In Uttar Pradesh, the real question is not who is losing and why. Within a few hours of a casual travel through the state, you begin to see a clear pattern in the electoral ‘hawa’. The real question in UP concerns what and how: what’s working for whom, in which way and to what effect? Our obsession with ‘kaun banega CM’ distracts our attention from the issues that are shaping this election. The media focus on political games in Delhi and Lucknow and its old habits of reducing elections to caste vote-banks prevent us from noticing how this election, more than any recent one, is about governance and development.
This election in Uttar Pradesh is about a credible vision for the future, plausible promise of development and reliable track-record of governance. It is easy to miss this, for these grand themes present themselves in quotidian forms: electricity for the powerlooms, cement roads within villages, government recruitment, availability of NREGA employment, sugarcane prices, accessibility to functioning schools and of course getting ‘kaam’ done in tehsil, thana and kachahari. The voters weigh every issue in their own local context. Corruption is an issue but it does not necessarily work against the Congress. Price rise is not about what the economists call inflation, it is about livelihood. Issues such as Ayodhya or reservation for minorities, which occupy media attention, are missing in popular discussions. Of course, the voters see issues through the prism of their social location defined by their caste or community. What appears to be a shift in caste voting is driven by issues of governance and development.