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The Many Uses of a U.P Election

I live in Noida, which is the child of an extra-legal union between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. Noida is not-quite Delhi, not-quite U.P, not quite itself on most days. Living in a cusp has several advantages, however, the main one being that one can look either way, up at Delhi and right down over U.P’s scruffy head. I found myself doing both in the recently-concluded U.P election. Curiously it seemed, for Delhi people, U.P’s 2012 elections were flush with new meaning. For decades the favourite whipping boy of Delhi, U.P had overnight become its favourite gap-toothed angel. For Pratap Bhanu Mehta of the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research, the U.P election was a historic battle between empowerment and patronage, the future and the past, performance and rhetoric, sincerity and cynicism, and (this is my favourite) ‘rootedness over disembodied charm’. Mehta believes that while voters ‘carefully assessed’ candidates through the ‘prism of local circumstances’, they were no longer prisoners of their identity. Most confounding is Mehta’s view of democracy, “In a democracy, where you are going should be more important than where you are coming from”. These U.P elections “redeemed that promise” according to Mehta, since they were “without a trace of community polarisation: no one felt on the edge or under siege, all could exercise options without being unduly burdened by the past.”

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