Mumbai: During the past two decades, parties with widely differing social support bases have ruled Uttar Pradesh. But all of them—the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—have had one common feature: increasing reliance on moneybags.
A new research by Gilles Verniers of Ashoka University published in the Economic and Political Weekly shows that in 2017, nearly half of members in the state assembly were businessmen against just 7-8% in the 1980s. The rise, however, comes at the cost of the farming community and services, such as legal professionals. While farmers accounted for 50% of the assembly in the 1980s, the number was down to 28% by 2012.
The research offers two broad explanations for the shift. One, across parties, the distribution of tickets is primarily influenced by local causes.
As electoral strategies become more “localized", parties tend to find candidates who conform to voters’ expectations and are accessible.
Businessmen tend to be better equipped to mobilize resources and establish local support networks.
Two, entering politics, or running a campaign can be costly for non-business candidates. The study also finds that certain sectors score over other businesses in their representations.
Candidates from construction, real estate, transport, brick kiln and liquor production and distribution industries are well represented across party lines, and in the assembly.
It also points towards a greater malaise: sectors generating unaccounted cash and where criminal activities are rampant dominates the scene. This transformation in electoral politics has vast implications for backward caste politics in UP.
Verniers argues that while backward caste parties have become more diverse, they have also become more centralized and internally autocratic. This has serious consequences for emancipation and representation of backward castes. Localization of caste politics has not helped in bridging the caste divide, as recent clashes between Dalits and upper castes show.
Also read: The Transformation of Backward Class Politics in Uttar Pradesh.