3 Reasons Why BJP is Running Scared in Uttar Pradesh
The BJP's numbers are going to come down significantly in the state — the party may even be staring at single digits.
In the 2014 elections, more than a quarter of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) seats in the Lok Sabha came from the state of Uttar Pradesh. Along with its ally Apna Dal, it had won 73 out of 80 seats, which propelled Narendra Modi to power at the Centre. With the BJP losing assembly elections in its strongholds of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan, and barely scraping through in Gujarat, its dependence on electoral success in Uttar Pradesh has become even more imperative for the NDA to have a shot at power.
Despite having a government in Lucknow, the BJP is running scared in U.P., unable to either select candidates or push for a coherent electoral strategy. There are valid reasons for the BJP’s worries in India’s largest state; and as the polling dates draw closer, those factors are getting further pronounced in the ruling party’s calculations.
First and foremost among them is the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance. If one goes by simple arithmetic of adding votes secured by the two parties in the Lok Sabha polls of 2014 — in the face of a Modi wave — the BJP will be down to 36 seats. If the same arithmetic is applied to the 2017 assembly elections, the BJP will be brought down to only 23 seats. But politics is not just about arithmetic, and major parties coming together present a ‘bandwagon effect’ for the voter. This was visible during the three parliamentary by-polls of Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Kairana, where the votes secured by the Opposition candidates were far higher than the sum of their votes in 2014 and 2017.
The second factor giving Modi sleepless nights is the Congress party after the induction of Priyanka Gandhi. As Roshan Kishore has shown in his Hindustan Times analysis, the sum of vote shares of the BJP and Congress is around 49 per cent in Uttar Pradesh. In 2014, the Congress had come down to 7.5 per cent of the vote, which is bound to go up with the entry of Priyanka Gandhi who has been campaigning in selected areas, visiting temples and winning over the upper castes. Moreover, the Congress party has particularly strong candidates in around 28 seats in the state, and they are going to be in the contest, benefitting from Priyanka Gandhi’s entry. In such a scenario, any gains to the Congress party will come at the cost of the BJP, further helping the SP-BSP alliance in the contest. This is a nightmare scenario for the BJP, contrary to much of the punditry strewn around in multiple TV shows and publications.
The third factor is the double anti-incumbency against the BJP in the state. All surveys have shown that the by-poll results were not a fluke but part of a trend of anger against the Narendra Modi and the Yogi Adityanath governments. While Modi has failed to deliver on any of the major promises made in 2014 and has made farmers suffer in the worst years for agriculture and economy, the Adityanath government epitomises Thakur repression of all the other castes in the state. No amount of emphasis on national security or Modi’s 56-inch chest, or fostering an aspiration among everyone to be a “Chowkidar” will not compensate for the anger against the governments.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has always thrown up a surprise — it gave 22 seats to Congress party in 2009 while BJP had only nine Lok Sabha MPs from the state. It is hard to predict the final numbers from the state, but one thing is certain: the BJP’s numbers are going to come down significantly in the state — the party may even be staring at single digits. That scenario is giving the BJP sleepless nights about Uttar Pradesh, and rightly so.