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How BJP Lost The Plot In Its Eldorado UP?

| Updated: June 5, 2024 15:52

Even as the BJP is yet to come out of the jolt it received in UP, which was largely instrumental in turning the party’s poll fortunes, it became even clearer that power in Delhi hinges largely on how a party performs in the largest state of the country.

With 80 seats in a House of 543, UP has decided national outcomes election after election. It propelled Narendra Modi’s rise to power in 2014, sending 71 BJP MPs to Lok Sabha, and helped him consolidate his grip in 2019 by electing 62 party candidates and two of ally Apna Dal (S).

This time, as results started trickling in since Tuesday morning, BJP’s struggle to hold on to its losing ground became clearly evident.

Modi’s own victory margin in Varanasi dropped from 4.79 lakh in 2019 to 1.52 lakh votes while Union Minister Smriti Irani lost in Amethi. So much so, the party even lost Ayodhya, which it had played up as its best poll plank.

Many among the BJP candidates were not those the party and supporters wished; warnings of local disconnect were ignored in the belief that the ‘Modi magic’ would override dissent and complaints. There appeared to be over-reliance on the state machinery, rather than the party organisation, for events, crowd mobilisation and voter outreach; the disenchantment among the youth and students over the short-tenure Agnipath scheme and leak of crucial exam papers also became crucial factors for the party’s poor show in the state.

This time, Akhilesh Yadav borrowed the BJP’s social engineering tactics, giving tickets to only five Yadavs (all from the Saifai family) in the SP list of 62 candidates. There were 10 Kurmis and 6 Kushwaha-Maurya-Shakya-Saini (castes considered close to the BJP for several years) and appointed Shyamlal Pal, an OBC, as state party president during the polls. This worked in favour of the SP. Its decision to field Dalits from Meerut and Faizabad (Ayodhya) too worked.

The BJP, on the other hand while losing its own support base to SP, did not expand its base. “Our social engineering was governed by Central leaders and this time they were highly unaware and ignorant of the ground realities. While the SP expanded its base, the BJP reduced itself. Akhilesh made inroads in BJP bases but the BJP still considers Yadavs and Jatavs as almost anti-BJP,” a BJP leader said.

UP BJP president Bhupendra Singh is a Jat from Moradabad and he appeared to have prevailed on the BJP central leadership to stitch an alliance with the RLD. While this appeared to have helped the RLD – it was leading in Baghpat and Bijnor – the BJP took a hit in Jat-dominated seats. The election trends showed that in many constituencies, where it won with a high margin in 2019, the BJP was struggling or had been defeated. An OBC leader of the UP BJP said, “Thakurs and also Brahmins are most privileged in this government. But Thakurs did not vote (for the party) in many constituencies.”

The BJP had a well-defined ticket selection system based on ground inputs. That changed. This time, it was primarily a core group comprising BJP president JP Nadda, general secretary (organisation) BL Santosh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Deputy Chief Ministers Keshav Maurya and Brajesh Pathak, UP BJP chief Bhupendra Singh and UP BJP general secretary (organisation) Dharmpal Singh that decided tickets.

They defined their own criteria, likings and dislikings about ticket claimants and did not listen to word on the ground realities.

Some of the sitting MPs denied tickets learnt about it from party announcements and a few were informed an hour before the announcement of the candidate list.

The party had reports that workers in constituencies such as Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Fatehpur Sikri, Mohanlalganj, Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, Allahabad, Jaunpur were not happy with the choice of candidates but it was overlooked “thinking that Modi Ji’s magic will work”.

The RSS was also not involved in the way it was in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the 2017 and 2022 Assembly polls. RSS volunteers were not as active as before, especially in western UP areas. A BJP leader from western UP said, “Some state-level functionaries were visiting districts in chartered planes or helicopters, dictating like bureaucrats and leaving without taking proper feedback or listening to local workers.”

The short-tenure Agnipath scheme that came with an uncertain future, the leak of crucial exam papers contributed to disenchantment among the youth and students.

In Bareilly, Badaun, Agra, Allahabad, Bhadohi, Rae Bareli, Amethi, the grounds that used to be full of aspirants for jobs in the armed forces were mostly empty. An estimated 48 lakh candidates, who had applied for police jobs, were stunned when the examination was cancelled due to a paper leak.

Also Read: Gujarat: Congress Loses By-elections To Ex-Congressmen

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