BJP on shaky ground in Ayodhya-Faizabad

Poornima Joshi | | Updated on: Nov 24, 2017


Muslims and Brahmins are unlikely allies in resisting the Modi wave

A sense of foreboding prevails among the young Muslim population in the twin cities of Ayodhya-Faizabad as news and rumours percolate from western Uttar Pradesh about the communal polarisation in the first phase of polling on Thursday.

In these eastern parts, where Narendra Modi and his lieutenant and coordinator for Uttar Pradesh elections Amit Shah have already created an air of inevitability about the BJP’s electoral triumph, the Muslims are looking for the best candidate to defeat them.

In this endeavour, they find a surprising ally — the Brahmins. Just like the Muslims, the Brahmins this time are expected to vote tactically, albeit for very different reasons.

Having installed the BSP in power in the 2008 Assembly elections with the popular slogan Chadh gundan ki chhati par, Brahman baitha haathi par (The Brahmin has straddled the elephant, the BSP’s symbol, to weed out the hooligans from the State) and helped a young Akhilesh Yadav to trounce her in the recent 2012 polls, the Brahmin voters here are looking to assert their supremacy.

Caste rivals

Their traditional caste rivals especially in eastern UP are the Thakurs, who seem to be flexing the muscle in the BJP. Along with party President Rajnath Singh, the BJP has fielded a galaxy of Thakur strongmen — Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh from Kaisargunj, Jagdambika Pal from Domariyagunj, and Kirti Vardhan Singh from Gonda.

At the same time, the Brahmin leaders are perceived to have been humiliated. Murli Manohar Jodhi was unceremoniously ousted from his Varanasi seat to make way for Modi.

Kesri Nath Tripathi was denied ticket from Allahabad while Kalraj Mishra was shunted out to Deoria.

According to Tej Narain Pandey, MLA from Ayodhya and a minister in the UP Government, the Brahmin “has become a minority in the BJP”. Of course, Pandey claims they are voting for the Samajwadi Party’s candidate, former communist leader Mitra Sen Yadav, this time. “They are being humiliated by the BJP. In any case, Modi is a backward leader. He is anti-Brahmin. He is denying ticket to Brahmins in his own State and hounding Brahmin officers,” Pandey said.

What emerges from a conversation with all parties and their candidates in Faizabad is that the BJP’s effort will be to divert attention from the vulnerabilities of its local candidate Lallu Singh by constant reminders that it is not him but Modi that the people here would be voting for. Lallu Singh, who lost even the Ayodhya Vidhan Sabha seat in 2012 and the 2009 Lok Sabha elections , is aware of his limited appeal and persists with the party line. “This election is not about Lallu Singh. It is about making Modi PM. He will end corruption and bring development,” he told Business Line .

Ramjanmabhoomi issue

The law of diminishing returns having afflicted the Ramjanmabhoomi slogan, Lallu Singh clings to Modi and development. “There is no caste divide. There is no Brahmin or Thakur. There is only Modi this time,” he said. Asked about Ramjanmabhoomi, he parried: “This election is about development.”

In the twin cities that house the contentious Ramjanmabhoomi site, locals rate the BJP’s candidate at the third position. “The fight is between SP and the Congress. Nirmal Khatri (the sitting MP from the Congress) is a popular person here. The only drawback is that people are convinced that the Congress is not coming back to power, so why waste a vote. Mitra Sen Yadav of the SP is an old war horse who too is giving a good fight. The Muslims and to a large extent the Brahmins will decide who wins. And both are watching who is in a better position to win,” said Shitla Singh, Editor of local daily Jan Morcha .

Clearly, neither the Ram temple that once again found mention in the BJP’s manifesto nor the much talked about Modi wave is tangibly felt here. The elections still hinge a lot on the caste factor.

Modi ka asar hai, lehar nahin hai (You can say that Modi has a certain influence. But it is not a wave.),” said sitting MP and Congress candidate Nirmal Khatri.

“A wave is what we saw in the Ramjanmabhoomi period. Here, the elections are all about local factors and caste.

“Modi has certainly revived the BJP. But it is like giving an injection to an almost dead person. He can be revived. But he cannot sprint immediately,” said Khatri.

Published on April 10, 2014
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