By Gyan Pathak
“BJP does not do caste politics,” said Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh at ‘Vikas Utsav’, an event organized at Lucknow on March 19 to mark the completion of four-and-a-half years of BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. However, he did not also miss the chance to mention Hindu religious centres like Ayodhya and Mathura for criticizing the opposition for avoiding going there out of fear of getting tagged as communal. “But the BJP … organized events that marked the religious and cultural identity of the places,” he said.
These two statements made at a time when the Legislative Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh is only few months away are significant. The reference of caste politics of the opposition with an effort of superimposition of the ‘fear of communal tag’ on them while drumming up BJP’s ‘religious and cultural identity’ plank around Hindu religious places are clear indication that the state politics may witness polarization on caste and communal lines.
Yogi Adityanath tried to show that he was confident of his returning to power in the state, and asserted that the BJP was poised to return to office by winning no less than 350 seats in the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly election due early next year. His assertion has come only after a fortnight of the poll prediction of ABP-CVoter-IANS survey in which BJP’s return to power was predicted, but with considerably reduced seats for NDA from 325 seat in 2017 to 263 in 2022 Vidhan Sabha election.
He actually needed to assert his claims, first to boost up the morale of the BJP’s rank and file, and secondly to conceal his own panic by asserting on Hindutva in reference to Ayodhya and Mathura. The survey had predicted loss of 62 seats for NDA, though with an increase of BJP’s vote share by 0.4 per cent. To get 350 seats this time, ie 25 seats more than in 2017, the BJP will need to substantially increase its vote percentage from 41 per cent that the party had polled in the last assembly election, which cannot be done without polarization of Hindu votes in favour. Hence the raising of the pitch for Hindutva.
Not only Yogi, but the whole BJP and its alliance partners seem to be panic stricken on the prospect of losing its vote share on account of general dissatisfaction among all the classes of people in the state against the perceived misrule with arrogance and impudence of the Yogi government. Farmers’ agitation in Western Uttar Pradesh has shaken the confidence of many of the NDA leaders who has openly been supporting the farmer’s cause, for example Apna Dal and BJP MP Varun Gandhi. Farmers are on their Mission 2022 to unseat BJP from power, while in the 2017 election they had overwhelmingly supported the BJP. Any decrease in vote share would thus be devastating for the BJP.
BJP’s advantage is that opposition is not yet united. The major players, SP and BSP, did not even participated in the meeting for joint opposition called by the Congress in Delhi recently. Perhaps, they are not willing to align with the Congress which had relegated to the fourth position in the state in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha election. However, the Congress under the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi has been doing its best to capitalize over the general dissatisfaction of the people, especially farmers of the state. Party’s rank and file seems to be in upbeat mood. However, the question they face is how to regain their support base. They have all along been exposing the misrule under Yogi Adityanath. They are working hard. Even then, the survey had predicted 1.2 per cent loss in their support base. The energized congress, if continued to work hard and makes even seatwise tactical alliance with the other opposition political parties in absence of joint opposition front, can substantially improve its prospect as well as other opposition political parties.
AAP is a new entrant in the state politics in a big scale. It has announced to fight all the 403 seats of the state. The party has no identified support base, but can dent on vote shares of both the ruling and opposition political parties. It may play spoil sport for the opposition, which will be advantage BJP. However, its only a presumption, its actual strength is yet untested.
BSP has been trying to reposition itself. The party is at social engineering. They have a considerable support base among Dalits, particularly among Jatavs. BSP had once ruled the state on its own with the help of the “Sarvjan hitaya, sarvajan sukhaya” slogan, and bringing Brahmis-Dalits-Muslims under its umbrella. This time also, the party is trying its best to revive this combine. A large number of Brahmins are not happy with Yogi’s rule, who is seen by them as Khatriya. Brahmis and Khatriya in Uttar Pradesh have been political rivals for a long time, and BSP supremo Mayawati is trying to derive advantage from this fact. The survey had predicted a loss of 6.5 per cent vote share for the party, but if Mayawati plays her card well, she me upset the prediction.
Mulslims have been resorting to tactical vote for a long time, ie they narrow down their option to vote for the strongest candidate against the BJP’s on and individual seats. Therefore, no political party in opposition can take them guaranteed. If it applies for the BSP, it also applies for the SP, Congress, or AAP, unless they field their joint candidates against the BJP’s.
SP seems to be the strongest opposition in the state. Even the survey has predicted a gain of 6.6 per cent for the party. The morale of the party’s rank and file is very high. They have been the major beneficiary of OBC politics in the state. However, Party’s major support base is among Yadavs. Party leader Akhilesh Yadav is pinning hopes on his MY formula, ie Muslim-Yadav combination, but he is also trying to resort to some sort of social engineering by accommodating OBCs in large numbers.
The social engineering is a real threat to Yogi Adityanath who has already sensed it. He even said during the ‘Vikas Utsav’, “BJP worked to bring social harmony to society. Governments before the BJP did nothing for the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and the backward class. The BJP government implemented many public welfare schemes realising the dreams of Babasaheb Ambedkar. These schemes brought about a radical change in the standard of living of the underprivileged.” (IPA Service)