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Uttar Pradesh's Shifting Political Terrain

Uttar Pradesh's shifting political terrain

Three significant signs of change can be found in this election campaign. First, there is a distinct social realignment of different parties' support bases, which is reflected in their political alliances. Second, everyday issues are challenging the grand narratives of social justice, Hindutava, nationalism, and development. The diluted grand narratives are only given a secondary status. Third, caste identity politics has gained new legitimacy among the general public.

New social reorganisations
The BJP and SP have the most visible new social alignments. With the departure of significant backward community leaders just before elections, we see a reversal of the BJP's social engineering. Their dissatisfaction was not sudden. It was smouldering. They all jumped on the BJP bandwagon in the hopes of gaining new attention. They joined as community leaders, but the benefits to their communities were not always channelled through them. The party took over the link between the leader and the community, resulting in an alternate leadership within the community. These leaders have undoubtedly taken some of their people's support away from the BJP. Similarly, the farmer movement has eroded the BJP's large Jat support in the western states.

Politics of caste and identity
Elections above caste, a progressive BJP beyond petty identity politics, all appear to be stories of the past. All parties, including the BJP, are emphasising caste. Politics in Uttar Pradesh was never beyond caste, but the calculus of caste remained hidden within party offices. In this election, we see a lot of analysis centred on the caste system in the mainstream media. Everyone appears to be curious about which caste is going where. People are also feeling the effects of the BJP's casteism.

They explain that they voted for the BJP expecting a level playing field, but their experience proved otherwise. They now believe that caste operates openly within the BJP, and that the upper caste has a distinct advantage. Community identities based on caste have reached a new high, with members negotiating hard with political parties for positions and material benefits.

What the end result of these changes would be would be revealed later. However, there are clear breaks in the way parties operate and people's perceptions of party politics. While people force parties to respond to their immediate needs, parties compete to see who can directly distribute the most benefits.

New frontiers of party allegiances are emerging, while larger dreams of justice, development, and nationalism have been pushed to the sidelines for future consideration.

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