Why is BJP Struggling in Uttar Pradesh, Even in its So-Called 'Golden Age'?
The BJP is back to employing caste politics in UP after using issues like Ayodhya, Love Jihad as political arsenal.
"UP and Yogi, together have great utility."
"There is no 'Bahubali' (muscle man) in Uttar Pradesh under Yogi, only Bajrangbali (Lord Hanuman)."
"Whenever I go to other states in the country, the only thing I hear about UP is that the Yogi government is very effective."
These words of praise were showered upon the chief minister by three of the most influential figures in the BJP recently, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at various public meetings in the state.
But the way the Assembly elections are shaping up, it seems that neither Yogi's "work", Delhi's big names nor "Lord Ram" are proving enough for the BJP in UP.
If you can look beyond what the prime time and social media 'bhakts' are saying, then the stories of BJP's fear and command in UP are scattering.
Ayodhya No Longer a Panacea?
After three ministers from Yogi's Cabinet – namely Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan, and Dharam Singh Saini – resigned, lightning struck the party again as 11 MLAs of the BJP also jumped ship, fearing that they may not be in the fray again as candidates.
The BJP’s first list of candidates for the state election – and the melee thereafter – has prompted many questions.
Why are MLAs deserting the “invincible” BJP led by the “golden boy”?
There were strong rumours about Yogi being fielded from Ayodhya but that turned out to be a hoax as his name was declared from the Gorakhpur seat instead. It intrigued political analysts as to why Yogi had to take refuge in his fiefdom under the protection of Gorakhnath, his own math in Gorakhpur.
The triumphant BJP has projected Ayodhya as its 'trophy', but they were not confident of a win there? This despite Adityanath having done 42 tours of Ayodhya in the last five years.
Why is the BJP not confident in Ayodhya, even as the 'work' done in Ayodhya (Ram temple construction) continues to be top of the party's Hindutva propaganda?
Caste the Last Refuge of Politics, Not Lord Rama?
It has folklore within and outside the BJP that Brahmins of Uttar Pradesh don't get along well with Yogi, a Thakur by caste. The common thread in all the resignations by the Cabinet ministers was that the party has failed to address the issues of the downtrodden – the OBCs, and the Dalits.
The reaction was expected and, the result: BJP declared its first list which contained 44 OBCs, 19 Dalits, and 10 Brahmin candidates.
Interestingly, the BJP has fielded an SC candidate, Jaipal Singh, from the general seat of Saharanpur rural. It is clear that claims of overall development, iron-fisted crime control, and agenda of ‘Hindutva’ were not able to yield the desired results for BJP and that is why the Modi-Yogi duo is now back at trying the time-tested formula of caste combination.
But, the question is, if caste is that important politically, why did they let Swami Prasad Maurya, Saini, and Chauhan go?
Far From Reality
The fact is that the eyes of people who lost their loved ones in the second wave of COVID-19 are still moist, even as the government continues to claim that no one had died due to lack of oxygen.
Prime Minister Modi tried to project CM Yogi in good light for his 'superb' COVID-19 management. But the reality was unearthed when the sands along the banks of River Ganga washed away during rains, exposing the corpses laid to rest there during the second wave – shrieking to tell the reality of the government's apathy.
The BJP may pride itself under its self-proclaimed glory but how will people forget Kaushal Kishore, the BJP MP from Mohanlalganj who cried over the mismanagement of the pandemic at the height of the second wave?
Union Home Minister Amit Shah may not be able to see any “muscle men” in the state but people have not forgotten the bullet-ridden bodies of policemen who were killed in cold blood by gangster Vikas Dubey.
It is evident that UP stands nowhere in terms of education or providing employment to the youth, but the impact of those programs, which were said to be a focus of the Yogi government, remains elusive.
Favoured One Vote Bank Over Other, Satisfied None
Invoking claims over religious sites in Kashi and Mathura, passing partisan laws over "love jihad” in order to target a segment of society, and suppressing people’s right to protest against CAA-NRC, may be part of the strategy to appease one section against another but no side seems to be satisfactorily content in the end.
Reason: Everyone suffered during the second wave of the pandemic, lost jobs and means of survival, and plenty more hoped to get help from the government.
Fuel prices crossing the psychological danger mark of Rs 100 per litre, soaring prices of electricity, delay in arrest of perpetrators of Hathras incident, and Unnao rape case are issues blacked out from mainstream media and popular political discourse but are still fresh in the minds of voters in UP.
People still remember how the government blamed those who sought help on social media for their dying loved ones during the second wave of COVID-19; how the democratic right to protest was categorised as “sedition”.
Fear of anti-incumbency led the BJP to cut tickets of 20 of its sitting MLAs in the first list of candidates and many are ready to jump ship as the sword hangs over their head.
But there are other factors that have led to this situation, including a much-talked-about tussle between PM Modi and Yogi over AK Sharma, who was sent to Lucknow for damage control.
The differences between Yogi and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya is also an open secret in power corridors. It was the exact reason why CM Yogi never uttered a word while BJP deputed Maurya for firefighting when the cabinet ministers started to leave.
BJP has relied on the 'poster boy' strategy in the last five years and forced its ministers and MLAs into hibernation. Now they are finding it difficult to come out of their sleep. Problem is that the star power is failing to deliver for the BJP, as we have seen in West Bengal, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra, but they are not willing to accept the reality.
The fact is that BJP has been ruling in Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Goa, and Manipur through manipulation, and trying to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.
Though, BJP claims that it is living in its “Golden Phase”, the ground realities are quite different. Imagine if the Opposition could get their act together and become a formidable force?
Under the leadership of PM Modi, BJP as an organisation is an election machine with propaganda managed through hi-tech gadgetry, and the use of data at every level of election management in each Assembly constituency.
This gives the party an edge over its opponents, and perhaps their challengers would have to live in tailwinds for the time being, but it is certain that BJP in Uttar Pradesh is in the grips of uncertainty and fear. Perhaps they are not sensing a clear victory like 2017, yet.
(The article was first published on Quint Hindi. It was translated by Arvind Singh.)
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