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Political Competition in the Heartland : Emerging Patterns in Uttar Pradesh

This is an abstract of a lecture delivered by Prof. Sudha Pai at the CMF, New Delhi

 * Sudha Pai is Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and the Rector of the 

University. She was Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi from 2006-09. She is the author of 

Dalit Assertion (Oxford India Short Introductions, 2013); Developmental State and the Dalit Question in Madhya Pradesh: 

Congress Response (Routledge 2010); and Dalit Assertion and the Unfinished Democratic Revolution: the BSP in Uttar Pradesh 

(Sage 2002). She has edited/co-edited among others: Handbook on Politics in the Indian States: Regions, Political Parties and 

Economic Reforms (Oxford University Press, 2013); Interrogating Reorganization of States: Culture, Identity and Politics in 

Independent India (with Asha Sarangi, Routledge, 2011) and Political Process in Uttar Pradesh: Identity, Economic Reforms 

and Governance (Pearson/Longman 2007) 

All are cordially invited | Kindly join us for a cup of tea at 1030 a.m. in the Cafeteria |For further information on the speci

Abstract: Uttar Pradesh (UP) provides a useful site to examine the pattern of political competition in the forthcoming national 

elections 2014. It has always mirrored major transformative developments in the country: shift in the party system, rise of 

the Hindutva ideology, movements such as Mandal or the Dalit upsurge. Moreover, with regional and state parties becoming 

partners in national coalitions, the importance of key states such as UP has increased. Upto the 1980s UP was an excellent 

example of single party dominance and stability. In the 1990s it reflected the de-stabilizing changes experienced due to the 

collapse of the Nehruvian consensus on secularism and socialism leading to fragmented multi-partyism, hung assemblies, 

short-lived coalitions and poor governance. With the relative weakening of identity politics by the early 2000s it was widely 

believed that political stability with bi-polar competition between the SP and BSP on a development-oriented agenda, had 

returned to UP and on the national scene. 


UP is once again set to become the battle ground for intense political competition to capture power at the centre between 

the two major national parties, the BJP and the Congress, together with strong challenges from the SP and BSP. The selection 

of Narendra Modi to lead the BJP’s electioミ caマpaigミ puts hiマ iミ direct coマpetitioミ with Rahul Gaミdhi. Three issues which 

seemed to be settled will once again play a determining role. Hindutva and communal mobilization visible in low intensity 

disturbances since the SP assumed power in 2012 leading to the Muzzafarnagar riots, and attempts by the BJP to revive its 

Hindutva agenda with the support of the Sangh Parivar. Contestation for the support of the Muslim community, which was 

entering a post-Babri Masjid phase, but now seems to be moving away from the SP and is angry with the Congress for failing 

to fulfil promises. Caste remains a determining factor and Dalit votes will play a crucial role as the Congress hopes to obtain 

some support and might try to align with the BSP to meet the challenge of the BJP. In sum, UP seems to represent an 

unchanging India where older patterns are rearing their heads once again despite emergence of civil society movements 

against clean politics and better governance. This paper will examine these seminal issues that will play a role in the Lok 

Sabha election due in 2014 and their impact on Indian democracy.