A middle-aged lorry driver, Narendra Kumar Jatav has, to travel a lot in different areas of Uttar Pradesh. He had just finished unloading and was quietly sipping tea at a stall in the outskirts of Baghpat, only listening to what others had to say. Initially in our conversation, he wouldn’t reveal his mind, “see how it unfolds”, but a while later when a discussion on the electoral scenario warmed up amongst others having chai, biskut (biscuit), he uttered his first sentence—“Yogi (Aditynath) ne koi galat kaam nahi kiya hai”.
He retreated into his zone of silence again, perhaps sensing the mood of the people around him.
A while later when it seemed to him that most people on that stall were rooting for the BJP, he opened up more. But this time in a lower voice, talking directly to this writer. “See, Mayawati ji’s regime was good. She was a good chief minister and a good leader but in these elections she has not been active. If she were a contender for power like before, I mostly likely would have voted for her. But now it seems that you have to choose between Akhilesh Yadav and Yogi. I wouldn’t comment anything on Akhilesh Yadav and his politics. When I say Yogi has not done anything wrong it means that Yogi has done a lot of good work. Modi (PM Narendra Modi) is also doing a lot of good work for the country and for the state.”
“I go to various parts of the state, mix with various shades of people and most of the time I am only listening to them. Even though some people make all kinds of bad comments on Yogi and BJP, I get the feeling that Yogi ne kahin galat kaam nahi kiya (nowhere Yogi has done wrong)”. To a question whether he meant he had been fair to all sections of people across regions, he said “baaki aap khud samajhdar hain, aur bhi logon se baat karne se aapko pata chal hi jayega” (You can understand yourself, and the rest you can get to know by talking to others).
Up ahead in Khekhra, a group of people, outside of a commercial structure, were speaking of job losses during the last two years as an issue. How it had now become difficult to hold on to a job, or to get a worthwhile job. On the surface, it appeared that they were against the Yogi government. Though the question—“so you are voting against BJP and voting for Akhilesh Yadav?”—made them slightly uncomfortable. “I didn’t say that, '' said the person who gave his name as Surendra. Another person, Balram, joined the conversation saying there is no doubt that we have faced a lot of problems in the last two years, employment opportunities closed down or shrunk, causing serious monetary problems, but then no one slept hungry. The government ensured that everyone got free ration twice a month. Anyone who has a ration card gets it without discrimination.”
Yet another person said “and now for past two times, the government is giving refined oil also. Ab aap hi batayiye itna sab kuchh khilaya hai toh vote toh unko dena hi chahiye (now you tell me when Yogi government has fed us so much, should we not vote for his party)”. On being asked which caste or community they belong, pat came the reply: only one in the group is an upper caste here, a Brahmin, three are OBCs (non-Yadav) and two are Dalit (of the two one indicated his voting preference for Mayawati).
Mandola village in Loni is dominated by Tyagis, most respondents here without blinking an eyelid said they support the BJP. A group of four boys went as far as saying “don’t waste your time talking to a Tyagi, everywhere Tyagis are with the BJP”.
On the other hand, there is indeed a near-total Muslim consolidation in favour of Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and the Jayant Chaudhary-led Rashtriya Lok Dal. The community is not thinking in terms of “strategic voting’, or voting for a party like the BSP, AIMIM, Congress or a strong Independent candidate who can defeat the BJP. Rather, it is making a strategic shift and for a total consolidation in favour of SP and its alliance.
That a substantial sections of Jats are angry with the BJP is also a fact. Together, Muslims and Jats, with their high concentration in parts of Western UP, form a formidable social coalition that could cause serious concern to the BJP.
Buoyed by that, Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhry are making tall claims of their victory, of throwing the Yogi Government out.
Incidentally, the Yadav population is negligible in the areas of Western UP where Jats are dominant and Jats are negligible where Yadav are dominant.
But what should cause concern to Akhilesh Yadav and Jayant Chaudhry is a reality check from the ground – the BJP is holding on its upper caste and Baniya support base, as also to its recently-acquired support base of non-Yadav OBCs (since 2014), sections of Dalits and added to that is a section of the core support base of the BSP. The Jatavs are getting positively inclined toward the BJP.
Mohan Pal, a gareriya (shepherd) by caste in Baraut bluntly said “Samajwadi raj Yadav-Muslim raj hoga, usme hum jaison ka kya (Samajawdi regime will be a Yadav-Muslim rule, there are no place in that regime for people like us).”
Was this his own considered assessment or was he repeating what he heard from some BJP worker? “Leave that aside” he said, “tell me if I’m wrong in the given scenario”
Sanjay Singh is a seasoned journalist who has worked in all formats of media: print, tv, digital. He is known for his field reporting and political analysis and commentary, particularly those relating to UP elections, assembly or parliamentary.
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