Uttar Pradesh Diary: Fangs bared in the ‘party with a difference’

As party leaders wash their dirty linen in public, a worried BJP has formed as many as 40 teams to review the results

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath with deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya (photo: Getty)
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath with deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya (photo: Getty)

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

The BJP’s electoral debacle in Uttar Pradesh, where the party’s Lok Sabha seats have come down from 62 to 33, has triggered a free-for-all blame game, unheard of in the ‘party with a difference’.

Significantly, party leaders and workers are not just blaming each other, they are also blaming the police and the bureaucracy for working against the party during the election.

Ironically, the administration was blamed by the Opposition as well, for driving away voters from booths and misbehaving with Muslim voters outside the booths. What took the cake was, however, a review meeting in Ayodhya attended by two cabinet ministers of the state.

Media reports suggest that for some reason, the meeting was held late in the evening and in the presence of the district magistrate and the police superintendent. While it was not clear what the two officials were doing at the BJP review meeting, Mahant Raju Das, the chief priest of the Hanumangarhi temple, admits that “around 11 pm” he blamed the administration for the party’s reverses.

The administration had served notices to people to vacate their properties for re-development, which had angered them—hence the loss of the Ayodhya seat in the Lok Sabha. When he left the meeting, Das found that the ‘gunner’ or personal security officer given to him had been withdrawn with immediate effect.

Surya Pratap Shahi, one of the ministers attending the meeting, denied any altercation between the priest and the officials and added that the former attended the review meeting ‘uninvited’. This is not the only instance of ‘indiscipline’ that has been reported from within the party.

Two BJP stalwarts in the Muzaffarnagar constituency, Sangeet Som, who is a Rajput, and former Union minister Sanjeev Balyan, a Jat believed to be close to Amit Shah, have been publicly trading charges. In a letter to the Union home minister, Balyan accused Som of turning the Rajputs against him. (Som, who had lost the assembly election in 2022, had blamed Balyan for that defeat.)

Som called a press conference and said Balyan had only himself to blame for his defeat: he was not only arrogant but also involved in several corruption cases. A statement was distributed at the press conference accusing Balyan of buying large plots of land in Australia.

As party leaders washed their dirty linen in public, a worried BJP formed as many as 40 teams to review the results and identify the reasons for the party’s dismal showing. While Prime Minister Modi’s underwhelming victory in Varanasi has been giving the party bosses sleepless nights, the large number of seats that the party won by the narrowest of margins added to the worry.

Review meetings have been taking a violent turn, with partymen coming to blows. Physical assault and verbal abuse have marred reviews in Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Ayodhya, Allahabad and Siddharthnagar. Raghav Lakhanpal, who lost from Saharanpur, blamed local leaders of the party for his defeat. In Siddharthnagar, supporters of former minister Satish Dwivedi and MP Jagdambika Pal punched and wrestled each other to the ground.

With BJP leaders blaming everyone and everything, ranging from the ‘ill-advised’ alliance with Rashtriya Lok Dal to policies pursued by the double engine governments, the carefully crafted image of the BJP as a faction-free party has fallen apart. Even its trademark communal rhetoric is being blamed for the debacle.

Navneet Tyagi, a social worker in Muzaffarnagar, said people feel that communal tension is not good for the region.


Who is after Yogi?

BJP insiders admit that despite the spectacular losses in the state in the Lok Sabha election, it would not be easy to dislodge Yogi Adityanath. (In western UP, BJP had won 18 of the 26 seats in 2019.

In 2024 it managed to retain only 13.) Even before the results were out, Arvind Kejriwal had set the cat among the pigeons by saying that if Modi got re-elected, Yogi would be replaced as chief minister. What has added fuel to the fire are reports that one of the two deputy chief ministers, Keshav Prasad Maurya, has not been attending meetings called by the chief minister.

Yogi never trusted Maurya, Sunil Bansal and former IAS officer Arvind Sharma (foisted on Yogi by Amit Shah). Yogi has been spending more and more time in the mutt at Gorakhpur, where he is also the chief priest. After a gap of five years, he is holding meetings of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a militia he had formed and then disbanded.

Attempts to revive the militia is another indication that all is not well. Maurya, Sharma and Bansal are believed to be lobbying for a change in leadership. All three are said to be in the good books of Amit Shah. Sharma was a 1988 batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre and would be Shah’s first choice. Sunil Bansal from Rajasthan was made co-incharge of the party organisation in the state along with Amit Shah in 2014.

While Maurya’s chief ministerial ambitions are well-known; he apparently expected Yogi to be moved to New Delhi in 2024. Following the BJP’s failure to secure even a simple majority, Yogi is in no mood to move. Unless Modi and Shah manage to stabilise the ship in Delhi, they are unlikely to try any misadventure in UP.

With the Samajwadi Party (SP) resurgent in the state after its strong performance in the assembly elections in 2022 and in the just concluded general election for the Lok Sabha, BJP is faced with formidable challenges. An immediate test lies ahead: the 10 byelections to fill up vacancies in the state assembly.

With the SP hoping to win eight of the 10 seats, and the Union government looking wobbly and vulnerable, chances are that the party will move with caution before destabilising Yogi Adityanath.


Akash Anand is mature again

The other party facing an existential crisis in the state is the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). It decided to contest the Lok Sabha election alone, fielded candidates on 79 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats and saw all of them losing their deposits. As an immediate corrective, Mayawati has ended her nephew Akash Anand’s 47-day exile.

Describing him as “immature”, she had abruptly stripped him of all responsibilities right in the middle of the election. Her confidence in his maturity apparently restored, Anand is back to be groomed as her successor.

The decision may also have something to do with the dramatic win of Chandrashekhar Azad ‘Ravan’, chief of the Bheem Army and founder of the Azad Samaj Party, from Nagina constituency where the BSP was once a force to reckon with. Observers, however, feel that Mayawati’s bigger concern is the movement of Dalit voters to the Congress.

Even Jatavs, the core support group of the BSP, are said to have voted for the INDIA bloc wherever Congress candidates were strong. An indication of this is Mayawati’s tirade against the Congress while sparing the Samajwadi Party. Akash Anand’s task is cut out.

He has to deal with the fresh challenge posed by Chandrashekhar Azad, build the party organisation afresh and also stem the tide of voters who abandoned the elephant in favour of other animals.

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