Will the BJP's bungling of the Maurya exodus be its Achilles heel in the upcoming assembly polls?
As per sources, another minister in the UP government, belonging to the Brahmin community, is likely to defect along with his coterie of MLAs on 14 January, the day the BJP is likely to announce its first list of candidates.
"We may still win the election but the handling of Swami Prasad Maurya's quitting the party has been less than ideal," says a BJP leader requesting anonymity. "Nobody is that big a fool that they do not understand the significance of timing of the arrest warrant against him in an old case."
According to sources in the party, around 50 MLAs are likely to exit, most belonging to the OBC groups. "We have 300+ MLAs, such a churning is factored-in because there is always some dissatisfaction when it comes to candidate selection" another BJP politician weighs in.
Who is Unhappy with the BJP Govt in UP?
"First, the Brahmins were unhappy. Then the Jats and Gujjars got alienated because of the farm laws. Now the Dalits and the OBCs are openly expressing unhappiness. Muslims are unhappy and they hardly vote for us. So, who is happy, after all" exclaims the BJP leader quoted earlier.
The fact that the outgoing BJP leaders, including two cabinet ministers, have cited dissatisfaction with the state government on the eve of high-octane assembly election in Uttar Pradesh seems to be a matter of concern.
They add, "The way some BJP leaders deal with the issue of giving tickets to their colleagues' children is quite unsavoury. You see, many people in our party do not have children of their own".
Whether the exodus of dissatisfied MLAs dents the BJP's prospects in the polls is yet to be seen, it certainly makes for bad optics and can impact the fence-sitters.
What Do the Babus Think?
Bureaucrats in UP, observing the political churn, are willing to bet on the return of Yogi Adityanath as the chief minister. One IAS officer, posted in an Eastern UP district, shares, "While the atmosphere is 'tight,' aayega to Baba hi. The BJP voter is a silent voter, chupke se kaand kar deta hai". CM Adityanath is variously referred to as Mahatma, Baba, Maharaj ji owing to his saffron robes. Yogi's attire is crucial in his ability to reach out to various Hindu subcastes despite inherent faultlines, shares the BJP leader quoted above.
"Chhutbhaiya netas are in a fix: to switch or to stay," laughs the officer.
Another IAS officer shares that nothing else will matter if there is a Modi-Yogi combo on the ballot. "The perception that the government has been managing the law-and-order situation well and the gangsters are being eliminated is quite strong and there isn't going to be any change in that."
Can Samajwadi Party Accommodate the Defectors?
A source close to the Samajwadi Party leadership says that the party is not too interested in the defecting MLAs so the future of those contemplating a switch may remain uncertain.
"No idea how Akhilesh ji is going to manage this influx. Of course, the defectors want tickets from the SP. At least 40 seats are likely to be shared with Jayant (Chaudhary), 20-25 to be given to Rajbhar, and even Anupriya Patel's mother is bargaining for five seats. And then there are more allies," says a Samajwadi Party MP.
Whether the defectors land on their feet is of little importance against the potential damage of their act of quitting to the ruling party. Sources within and close to the BJP share that the decision to promote the average karyakartas by giving them tickets has irked the sitting MLAs. The party is unlikely to give tickets to around 100 of the sitting MLAs in a bid to fight anti-incumbency.
Cornering of Yogi Adityanath: BJP Versus BJP
On the other hand, a district-level BJP office-bearer shares, "It looks like the OBCs will end up diminishing the stature of CM Yogi. But if he's pressured by Delhi, he might end up damaging the party."
While there may be differences of opinion with respect to the outcome, the general feeling of "oh, we messed this one up" about the Maurya and Chauhan exodus is palpable within the party. A BJP MP from UP says, "The psych damage has already been done".
It certainly does not look good for the chief minister known to run a tight ship. This 'intelligence failure' and subsequent bungling has given ammunition to the anti-Yogi lobby within the party.
In the end, it looks like a case of BJP versus BJP in Uttar Pradesh.