The rise of Narendra Modi in Indian national politics had changed the previous equations of Indian politics. The ‘caste equation’ which has been central to Indian politics since the late 1960s, changed drastically in the Modi era. Previously, most of the castes voted en masse to a particular party as a consolidated ‘vote bank’ and political parties tried to stitch alliance of two or three important ‘voting blocks’ to win the election. There are multiple instances of such nature in the past. Mayawati tried to combine Dalit vote bank with Muslims and Brahmins to win the elections, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Yadav tried the same with Yadav-Muslim formula.
However, 2014 general election was very different from the previous elections. In 2014, people across the religious and caste spectrum voted for BJP on the development plank. Yadav, Jatav, and Muslims who were once considered the most trusted ‘vote bank’ of particular parties, voted for Modi in 2014 general election. The seats won by BSP in 2014 were reduced to zero from an all-time high of 21 in the previous general election. The tally of SP was mere 5 from 23 in 2009 general election while RJD won 4 seats in Bihar. PM Modi dismantled the previous equations like never before and it was a ‘wave election’ much like the 1984 general election in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The development plank triumphed the rigid hierarchies of caste, class, and religion in 2014.
If the exit polls are reflective of the actual results, it is safe to say 2019 would be even more disruptive in terms of rigidity of caste politics.
One very important social group that is going to lead the change is Yadavs. Traditionally, Yadavas have voted for Mulayam Singh Yadav or Lalu Yadav. This trend has remained more or less constant post-Mandal era. One of the major beneficiaries of positive discrimination to OBCs was Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The ‘quota’ in jobs and education, as well as ‘favorable’ treatment by state governments, helped Yadavs in social mobility. Today, Yadavs are fairly educated and have capitalized on the benefits economic liberalization offered. This economic prosperity driven social mobility has resulted in Yadavs moving to middle class and upper middle class. These factors substantially altered the political choices of young Yadav voters, a clear deviation from the past generations.
In Uttar Pradesh, a good number of Yadav population voted for BJP in 2014 general election and 2017 assembly elections. Most of the young Yadav voters prefer PM Modi over Mulayam Singh or Akhilesh, at least for Lok Sabha elections. For young middle-class Yadav voters, the issues of national security, foreign policy, social welfare schemes matter more than caste-based affiliations. In a report published by Scroll, similar sentiments have been echoed by young Yadav voters in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh, “In spite of being a Yadav, I will vote for Modi because he provides two square meals for my family,” said Krishna Murari Yadav, a contractor from Gorakhpur’s Durgapur village who builds housing and toilets under the central government’s schemes. “Everywhere I go the poor give me their blessings and I tell them to thank Modi. These people will vote for him because no one else has done so much for them.” He claimed that if the BJP retained power, it would “only be because of these welfare schemes”.
The young voters are educated enough to differentiate between the priorities of the national government and state government. In the role of a national leader, they found Modi more suitable than MSY, Akhilesh Yadav, or Lalu Yadav. Hence, even if they prefer Akhilesh or Tejashvi to lead the state governments of UP and Bihar, for national election Modi remains the popular choice. These voters understand that their respective state leaders are not as competent as Modi on issues of national security, foreign policy, and national economy.
It is very evident that the Yadav voters in state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar will play a major role in the reelection of Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of India. The voting preference for Modi in the national election also shows the maturity of Indian voters and their ability to differentiate between national issues and state issues. This ‘electoral maturity’ will help in the national development of India as people would make informed choices to lead them in 21st century.