After the first two phases of polling in UP, BJP faces an uphill task to catch up

The first two phases of polling suggest heavy losses for the BJP. But while it is still too early to say that BJP has lost the state, it certainly faces a stiff challenge to catch up

Representative image
Representative image

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

The Supreme Leader is absent from the campaign and the party machinery is snoozing. Star campaigners are talking absurd things and the workers look lethargic. Interestingly, BJP candidates have started crying foul and supporters seem not so vocal. It is not the BJP people have known. The party which claims to have mastered the art of electioneering seems to have lost momentum after the first two phases of polling in Uttar Pradesh.

Three incidents are enough to sum up the first two phases of voting in UP. First, a letter by JPS Rathore, the election coordinator in UP BJP alleging bogus voting by Burqa clad women during the second phase. Second, the clash of BJP workers with security personnel after they rubbished allegations of rigging in Tilhar (Shahjahanpur). Third and most important, the demand of repoll by Suresh Rana, a minister in Yogi Adityanath-led government, in 40 booths of Thana Bhawan constituency of Shamli district. Suresh Rana, a muscle-man himself, is claiming foul play by the opposition in a state ruled by the BJP. What's up ?

Allegations of booth capturing, rigging and bogus voting are usually levelled by the opposition, rarely by the ruling party. But in UP it is a different story this time. If it is happening then all is surely not well for the BJP. It is possible, as some have suggested, that these allegations are being made to cover up BJP workers' electoral misconduct, but still something does seem to have gone wrong. The low voter turnout in urban booths, the patience shown by Muslim voters despite provocations and heavy turnout at booths dominated by farming communities seem to have unnerved the BJP.

On February 14, polling took place in the predominantly Muslim parts of Uttar Pradesh. BJP was hoping for a big split in Muslim votes in the region. There are 77 Muslim candidates in the fray for the 55 seats, but it seems the community has voted tactically.

In Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur, Amroha, and Sambhal, where the community saw hundreds of recovery notices and thousands booked under the Goons Act, Muslim voters tried to amend past mistakes when a split in their vote saw BJP winning. They remained patient and didn’t react to provocations, but seem to have voted in favour of the SP-RLD alliance, apparently for a change.

The nine districts that went to poll include eight from Rohilkhand and one from upper Doab. The 55 seats in these nine districts recorded around 61% voter turn-out. For BJP this is disheartening, while the Samajwadi Party led alliance is hoping for a clean sweep in the districts of Amroha, Sambhal, and Moradabad.

The BJP, however, appears stronger in Chandausi and Dhanaura. In Bareilly, the results can upset BJP where it had won all the 9 seats in 2017. Samajwadi Party looks stronger in Bhojipura, Faridpur, Meerganj, Nawabganj, Bahedi and Aonla. In Bareilly city, Bareilly cantonment and Bithari Chainpur, the party is claiming close contests.

In Shahjahanpur, Suresh Khanna, a minister in the Yogi Government, is facing a tough fight, while in Tilhar, Puwayan, Dadraul and Jalalabad, the Samajwadi party is hoping for positive results. In Rampur, Bilaspur can again go to Congress, while in Rampur City, Swar, Chamrawwa and Milak, Samajwadi Party seems confident of winning.

Similarly, the alliance looks stronger in Hasanpur, Naugawan, Amroha, Sambhal, Asmoli, Gunnaur, Sahaswan, Chandpur, Najibabad, Barhapur, Nagina, Nehtaur and Bijnor. Shekhupur and Badaun are stuck in a triangular fight and so are the Behat, and Nakur seats of Saharanpur district.

What has gone wrong for BJP, which had bagged 38 of the 55 assembly segments of phase two in 2017 ? The farmers' agitation seem to have ruined the party's prospects in Bijnor and Amroha districts. The Lakhimpur Kheri incident may also have affected the voters in nearby Shahjahanpur district. Obviously, Muslims responded to all the provocations and atrocities by the state during anti-CAA protests at the polling booths. Also, the BJP is upset to find a large chunk of Gujar, Maurya and Saini voters voting in favor of the SP-RLD. This may be due to Dr. Yashvir Singh, Mukhiya Gujar, Dharam Singh Saini and Swami Prasad Maurya, who switched over from the BJP ahead of the election.

Though these are just speculations, strong signals from the first two phases have enthused alliance leaders, supporters and workers. They know, if they somehow maintain the momentum built during these two days of voting in UP and carry it to the next two phases, power will be within their grasp.

All they need to do is to remain patient, consistent and continue to manage their social alliances. For BJP, it is now a tricky task to chase the alliance that seems far ahead.

If the party can revive its fortunes, it can be through its known tricks that seem to have failed till now.

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