The defeat of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) at the two bye-elections – Kairana Lok Sabha and Noorpur Vidhan Sabha—in Uttar Pradesh surely rings alarm bells for the party leadership, that apparently seemed overconfident to beat a united opposition by playing up its politics of communal polarisation.
That the diverse opposition parties would stand steadfast to give BJP a run for its money was apparently something that the saffron brigade failed to gauge, even after two similar devastating defeats barely to months back.
This was the third major jolt in succession for the ruling party, which suffered two similar humiliating reverses in March last . While one was the party’s debacle in Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency, held by deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, the other was its rout in chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s own bastion, Gorakhpur – a Lok Sabha seat he had held for five consecutive terms.
Significantly, as against these two parliamentary constituencies in the Eastern corner of the state, Kairana and Noorpur stood in the diametrically opposite West UP. And that also indicates how Narendra Modi’s clout , that had led the party to sweep as many as 73 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 325 out of 403 Vidhan Sabha seats in 2017, was gradually falling apart.
What seems to have come as the biggest blow to the entire Sangh Parivar was the fact that the people had rejected BJP’s politics of hatred in two different parts of western Uttar Pradesh.
Jayant Chaudhary also deserves credit for mobilising Jats back into the RLD fold after they had openly sided with BJP in both 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly elections. He was being hailed for rejuvenating the party by rebuilding the social alliance meticulously crafted by his grandfather and unparalleled farmer leader Charan Singh
Just as the successive defeats in these major bypolls raises serious question marks on the saffron-clad chief minister’s capabilities as master in communal polarisation , the loss also raises doubts on the erstwhile mesmerising skills of prime minister Narendra Modi, that led him to ride the crest of a sweeping wave in 2014. After all, besides pushing the entire party’s strength in the two constituencies, Modi too had pumped in his own energies just a day before the poll, when he smartly circumvented the election rules and addressed a public rally on the periphery of Kairana Lok Sabha constituency under the pretext of inaugurating an expressway, that was still far from completion.
Camping in the region for a couple of days, Yogi Adityanath left no stone unturned to create a Hindu-Muslim divide, both in Kairana and Noorpur, where communal polarisation that followed the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, had helped BJP reap a political harvest. In an obvious repeat of the same strategy, the BJP leadership moved heaven and earth before the bye-election by fomenting trouble over the presence of Mohd Ali Jinnah’s portrait in the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). It was a blatant attempt to make an issue out of a non-issue since the portrait had been hanging in AMU since 1938. Sure enough, Aligarh’s proximity to the two constituencies was expected to go a long way in assisting the BJP to serve its obvious agenda of communal polarisation.
The united opposition comprising Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress managed to give a befitting reply to the BJP by raising the issue of non-payment of dues to sugarcane farmers, who dominate the population of the entire West UP region. The contest turned into “Jinnah vs Ganna”, and the strength of the cane farmers, whose dues to the tune of over ₹10,000 crore were yet to be cleared, finally managed to beat the “Jinnah” campaign.
RLD chief Ajit Singh’s son and party vice-president Jayant Chaudhary, who is seen as the architect of this landmark victory, said, “It is a victory of ganna over Jinnah.” He said, “People of this region have made it loud and clear that livelihood was more important for them than whipping up communal passions.”
Jayant Chaudhary also deserves credit for mobilising Jats back into the RLD fold after they had openly sided with BJP in both 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly elections. He was being hailed for rejuvenating the party by rebuilding the social alliance meticulously crafted by his grandfather and unparalleled farmer leader Charan Singh.
The victory of RLD nominee Tabbasum Hasan from Kairana brought yet another feather in his cap as she happened to be the first Muslim MP in the 2014 Lok Sabha from Uttar Pradesh. While BJP never fielded any Muslim in 2014 and bagged 73 of the 80 UP seats (including its two allies), the remaining seats could be retained only by members of the Mulayam Singh Yadav family, besides Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
BJP’s defeat is also a slap on the face of the party leadership that had played every possible stunt to arouse communal passions by raising the bogey of “love jihad” and “cow slaughter”, for which they went about openly accusing Muslims. Yogi Adityanath did not hesitate to create a communal divide by raking up the issue of “Hindu exodus” from Kairana. He thought that by spreading the canard that Muslims were driving out Hindus from Kairana, he would be able to consolidate the Hindu vote in favour of BJP. What he failed to realise that the Hindu exodus theory was openly contradicted by now deceased BJP veteran Hukum Singh, who had initially himself floated it. However, with the lies exposed, the divisive card failed miserably, leaving Yogi Adityanath high and dry.
After all, this defeat is a big blow to Yogi’s image as a Hindutva icon – that was essentially responsible for his rise from the head of a temple trust to head of the government in India’s most populous state.