India: Behind The Saffron Surge – Some Black & White facts

by Sandeep Banerjee

Frontier | 26 March, 2017

Apropos to your Editorial “The Saffron Surge?” in Frontier, Vol. 49, No. 37, Mar 19 – 25, 2017, I would like to place some supplementary points for perusal of the Editors and readers of this esteemed magazine.

14.05 crores of voters, 22.3 crores population… well, one may assume number of available workforce of able bodied population (excluding those above 60 or 65 years) above the age of 18 years or more, to be 12-13 crores. Those are all 2017 figures for Uttar Pradesh. And now the number of unemployed is more than 1 crore! Every 1 out of every 8 would like to work and earn but there is no job opening.  It was reported in more than one national daily in perhaps January 2017. While doing caste, religious and other arithmetic, many poll wizards did not give the unemployment issue due importance. A connected issue, somehow connected ‘from above’ by the media, is – development is the mantra of the age and it will eradicate unemployment, poverty etc problems. So, unemployment created a ‘demand’ of development. Added up, these two, i.e. unemployment and development took up the ‘main attention’ of more than a third of the population; 36% voted one of these two (in CSDS survey [1]) as no: 1 problem. And who doesn’t know that Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra stand for good employment prospect to migrant population of India, including those from Uttar Pradesh; and hence, for the migrant and would-be migrant populace, BJP with its development slogan and actualities of some states, albeit some ‘scars and bloodstains’, may mean ‘business’… this idea might as well worked for BJP in UP.

Now there is another factor – Poverty. How poor is UP with respect to its neighbours of other states? In 2015 in an article we found ‘after the revision of wage rates in April, the wage for unskilled work like loading and unloading trays is Rs 348 per day in Delhi, while in Uttar Pradesh, it is only Rs 259[2]. In 2006, one-fifth of the total poor people of India were in UP – as Times of India reported studying a World Bank report[3]. What changed thereafter? A World Bank report (Uttar Pradesh – Poverty, growth and inequality) analysis 2012 data said Consumption Inequality has increased in Urban UP[4]. Uttar Pradesh is among the slowest growing states in the country with one of the slowest poverty reduction rate. According to a UNDP report, among Indian states UP has 6th lowest Human Development Index[5] In the Census operation it was seen that in Uttar Pradesh, 11% of households did not have any of the census assets[6] (bicycles, mobile phones or phones, TV, etc).  No wonder that in the abovementioned CSDS opinion survey Poverty was no: 1 issue to 7% of the voters. So development-poverty-unemployment together stood at no: 1 issue to 43% of the electorate, whereas ‘demonetization’ was given no: 1 position by only 8% of the electorate. It also shows what the upper class intelligentsia thinks about peoples’ issues and how the people saw issues.

Gilles Verniers did the caste-analysis of the 2917 UP vote in the pages of Indian Express[7] and his analysis must be noted carefully before his conclusion is being refuted: BJP did better case calculus and won bonus, of course here ‘better’ means uglier cold-and-cunning upper caste calculations which gave more dividend than Mayawati’s calculations. Indeed, Mayavati’s or BSP’s ‘favouring’ upper castes (in terms of no: of ticket per % of population) may send queer signal to Dalits. (By the way, in our analysis, we must never forget that Mayawati, though might be ‘representing’ Dalits, is not a ‘threat’ to the capitalists of India or abroad.)

Below there is a Table for seeing how Caste and Class matches (or not) in UP – we shall simply lock at the top quintile (20%) of the population and the bottom quintile. [Now we may recollect an unsaid ‘truth’ about rural India (at least) that the poorer, less educated, backbencher populace gives less ‘vocal’ would-be public representatives. So for a Dalit parliamentary representative is seldom a poorer, labourer, Dalit.]

Table – 1 Economic & Caste reality of UP population

Caste Population share in Top 20% (affluent) Population share in bottom 20% (poorest)






 Other Hindu UCs



 Hindu UCs



 Muslim UCs















 Other Hindu OBCs



 Hindu OBCs






 Other Muslim OBCs



 Muslim OBCs









 Other Hindu Dalits



 Hindu Dalits



 Dalit Muslims



 All Hindus



 All Muslims



Source: Identity equations and identity politics: Investigating political economy of land, employment and education by Prashant K Trivedi et al[8]

BJP’s calculation of giving more tickets to ‘non-aligned-to-any-party’ type castes and Thakurs and Brahmins paid dividend. Whereas fighting between one Muslim SP candidate and one Muslim BSP candidate helped a BJP candidate who was not Muslim. (BJP filed no Muslim candidates this time.)

There might be many other interesting things that the UP election showed and we need to analyse from various sides.

At the end, I wish to add that I am indebted to Roshan Kishore ( for his kind help in getting very helpful data and analyses.

8. Identity equations and identity politics: Investigating political economy of land, employment and education by Prashant K Trivedi et al, EPW, December 2016 – data provided by a link in the article given at



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