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BJP’s Up Civic Poll Performance Hides More Than It Reveals

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Aditiyanath at the BJP State Executive Meeting in Lucknow on Monday. PTI Photo by Nand Kumar (PTI5_1_2017_000173B)

By Arun Srivastava

BJP president Amit Shah is ebullient and chirpy at the municipal electoral outcome of Uttar Pradesh. With a sneer at Rahul Gandhi he said; “The Congress’ loss is such that the BJP won all the municipal corporation seats even in Rahul baba’s Amethi constituency”.

Amit Shah is right. He is entitled to pat his own back. But he must look beyond this self eulogy. The fact of the matter is the BJP could not retain the percentage of votes it had polled only seven months ago during the assembly elections. The loss is noteworthy as the party has been projecting the victory as the “election-mantra” of success for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. .

Shah and his lieutenants have been projecting the façade of a clean sweep in Uttar Pradesh to influence the Gujarat elections. A large number of labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are engaged in the cotton manufacturing sector in Gujarat for decades. For the BJP leaders the UP results will have a positive impact on these labourers and motivate them to follow in the footsteps of their native brothers.

The north Indian voters, especially from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, have been the target of the BJP for long. Some two months ago hordes of party workers from Bihar and UP were brought to Gujarat in a bid to reach out to the Bhaiya voters. They have been housed in lodges and hostels in areas where the number of such voters is substantial. Fears have been expressed that they might even be used to impersonate absentee voters. Meanwhile, urgent messages are being sent to workers who have gone on leave asking them to come back to Gujarat with the offer of rewards.

Arithmetically, the results of civic elections in Uttar Pradesh look like correct. But beyond the straight arithmetic, the performance of the opposition is not bad, although it is difficult to subscribe to the opposition allegation that EVMs were tempered with. Opposition leaders alleged that while EVMs favoured the BJP, the opposition won the seats where paper ballots were used.

Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav has accused the BJP of “spreading lies”, saying that while the party was patting its back for doing well in the mayoral elections, it was silent about its defeat in the nagar palika and nagar panchayat polls. It won 14 out of the 16 mayoral seats where electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used. But it is not discussing defeats in the nagar palika and nagar parishad polls. He quipped, “If countries more developed than India can use ballot papers in elections, what is the problem here? The Election Commission must clarify on how could it repair a faulty EVM. When a faulty EVM can be repaired, a properly functioning EVM can also be tampered with.”

If the pollsters are to be believed, the BJP has lost not less than 7 per cent of votes it had polled in the assembly elections. Though the party won 14 mayoral seats and the BSP could manage to win only two, its win is significant. In the assembly elections the BJP had claimed to bag the entire vote of the dalits and OBC. Obviously this time it did not happen. The dalits and OBC went back to their traditional party BSP and voted for its candidates. In a highly polarized state, where religion, hindutva and saffron agenda dictated the poll outcome, this is important. This simply underscored that the voters of Uttar Pradesh did not fall into the hindutva trap of BJP.

The percentage of votes polled by the BJP implies that in urban areas the BJP fared well but in the quasi urban areas the results did not go in its favour. This should serve as a warning bell to the BJP leadership. Nearly three-fourths of the constituencies have not returned the BJP candidates. The election results from the quasi urban areas make it clear that people have rallied behind the opposition parties.

It is interesting that in areas where ballot papers were used (in civic polls), the BJP got 15 per cent of the votes but in areas where EVMs were used, the party got 46 per cent votes. “I can guarantee if ballot papers are used, BJP won’t come to power,” asserted BSP leader Mayawati. Among the 75 districts, municipal corporation elections were held in 16 places. In the 652 seats (mayors and chairpersons of nagar palika parishads and nagar panchayats), the BJP lost 470 seats. Among the 11,992 seats of corporators and members of nagar palika and nagar panchayat, it lost 9,812.

In the Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s winning percentage was 81.75 per cent for 71 seats; in the assembly elections this year, the figure was 77.41 per cent for 312 seats. The BSP is a far away second in the mayoral elections, winning two seats, while the Samajwadi Party is second in the municipal councils and nagar panchayats.

It is strange that the BJP national president and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath attribute the credit for this victory to the Prime Minister. Yogi said BJP’s historic win in the UP civic polls is because of Modi’s development policies and Amit Shah’s guidance. If the claim is to be accepted then the question arises why it performed poorly in the nagar palika parishads and nagar panchayats? In reality, it is the fragmentation of opposition votes that has been helping the BJP.

Amit Shah and Yogi took swipe at Rahul Gandhi for the drubbing his party got in his parliamentary constituency, Amethi. It is a fact that cannot be denied.

What has come as a surprise is Modi staking claim for the victory. He described it as endorsement of the development agenda of BJP and its government. He remarked; “Development has again won in this country. I thank the people of Uttar Pradesh for the tremendous support in the civic elections. This victory will inspire us to take forward the development work and work hard for the benefit of people”. (IPA Service)

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