The almost interminable elections are gradually drawing to a close, with polling held in the penultimate phase on 12 May. The news, as usual, was not good from West Bengal, which has taken the place of Bihar as the most poll-violence prone state. The high polling recorded in that state probably reflects higher levels of rigging, but also a desire among the people to have their say no matter what the circumstances. This is very likely not good news for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is viewed there as the incumbent to vote for or against.
In the crucial state of UP, in contrast, a lower than average turnout would be bad for the BJP, which requires as many people as possible exercising their franchise to counter the consolidated mobilisation of the castes and communities backing the SP-BSP-RLD combine. Basically, a high turnout is good from just about any point of view for a healthy democratic process. At the same time, though, a below average turnout also has a message for the politicians, as do the scattered poll boycott decisions taken at some places.
It will soon be time, of course, for the EVM raga to begin as a back-up plan of the opposition to possible setbacks. If the results prove unpalatable for these parties, they will have an excuse to reject the verdict, rather than respecting the people’s will. For a leader like Mayawati, who depends almost solely on a single point agenda to keep her flock together, it is imperative that the myth of her monopoly over caste votes remains unscarred. There are other much more youthful Dalit leaders in the wings waiting to swoop in should this illusion be shattered. This was also one of the reasons why she ate crow to align with arch-rivals, the Mulayam Singh Yadav family. The gamble is expected to pay off, but if it falls short of the desired objective of influencing who becomes Prime Minister, all bets will be off. With a renewed mandate, Modi will certainly lay siege to the casteist paradigm. Survival would require Mayawati to reassess her options.
Success, on the other hand, would further polarise UP politics to the point that ‘good governance’ would become a meaningless concept. It would just become a race to reward support groups at the cost of others; and without direction from a strong government at the Centre, any progress on the real issues that impact the common person’s life will be cast by the wayside. In that sense, this phase of polling and the last still hold considerable significance.