Worn-out themes

Worn-out themes

If elections come, can sops be far behind? With Assembly elections in UP fast approaching, parties have started trying to woo the voters with sops or promises to them. The ruling party in the state and that at the Centre have an advantage over others because they are in a position not just to make promises but to actually give them or be seen as taking steps to give them.

Chief minister Mayawati’s  letters to the prime minster demanding reservation quotas for different sections of the population, which are not eligible for them now, show that the issues of the coming electoral campaign are being defined now. For better effect she is making serial demands, presenting the case of one community at a time. After demanding reservations for Muslims and the economically backward sections of upper castes in her previous letters she has now sought quotas for the Jats of the state.

The sudden flurry over reservations shows that electoral politics is still caught in the old themes which do not advance the cause of common welfare of all people. After about five years of ruling the state, Mayawati should have more solid electoral planks.  But her record of governance has been spoiled by lack of development, corruption and a spate of crimes involving even ministers and legislators.

Mobilisation of votes on the basis of religion and castes is an easy ploy but the damage that it does outlasts the elections. The BSP had won the last elections on the ‘sarvajan samaj’ platform which appealed to Dalits, Muslims, Brahmins and some intermediate castes. The efficacy  of the strategy is fraying because of Mayawati’s non-performance.

The Congress also may be willing to play the reservation game to promote its own interests in an election which is important for it too. The union minister Salman Khurshid has said that the UPA government is considering reservations for Muslims as in Andhra Pradesh.

While reservations have their role in ensuring social justice, competitive populism based on them is a sign of poverty of politics. UP is among the country’s most backward states. Its electoral politics should be based on issues of development, governance and welfare of all people. A debate and acrimony over reservations will divert the attention of the people from genuine issues.

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