As Uttar Pradesh’s elections shift eastward, BJP confusion deepens

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 50 of the 61 polled seats in the fifth phase of the 2017 general election, but at the end of the fifth phase of the current general election it looks like a party visibly at a loss. His difficulties began at the very first stage and deepened at each subsequent stage. Now the decline seems to be continuing in the remaining three phases.

Two weeks ago, referring to Prime Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “Aayega to yogi hello—Only Yogi will win the election“. But in Gorakhpur, the constituency of Adityanath, the billboards are highlighting Modi, not the prime minister. There is also a paradox behind the sudden appearance in the state of the posters of Uma Bharti, BJP leader and former Prime Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Bharti belongs to the backward Lodh community and has some influence in and around Bundelkhand region where the elections are over. She championed the BJP in the early stages of this election, but now she appears to be stepping down and her party is coping with it just her posters.

Commentators are puzzled as to why the party is sending out such contradictory signals. Some say that Adityanath’s declaration a few days ago that he is a Kshatriya who is the Varna of the Avatars reinforces his regime’s pro-Rajput/Kshatriya stance. Capitalized in Adityanath’s testimony is Dr. BR Ambedkar’s description of caste as “a system of ascending reverence and descending contempt”. Bharti’s presence is believed to appease backward communities resentful of the Adityanath regime’s pro-Kshtatriya image and actions.

It is increasingly said of this election that the BJP lost backward class leaders and failed to polarize the electorate along religious lines, causing voters to return to their original identities. It is a truism that religious polarization helps the BJP subsume caste differences under the Hindutva umbrella by isolating Muslim voters. If this strategy fails, the BJP will not have the kind of shattered majorities it received in the 2014, 2017 and 2019 polls.

The last three phases of the ongoing parliamentary elections, which begin on February 27, will put this thesis to the test. Caste plays a crucial role in determining election results, but if Hindutva’s charm fades among the backward sections, it means the BJP’s problems will deepen and the Samajwadi Party (SP) will consolidate its position.

In the 2017 election, the BJP forged alliances with political formations with a sizeable support base among the Other Backward Classes (OBC). Even a section of the Dalits voted in favour, although it was the dominant and elite castes that gave them ‘unilateral’ support.

Now the OBCs, which provided the figures needed by the BJP, have reportedly joined forces with the Samajwadi party, whose leader, Akhilesh Yadav, has fielded a relatively diverse group of backward, multi-caste leaders. This has increased its appeal and projects it to be invested in the social justice agenda. However, how far Mandal can push back the supporters of Kamandal will be seen on March 10, the day when the election results are available.

The BJP is also likely to have angered its traditional constituents, the Bhumihars in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due in the final phase on March 7. Members of this caste have traditionally supported the BJP, but now there are rumors that they are angry, especially since the party has not fielded candidates from their community. They are now supposed to mobilize in favor of the Samajwadi party and the BJP is in damage control mode. Similarly, the Passi or Paswans, a Dalit community with dispersed numerical strength in central Uttar Pradesh and a more concentrated presence in Purvanchal, is drifting towards the Samajwadi party.

These are extraordinary developments considering that by all accounts the BJP has gone from winning to losing voters from a cross section of Uttar Pradesh residents.

Suppose backward sections and Dalits rally behind the Samajwadi party. In this case, the reasons are easy to guess: the 10% reservation announced for the economically weaker section (EWS) has disrupted the disadvantaged sections of Uttar Pradesh society. This caveat is widely recognized as a sweetener for the elite castes while members of the non-elitist social groups await the proper implementation of their constitutionally guaranteed caveat. From their point of view, the EMS quota turns social justice on its head and rebels against the historically excluded and disadvantaged because of their caste. Fears of the backward sections are compounded by the discrimination inherent in the claim by institutions of the Adityanath-led regime that “no suitable candidates” can be found among the OBCs and Dalits. The regime’s refusal to conduct a caste count is also ironic, considering the prime minister tampered with his OBC identity in the 2014, 2017 and 2019 polls and reaped sizable electoral dividends from backward sections.

This brings us back to the electoral primacy of OBC leaders like Uma Bharti in this election. Her appearance on campaign posters in Uttar Pradesh looks like a last-minute effort to appear inclusive to the backward sections among which she has resonated since the days of the Babri Masjid agitation. However, their appeal in Uttar Pradesh has limits. It is in some respects comparable to the attractiveness of Mulayam Singh Yadav in the Bihar campaign field. The Yadavs make up over 10% of the population of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and while they have a cross-border affinity, this is no guarantee of electoral success. Put another way, former Bihar Prime Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav is a preeminent political figure in his home state, but his appeal is not repeated in the constituency of neighboring Uttar Pradesh. Perhaps caught in a web of its “Ayega to Yogi hi” slogan, the BJP then realized late that it needed greater reach for the backward sections and less visibility for Adityanath, who played up his Kshatriya identity.

The BJP would now like nothing more than for Muslims to vote for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Dalits, particularly the Jatavs, for the Samajwadi Party. Its top leaders have made some of this clear in recent speeches, but the subtext is a desire to see the Muslim consolidation behind the Samajwadi party break and the BSP disappear. It is a desperate desire of the BJP to divide Muslim voices while demonizing them in front of Hindu voters in order to lure them. Representing 18% of the electorate in Uttar Pradesh, Muslims have solidified behind the Samajwadi party-led alliance. BSP leader Mayawati has called Home Secretary Amit Shah magnanimous for suggesting that Muslims should vote for her party – and little can stop political observers from claiming they share an implicit understanding.

The BJP’s strategies are likely to be tested, and there are obvious reasons for this. The historic peasant movement bridged the gap between the Jats and the Muslims and halted the BJP’s polarizing plank. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) united Muslims across sects and classes. Fueled by fear of losing their status as citizens, Sunni and Shia Muslims appear to have rallied behind the Samajwadi party, as have rich and poor, urban and rural. The three farm bills angered rural populace, who, unlike urban voters who typically gravitate toward the BJP, set the narrative for these polls. The threat of stray cattle, which has devastated fields of all castes and creeds, prompted the Prime Minister belatedly to pledge a policy to repair the damage. Adityanath’s five-year tenure caused this disaster while the center contributed to soaring prices, massive unemployment and loss of livelihoods at alarming rates, especially during the sudden and indiscriminate lockdowns caused by Covid-19. All of this fuels anger at the ruling party. Sure, from the BJP’s perspective, the beneficiaries of government programs like rations and direct benefit transfers will help it get to Lucknow. But the question now for commentators and observers is to what extent – not if – the burning issues will neutralize the BJP’s juggernaut.

Electoral history shows that the party taking the lead in western Uttar Pradesh is continuing the trend in the rest of the state. There is ample evidence that the western electoral winds will once again change electoral politics in Uttar Pradesh – and across the country.

The author was Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary for President KR Narayanan. The views are personal.

About admin

Check Also

Up close and personal” with BPO

Fri, May 13, 2022 12:35 p.m Artpark & ​​Company announced “Opera in Concert at Artpark: …