UP-Bihar bypolls: Is the Hindi heartland slipping away from BJP? 

The string of defeats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is alarming for BJP’s 2019 prospects

Photo by Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images


Rattled by continuous defeats in recently held byelections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders tried to put on a brave face in TV debates on March 14. However, analysts feel that the results of the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh and the Araria Lok Sabha bypoll in Bihar mark the beginning of the end of BJP’s political domination of the Hindi heartland since May 2014.

Referred to as the Hindi belt in colloquial discourse, the Hindi heartland—comprising 10 states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar— holds the key to power in the centre. The region accounts for nearly 45% of the total population of the country. It sends 225 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

Sudhir Panwar, a professor at University of Lucknow and former member of the erstwhile Planning Commission, thinks BJP’s repeated bypoll defeats are a clear indication that people have become wary of its communal agenda and regressive politics. “The coalition between Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati instilled confidence among poor, Dalits and minorities in one of the most important political states of the country,” says Panwar.

Echoing Panwar’s view, senior journalist and founder editor of Rajya Sabha TV Urmilesh said, “Results of these byelections will be known for the successful experiment of the Dalit-OBC unity on the ground. After 1993-1995, it was for the first time that Dalits and OBCs came together to defeat a common enemy. It has the potential to dessimate BJP in the next general election.”

Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson Manoj Jha said, “This is a new script of a new politics. People are fed up with BJP. They have been raising issues with regard to employment, health, education and poor economic situation but the response from the ruling regime has been to divert the issue on one pretext or the other. It shows that those who thrive on politics of dividing can be decimated. This victory also gives a sense of direction to the Opposition. And the sense of direction is make sure that the subaltern is united. And do not allow either your minor or major issues to come in the way of progressive politics.”

Sudhir Panwar, a professor at University of Lucknow and former member of the erstwhile Planning Commission, thinks BJP’s repeated bypoll defeats are a clear indication that people have become wary of its communal agenda and regressive politics.

The string of defeats for the BJP started from Rajasthan, where it lost the two Lok Sabha seats of Ajmer and Alwar with huge margins in January. Ashok Gehlot, former Rajasthan Chief Minister and a close confidant of Congress President Rahul Gandhi, said that BJP would keep tasting defeat in the near future. Gehlot emphasised that, at this crucial time, the Congress party would have to play the role of unifier. ‘‘They will be defeated in the coming assembly elections in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. Given the discontent growing against the BJP, one should not wonder if they receive an embarrassing defeat in the next general election.”

“The winds of change started from Gujarat, where the positive campaigning by Rahul Gandhi exposed BJP. It also establishes that united opposition can easily defeat BJP,’’ he added, while saying that the fall of BJP started with the Gujarat assembly results.

Rajasthan has 25 Lok Sabha seats. If trends of Alwar and Ajmer continue, BJP would receive a huge set back from the state, feels an observer.

Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh BJP lost two assembly seats in recent bypolls, making it four assembly bypoll losses in a row. Elections in Mungaoli and Kolaras assembly seats were projected as a litmus test for both Congress and BJP, which the latter lost.

Arun Yadav, President of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee believes that big promises and zero delivery by PM Narendra Modi has played a crucial role in the consolidation of anti-BJP votes. “Message of the bypoll results was loud and clear. The so-called ‘Modi magic’ is over and brand Modi has lost its appeal,” said Yadav. The bypoll results have provided a huge morale boost for Congress workers, who are hoping to return to power after one and a half decades in MP.

Considered a stronghold of the BJP and RSS’ second laboratory of Hindutva after Gujarat, MP may prove to be the proverbial Waterloo for the BJP in the next general elections, feels an editor of a Hindi newspaper published from Bhopal. On the condition of anonymity, he said, “Results of the bypolls are indicative of the growing discontent against the BJP. MP has 40 Lok Sabha seats and if present trends continue, Congress will easily win more than 25 seats.”

“If the Samajwadi Party and BSP team up in Uttar Pradesh and the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party join hands in Maharashtra with tacit understandings with other regional parties in other states, BJP will be out of power. Hindi heartland states would play a major role in any formation.

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Published: 18 Mar 2018, 8:45 AM