200 and counting: Why small parties never die out in Uttar Pradesh

Forming a small party keeps leaders alive in politics. And it offers them a good platform to bargain with the bigger players.

Alka Pande August 14, 2013 18:52:26 IST
200 and counting: Why small parties never die out in Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow: There’s something about elections in Uttar Pradesh. They bring alive the politician and political ambition even in ordinary people. Many parties are formed just before the big event. Their leaders hog the limelight, regale the world with interesting sound bytes and slip into hibernation soon after the results are out. For those not in the know, the state has about 200 political parties.

The brand new addition to the list arrived a couple of days ago in the form of the Nav Bharat Democratic Party. Launched by RK Mishra, a product of IIT Kanpur, it promises to change Uttar Pradesh for the better. Calling UP his janmabhoomi (birthplace), he said: ”People gave a clear mandate to two different parties successively but none could bring any change. Rather both indulged in the politics of vote bank and freebies. People in the state are frustrated and looking for a change. Nav Bharat will fill this gap.” Of course, we have heard all this before. But what’s the logic behind the creation of such parties?

“They are small in nature and number but when it comes to formation of an alliance these parties play a big role,” says political analyst Surendra Rajput. Small parties aim to strike post poll deals with national parties and be the part of big alliances. However, the formula has not succeed in the state in the last two elections as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) followed by the Samajwadi Party (SP) gained sweeping majorities. Some parties are fronts for bigger parties and formed with the sole purpose of cutting into the rivals’ votes.

200 and counting Why small parties never die out in Uttar Pradesh

File photo of Samajwadi party supporters. Reuters

Some are launched by big politicians thrown out of parties. Kalyan Singh of the BJP and RK Chowdhary of the BSP formed the Rashtriya Kranti Party and the Rashtriya Swabhiman Party respectively in similar circumstances. These organisations helped Singh and Chowdhary survive in politics for years. Today, both are back in their parent organisations and their parties have merged with the latter.

“For a politician it is a matter of survival whether or not in power. Forming a small party maintains their leadership status and help them consolidate their supporters (mostly fellow caste members),” explains a close confidante of Kalyan Singh. It is a fact that the small outfits always thrive on a caste base.

Even Amar Singh, who has been in political wilderness after being thrown out of the Samajwadi Party, has been busy in politics through Rashtriya Lok Manch. Though he keeps claiming that he does not aspire for any political post anymore, it is known that he wants to secure the political future of Jaya Prada who has been with him through thick and thin.

However, not all is hunky-dory with small parties. These are often shelters for criminals and people abandoned by their parties for bad conduct. Peace Party, which was in news during the assembly elections, is the best example. Many of its leaders were tainted characters kicked out of the BSP. The party’s founder, Dr Ayub, has denied existence of such elements in his outfit though. The Peace Party, aimed at moblising Muslims in the lower strata of the society into a vote bank, proved a dud in the assembly elections. Its only contribution was to check consolidation of Muslim votes, especially in the eastern UP, where Dr Ayub has his base.

If someone expected that the recent Supreme Court order banning people from contesting elections from behind the bars would keep criminals off politics, the reality is different. Notorious figures such as Mukhtar Ansari, DP Yadav, Brajesh Singh, Atiq Ahmad and Amarmani Tripathi have used outfits such as the Kaumi Ekta Manch, the Rashtriya Parivartan Dal, the Mahaan Dal, the Bhartiya Samaj Party, the Pragatisheel Manav Party and the like to their advantage in the past. They are again busy calculating their prospects in the coming parliamentary polls through fresh alliances.

These parties, facing the problem of survival, have learnt to join hands with their peers and in the last assembly elections a group of about a dozen small parties formed a front to contest all the seats in Uttar Pradesh.

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