The Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are over a year away but that hasn’t stopped political parties from starting to look for their candidates – keeping caste and class factors in mind – and arranging for funds for what will be a long-drawn out and expensive campaign.
The ruling Samajwadi Party was first off the blocks when, last month, itannounced its first list of 142 candidates. During the 2012 elections, the party won 224 of the state’s 403 seats. In its first list, the majority of seats for which tickets have already been announced are constituencies that the Samajwadi Party lost in the last state poll.
Of the 142 candidates announced, nine are women, which works out to a little over 6% of the tickets announced. Similarly, there are 28 Muslims, 22 Dalits, 19 Yadavs, 15 Kshatriyas, 11 Brahmins and 47 others. New faces comprise a little over 50% of the ticket nominations.
From this break-up, it’s clear that the party still relies on Muslims – their traditional base voters – who have bagged the maximum number of tickets in this list. Dalits, who comprise 21.6% of UP’s population, have been given 22 tickets, or 15% of tickets announced. Of these, Jatavs – considered to be the foundation of the Samajwadi Party’s archrival, the Bahujan Samaj Party – have fewer tickets than non-Jatavs. SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav clearly wants to keep his own community happy too, and the Yadavs have got 19 tickets so far.
The Samajwadi Party seems to also have realised the importance of the Kshatriya vote. Of the upper castes, it has, for now, favoured Kshatriyas (15 tickets) even though Brahmins (11 tickets) outnumber them in Uttar Pradesh. This indicates that the Samajwadi Party is hopeful of getting more Kshatriya votes as compared to those of Brahmins. The Kshatriyas are also aggressive and influential opinion makers, and a Yadav-Kshatriya alliance can well display its muscle power at voting booths. Thus, from its first list, the Samajwadi Party strategy for 2017 points towards it forming a broad coalition of Muslims, Yadavs, Kshatriyas and non-Jatav Dalits.
Finally, Uttar Pradesh’s ruling party is perhaps well aware of the fact that there has been a steady increase in women voters across India for a few years now – women are emerging as a strong constituency on their own. The allocation of 9 of 142 tickets to women may seem moderate but what will be more interesting will be to see how many of the women the party eventually nominates will be from influential political families, how many will be relatives of Samajwadi Party leaders, and how many will come from ordinary families.