Assembly Polls: What makes BJP nervous in Uttar Pradesh?

All talk of ‘Vikas’ by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh have given way to Ram temple and brazen appeals in the name of religion. While its hopes are now pinned on the Union Budget, its desperation shows

Photo by Virendra Singh Gosain/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Virendra Singh Gosain/Hindustan Times via Getty Images


Despite putting up a brave face, there is growing uneasiness within the Bharatiya Janata Party over its electoral prospects in Uttar Pradesh. In the last assembly election in 2012, BJP had come third, but after it swept 73 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014, it was confident of repeating the performance in the assembly election beginning next month.

But while Prime Minister Narendra Modi, its star campaigner, was confident that the party’s “14 years of Vanvaas” (exile) would end after this election, insiders do not appear as confident, despite the opposition’s failure to forge a grand alliance that includes smaller parties, and continuing dissension within the Samajwadi Party Parivar.

Hopes are now pinned on the upcoming Union Budget, which the party expects will be populist enough to give it a fresh start and help regain the momentum. But communally provocative posters in Western UP put up by BJP candidates, brazen appeals being made in the name of religion and UP BJP chief’s assertion that a Ram temple would be built if BJP gets a clear majority, indicate the nervousness in the party, which till the other day was imperiously talking of ‘Vikas’ (Development).

Five reasons which are making BJP jittery

  • ‘Notebandi’ has pushed BJP candidates on the backfoot. While they are unable to spend as much as they would like to because then they would be questioned on the source of funds, they are also finding it difficult to justify Demonetisation, which has hit the poor the hardest.

  • Failure of the BJP to put up a chief-ministerial face is a handicap. The party did win in states like Maharashtra and Haryana without projecting anyone and also won in Assam by projecting Sarbananda Sonowal. But the failure in UP hides the power struggle within the party, which has far too many aspirants working at cross purposes.

  • The party with a difference has put up a large number of candidates who have come over from other parties and also the kin of regional leaders and union ministers. This despite the PM’s public appeal that leaders should not seek ticket for their kin. While insiders admit this has affected the morale of party workers, how it plays out on the ground remains to be seen.

  • There is grudging recognition that the SP-Congress alliance may well unite OBCs and Muslims against BJP. In 2012, contesting separately, SP had polled 25.43% of the votes and Congress 11.63%. The alliance seems to be on a stronger footing this time and is expected to poll more votes. OBCs constitute 40% of the state’s population, with Yadavs constituting around 11% of the OBCs. UP watchers like Rashid Kidwai believes that while a majority of the Kurmis, Kushwahas and Lodhs will vote for the BJP, a majority of the OBCs disillusioned with Modi will vote against it. In 2014 Muslims were either angry with or indifferent to the Congress. The pattern is expected to change this time.

  • Finally, BJP appears hamstrung by the absence of youthful faces in the state to take on Akhilesh Yadav-Dimple Yadav on one hand and Rahul Gandhi-Priyanka Gandhi on the other. While the Prime Minister continues to harp on the demographic dividend and how youthful the country is, the party’s dependence on the old guard is glaring. While Varun Gandhi has been sidelined, no young BJP leader from the state appears to have acceptability across the state, point out commentators.

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