both V P Singh’s and Mulayam’s governments.

V P Singh resigned, and the Congress propped up Chandra Shekhar, who broke away from the Janata Dal; in UP too, Mulayam chose to go with Chandra Shekhar’s faction, with outside support from the Congress. Both governments fell after the Congress withdrew support, but in the years that followed, Mulayam emerged as UP’s most pro-Muslim leader. After thwarting the Congress at the Centre in the days after the fall of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s second government in 1999, Mulayam also established himself as the most prominent face of anti-Congressism in UP since Charan Singh.

1991: Mandal and Mandir; OBC Mulayam vs OBC Kalyan

To counter the forces of Mandal, the BJP projected, in the elections of 1991, the OBC Lodh leader Kalyan Singh as its Chief Ministerial candidate. The party won 221 seats in the 425 member house, and Kalyan had an eventful tenure — declaring cheating in school Board examinations a cognisable offence, putting criminals, including four MLAs, behind bars, and sacking a minister for violating his orders. Kalyan was sacked along with other BJP Chief Ministers Sunderlal Patwa (Madhya Pradesh), Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (Rajasthan) and Shanta Kumar (Himachal) after the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992.

1993: First Dalit-OBC coalition against upper caste dominance

Mulayam, who formed the Samajwadi Party in 1992, entered into a strategic partnership with the BSP in the polls the following year. The SP and BSP contested 256 and 164 seats respectively, and won 109 and 67. But the understanding did not last, and the BSP walked out in May 1995, reducing the government to a minority. Bad blood between the partners split out in the so-called “guesthouse incident”, in which several BSP legislators including their leader Mayawati were reportedly beaten by SP musclemen.

Four-time Chief Minister MAYAWATI with her mentor, BSP founder Kanshi Ram, and BJP leaders (in the background, from left) L K Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Kalyan Singh. (Below) Outgoing Chief Minister AKHILESH YADAV. All photos Express Archive


1995: The first Dalit Chief Minister is sworn in

A fallout of the guesthouse incident was that the BJP became Mayawati’s saviour, and a few days later, handed over a letter to Governor Motilal Vora pledging support if the BSP staked claim to form the government. When Mayawati took oath, she made history — giving Dalits a voice in a state in which they are almost 21% of the population. The contrast with Punjab is telling — despite a Dalit population of around 30%, that state is yet to see a Dalit CM or even a Deputy CM. Mayawati has since gone on to become India’s most popular Dalit icon, with a significant impact on the country’s politics.

1996-98: Short-duration CMs — 6 months & 48 hours

In the 1996 Assembly elections, the BJP secured 174 seats, 39 short of majority. The Assembly was kept in suspended animation, following which President’s Rule was imposed. In April 1997, the BJP entered into an arrangement with the BSP — which had 67 MLAs — under which the parties would have a CM for 6 months by rotation. Mayawati had the first 6 months, but after making way for Kalyan Singh, she alleged that he had revoked orders issued by her in the interest of Dalits, and withdrew support.

The BJP responded by breaking both the BSP and Congress — a new group called Janatantrik BSP headed by Chaudhary Narendra Singh, and another called Loktantrik Congress led by Naresh Aggrawal lent support to the BJP government headed by Kalyan Singh. In a dramatic incident on February 21, 1998, with Lok Sabha elections in progress, UP Governor Romesh Bhandari dismissed Kalyan Singh’s government, and swore in Jagdambika Pal of the Congress in his place. Kalyan Singh challenged the dismissal of his government in Allahabad High Court. On the direction of High Court, he was sworn in again as CM on February 23. Pal, the 48-hour CM, is now a Lok Sabha MP of the BJP.

1999: BJP’s poor LS showing, decline of Kalyan’s clout

In the 1998 Lok Sabha election, the BJP won 58 out of 85 seats. But in 1999, under Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, the party’s tally fell to a mere 29. The result of the lobbying against Kalyan saw the octogenarian Ram Prakash Gupta being propelled to Chief Ministership — party insiders say Kalyan had refused to resign to make way for Rajnath Singh, then the Union Surface Transport Minister. The Gupta government granted OBC status to Jats in UP.

Kalyan subsequently left the BJP, taking away some of its OBC support, mainly the Lodhs. Gupta too didn’t last; within months, his detractors in the party started spreading the rumour that he has a flickering memory and fails to recognise even cabinet colleagues. In the end, Rajnath became CM in October 2000 — but the BJP was defeated in 2002, winning 88 seats and slipping to third place.

2002: Rajnath Singh fails but gets rewarded

In his 18 months as CM, Singh worked on a social engineering plan for the BJP. To divide the OBCs, he appointed a committee headed by the current MP from Kairana, Hukum Singh, which recommended that Jats were more backward than Yadavs in the state. He sought the advice of many, including former PM Vishwanath Pratap Singh, and made extensive tours of villages to meet farmers. But he could not win UP for the BJP, and came away to Delhi as a party general secretary — and later replaced Ajit Singh as Agriculture Minister in Vajpayee’s government.

2003: BJP friends give Mulayam fresh lease of political life

Following a spell of President’s Rule from March to May, 2002, Mayawati became Chief Minister for the third time after the BJP extended support to the BSP. BJP state president Kalraj Mishra resigned, and was replaced by Vinay Katiyar, who thought up slogans like “Haathi nahin Ganesh hai, Brahma Vishnu Mahesh hai” to defend the alliance. But the problems kept mounting, and Mayawati resigned in August 2003.

On the 29th of that month, Mulayam was sworn in as CM with the support of BSP dissidents, and ran the government until 2007. It is said that BJP leaders convinced Vajpayee that Mulayam would help in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections — Mulayam did not, however, help, and while the NDA lost power at the Centre, the SP got 39 Lok Sabha seats, its highest ever. Some BJP leaders continue to believe that Mulayam would have been marginalised had he not been helped in 2003.

Akhilesh Yadav

2007: Dalit CM returns, with a majority of her own

Mayawati’s fourth stint as CM was historic because it rode on the first single-party majority in the Assembly since 1991. Mulayam’s 2003-07 government had faced severe criticism for growing crime and bad law and order in the state. Mayawati’s social engineering included the Brahmins, whom her mentor Kanshi Ram had opposed tooth and nail, and the Dalit-Brahmin combination brought her 206 out of 403 seats. In 2012, Mayawati became the first CM of UP to complete her full 5-year tenure.

2012: Samajwadi Party 2.0

Under Mulayam, the SP had developed the reputation of being a party of musclemen. The BJP brought Uma Bharti from Madhya Pradesh to contest the Charkhari seat in Bundelkhand, but word was out that Mulayam would make his son, the young engineer Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister. His promises of free laptops and dole for unemployed youth worked. While Akhilesh did not allow the entry of don D P Yadav into his party, the BJP let in Babu Singh Kushwaha, a tainted minister of the Mayawati government. The SP won 224 of 403 seats, and Akhilesh was sworn in as the youngest Chief Minister of the state at age 38. And like Mayawati, he has completed his 5-year term.

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