Nepali Times
Chalo Dilli
Down in UP



As the feverish election campaign in Uttar Pradesh winds down, there's only one question that is being asked around the city: is Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party going to oust Dalit messiah and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati from the throne of Uttar Pradesh?

The stakes are enormous. The reason Uttar Pradesh lies at the heart of India's politics is because the state's nearly 200 million population elects as many as 403 members to the state assembly, and significantly, sends as many as 80 people (out of 545) to the federal parliament. In this case, the numbers are so overwhelming that nothing else in the country comes close. Uttar Pradesh also has a 600 km open border with Nepal, and what happens here with the Dalit identity and the fate of the Congress party always has an effect across the border.

Besides Yadav's home-spun rhetoric and Mayawati's ability to rouse up the state's Dalit population to passionate zeal, there is Congress dynast Rahul Gandhi's experiment with the thrust and parry of state-level politics.

Even on the road, Gandhi looks a bit like a movie star, with his angular good looks set off by the ubiquitous white khadi kurta-pajama that is the uniform of the average Congressman, completed by a set of running shoes. He is a huge curiosity considering several generations of Gandhi-Nehrus have stood from the Amethi constituency in Uttar Pradesh.

But the party has been routed right across the Indo-Gangetic plains for the last decades, ever since it mutely witnessed the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Simultaneously, as the genie of caste politics neatly divided up the state, the Congress was simply unable to provide either the leadership or the politics to overcome the challenge. It became an embarrassing also-ran, lying in the ground for the last 20 years, even as the world Ė and India Ė changed.

By most accounts the Congress and the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party are vying for the third slot in UP's electoral race. Dalit leader Mayawati is backed by the solid chunk of the Dalit vote, although it is a moot point that some of that vote-bank is also split. Clearly, the rainbow coalition that she had so successfully created in the last election, comprising the upper as well as the lower castes, has withered. This has left Mayawati fighting with her back to the wall.

As for the Samajwadi Party, the reins are slowly being taken over by Mulayam Singh's son, Akhilesh Yadav, member of parliament from Kannauj. Where Mulayam had once openly spoken out against the English language, son Akhilesh has sought to move the party into a new era by personally using a tablet computer.

Still, none of UP's major leaders can match the vision and the leadership shown by the chief minister of Bihar next door, Nitish Kumar, who is in alliance with the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party in the state but refuses to let Narendra Modi step into his province. Kumar, whose credentials as a socialist leader are impeccable, says he will not get into a slanging match with Modi or his creed. That only further builds up the people's respect.

Certainly, by improving the state's notoriously infamous indices on female and child mortality, Kumar has shown himself to be a leader not only of national stature but also someone who can be an example to all of South Asia.

Earlier in the month, his invitation to Nepal's prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, to attend the Bihar Global Summit as the chief guest, was received with great admiration as far away as the capital, Delhi. Interestingly, Narendra Modi may be an outcast in Bihar, but he is being welcomed in Nepal next week for a business conclave.

UP's politicians would do well to take a leaf out of Nitish Kumar's book once they settle down to governing. Mandates are precious things and must be treated with utmost respect. Even in the poorest parts of the sub-continent, one thing is already clear: if the rulers don't listen to the voice of the people, they will be changed by the people.

1. Daniel Gajaraj
Narendra Modi may be an outcastin Bihar  or a non-person in India.
 We in Nepal has to look at Modi as a candidate  for the post of Prime Minister of India  as Nitish Kumar or Rahul Gandhi.
 So we welcome all of them as our guest.
 Next we like Rahul to visit Nepal.
 After all we should leave Indian politicking to our Indian friends.That is their affair.
 Let us know to keep our hearts together but our tents apart; as good neighbours.

2. Anonymous
"if the rulers don't listen to the voice of the people, they will be changed by the people"-- hundred percent correct,  the only caveat, the game has to be played by the rule. The fact of the matter is that most of Nepal's politicians, old generation (e.g. BPK, GPK, KPB, GMS, PLS, MMA ) as well as the young generation (e.g. PG, KPS, BRB etc.) were trained (got their "shikchhya  dikchhya") in India, but they hardly brought anything good, neither the culture of democracy nor prosperity to the country and people. Wish, these politicians and intellectuals had some courage to learn at least some lessons in morality, self-discipline, and self-determination from Gandhi's 'swaraj'! Instead these 'leaders' downgraded our country fast into the 'state' of Bihar, and, lo and behold, now these very leaders preach us to learn from Bihar! What an irony of history!!

3. chandra sharma
Agree with Daniel. Also, Modi is an example for all of us to follow, especially when it comes to politics. Our liberal friends may not like Modi and may like Congress I/socialist agenda, but at the end of the day, it will be Modi that will make India shine, and pretty much everybody in India and Nepal know it.

4. nepali hypocrite

indeed! what an example! modi is the very personification of the (urban) midlle class' (not to speak of the upper class) disdain of the democratic process and the perverse self-victimisation of the majoritarian.

god help us ethnic groups if ever a modi-like figure gets elected to power in nepal. we don't want to be burnt alive nor do we want the foetae ripped out of our womenfolk.

what an amazing lack of empathy! why don't you go and live, at least for a few days,† in the muslim colonies in gujarat. it would, perhaps, help cleanse your mind.

by the way, when did you conduct your 'cross-national' survey?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)