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Posted at: Apr 20, 2019, 7:37 AM; last updated: Apr 20, 2019, 7:37 AM (IST)

Do minor parties hold the key in UP?

Afroz Alam

Afroz Alam
The so-called minor parties are not minor at all. They are effectively bargaining by involving themselves in creative manipulation to put competitive pressure on the dominant political parties. A good number of these parties have consolidated their social base over the years.
Do minor parties hold the key in UP?
GAME CHANGER: Though mainstream parties dominate, voters are increasingly deserting them for minor parties that are popular in certain constituencies.

Afroz Alam
Academic, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

A sweeping majority in Uttar Pradesh (UP) may, indeed, sweep the party to power at the Centre and also set the electoral trend in other north Indian states. Over the last two decades, the state has witnessed a continuous realignment of the social groups, leading to radical power circulations among the four mainstream parties: the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP). In UP, the ebb and flow of party competition in parliamentary elections is remarkable because of its cyclical character. For instance, the SP and BSP performed absolutely well in the 2004 and 2009 election, the Congress made a comeback in the 2009 election while the BJP replaced all with 72 seats in the 2014 elections in UP. Interestingly, the 2019 election in the state has become competitive due to the changing contours of pre-electoral alliances between mainstream parties and with constituency-specific minor parties. 

Are minor parties holding the balance of power in 2019? Yes. It can be seen in the recently concluded alliances of these parties. A good number of minor parties have consolidated their social base over the years. They will influence the nature of party competitions and alter the winning possibility of many candidates of mainstream parties in multiple constituencies of UP. 

Nationally, with the increase of 329 per cent growth (2001 as base year), the number of minor political parties reached 2,301 in March, 2019. It means that the growth rate of political parties just got more than tripled in a span of 19 years. It is despite the delisting of 255 minor parties in 2016 by the Election Commission. Surprisingly, UP alone hosts 26 per cent of these parties at the national level while providing headquarters to almost 600 minor parties. 

What explains this sudden rise of minor political parties? The rise of these political parties could be attributed to several factors, apart from fragmentation, factionalism, regionalism and personal egoism within mainstream parties, coupled with the strong desire to form new parties to seek a share in the power structure of India. First, the collapse of the Congress system with its consensus model; second, the impact of the Mandal Report and the consequent rise of low caste-based parties; and third is the rise of Hindutva politics to counter Mandal mobilisations. 

It is true that the mainstream parties dominate the political landscape of the state. Yet, there is also evidence that voters are deserting these parties in increasing numbers to consider the options of minor parties popular in certain constituencies. It can be seen in their increased number of assembly and parliamentary seats, vote shares, along with higher propensity of these parties to spoil the winning possibility of the candidates belonging to mainstream parties in many constituencies. For instance, these parties in the 2017 Assembly elections, 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2012 Assembly elections secured 15 seats, two seats and 17 seats along with 6 per cent, 1 per cent and 14 per cent of the total votes polled, respectively. 

More particularly, in 2012, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED), Peace Party (PEC), Apna Dal (AD), Ittehad-E-Millat Council (IEMC), Jan Kranti Party (JaKP), PMSP, and Mahan Dal (MD), Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) emerged as parties of relevance. In the 2017 Assembly election, the RLD, Apna Dal (S), Nishad Party, SBSP did well and won one seat, nine seats, one seat, and four seats with total vote share of 1.78 per cent, 0.98 per cent, 0.62 per cent and 0.70 per cent, respectively. However, the performance of the AD and SBSP was commendable in their respective constituencies due to their alliance with the BJP as they got 39.21 per cent and 34.14 per cent votes in the seats contested by them. Interestingly, in 2017, there were 32 minor parties that secured votes between 5,000 and 50,000. There were six minor parties that secured above 50,000 votes, and six minor parties secured above 1,00,000 votes. 

What is important is to note that the cumulative impact of these parties have spoiled the winning chances of mainstream parties in 56, seven and 231 constituencies in the 2017 Assembly election, 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2012 Assembly elections, respectively. 

In 2019, the hallmark of the parliamentary election in UP is the cut-throat bipolar competition between the newly formed charismatic alliance of the SP-BSP-RLD and the flamboyant BJP. But the electoral fates of both the parties are seized in multiple constituencies where they are facing a close fight.

Given the scenario, minor parties with a strong social base in certain constituencies have become suddenly relevant for both the contender parties. The 2012, 2014, 2017 election results will be seen as evidence that 20 minor parties have carved their own space in UP with whom the mainstream parties are into either stitch pre-electoral alliance or seek their endorsement. 

It is certainly significant because of three reasons: decisive votes of these parties in highly competitive constituencies, transferability of their votes in other constituencies, and their cadre and campaign support for the mainstream parties. For instance, the BJP's alliance with the Nishad Party and Apna Dal (S) will give advantage to the party in securing Nishad votes dominant in five parliamentary constituencies, and Kurmis vote in four parliamentary constituencies. Similarly, the alliance of the BSP-SP with the RLD, Janvadi Party-Socialist, and Rashtriya Samanta Dal will help the coalition in appropriating Jat vote decisively in eight parliamentary constituencies, Chauhan vote in two constituencies and Kushwaha vote, respectively. Similarly, the Congress will be able to improve its vote share in many constituencies due to its alliance with the Mahan Dal and Jan Adhikar Party having base in Kushwaha, Maurya, Shakya and Saini decisively present in four constituencies, and Apna Dal (Krishna Patel) with base in Kurmi voters in two constituencies. 

Equally important will be the role played by the alliance of the Peace Party having a decisive presence in Pasmanda Muslims in five constituencies with the newly formed Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party having base in certain Yadav community with influence in 1 constituencies. Importantly, there are other minor parties that are having a dominant base in a few constituencies like the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, Ittehad-E-Millait Council, Gondvana Gantantra Party, Lok Dal (LD), and Rashtriya Ulama Council. If not appeased by the mainstream parties, these parties will effectively spoil the wining chances of their candidates.

Why do people choose to vote for minor parties despite knowing its futility? The answer lies in the frustration of certain groups with the mainstream parties and their candidates. In UP, only the candidates of mainstream parties have a reasonable chance at victory. But the so-called minor parties are not so minor. They are effectively bargaining by involving themselves in creative manipulation to put a competitive pressure on the dominant political parties. Minor parties are no longer the fringe elements in UP but a player in deciding the electoral outcome in 2019. 


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