UP and Downhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/up-and-down/

UP and Down

In India,if there is such a state,it has to be UP. Not the most progressive,but the most populous.

Prussia was the pivotal province for much of German history. It was a large region somewhat behind the progressive Western parts of Germany,feudal yet undeniably a source of power. Its rulers ruled Germany. Bismarck could unite the many separate kingdoms of Germany because he had control of Prussia.

In India,if there is such a state,it has to be UP. Not the most progressive,but the most populous. Throughout Indian history,the control of the Doab has been crucial for the Delhi Sultanate. UP has now voted and come Tuesday,we shall see what the results are. But let me hazard a guess.

Last year,when we had a similar such bunch of five states going to the polls,the results shook UPA-II because its ally DMK lost Tamil Nadu and its ally TMC gained West Bengal. The former has sulked since and the latter has declared independence. Hence,the importance of UP this time around. The other four states can do what they like though the Congress would like to win Punjab (unlikely in my view) and Uttarakhand (ditto). It will surely lose Goa though it’ll keep Manipur.

So what will happen in UP? One hint comes from the most recent municipal elections in Maharashtra. Congress fared very badly. NCP did better when it split from the Congress. I take this as a sign that nationally people are unhappy with the Congress. The core cause is inflation. The Indian voter is inflation-averse and punishes the government she thinks is responsible. The way the NCP did in Maharashtra,it seems that despite Sharad Pawar being Agriculture Minister,the blame for inflation falls on the Congress,not on him. Ever since the inflation rate came down from 9 per cent to 7 per cent,the government is behaving as if the problem has gone away. But at 7 per cent,prices are still rising.


Congress has a way of playing fast and loose with its identity. When things go wrong,it distances itself from the UPA; but in UP and elsewhere,it talks about Central funds to States as if it owns the government and the money belongs to Congress. Its attack on non-Congress governments for corruption does not wash since its own governments such as in Goa are no better. Nor does it convince anyone when it blames UP’s backwardness on 22 years of Opposition rule. In 1990,UP was not well off; it was part of BIMARU and most of those states then had been under Congress rule for much of the previous 40 years.

UP has of course developed at a healthy 7 per cent rate,the statues notwithstanding. Mayawati is much underestimated but she has proved to be a competent Chief Executive. Witness Formula 1 and contrast it with CWG. The former happened without a hitch and the latter is still mired in scandal. Corruption is not better with one party than another. All exploit the jati/religion vote banks except the BJP,which is shut out of Muslim votes.

My hunch is that the BSP may yet emerge as the largest single party,losing around 50-55 seats. SP will be second,gaining around 45-50 seats. Together,they control around 300 seats; they will continue to do so with the BSP 155,the SP 145. The crucial position then will be of the Congress/RLD and the BJP. I put the Congress/RLD at 45-50 and BJP in a similar situation. It is difficult to say who will be third and who fourth. There may be up to ten Independents.

A close-run result but I suspect the BSP plus the BJP plus the odd three or four Independents,will form the government. Of course,the BSP and the Congress could also form a government but I expect the Congress would rather wait to topple the fragile coalition government and wait for the next election to do better. This is also the reason why if the SP/BSP position is reversed,the SP may find it difficult to form a government if the Congress plays the President’s rule card.

Either way,there is trouble for the Congress. Manipur apart,it may not have much to show for. The Mamata threat will become more potent since the SP may not oblige if it is abandoned. Can UPA-II last out till 2014?