How the BJP is gnawing into eastern UP

AM Jigeesh Gorakhpur (UP) | Updated on November 24, 2017

Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh at a rally at Gorakhpur. (file photo) PTI

Meticulous ground-level planning, carefully forged alliances do the trick

The BJP’s strategy behind fielding Narendra Modi from Varanasi seems to have paid some dividends in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Of the 17 seats in Poorvanchal region where polling is scheduled for the very last phase on May 12, the BJP had won in only three in the 2009 elections. Besides Varanasi itself, the party bagged Azamgarh and Gorakhpur.

This was a cause of anxiety and the principal reason for the BJP to field its prime ministerial candidate from Varanasi.

The expectation was that Modi’s presence, besides the symbolic significance of the Hindu Hriday Samrat representing the religious centre of Kashi, will galvanise the party’s campaign in an area where the BJP had performed poorly.

From all accounts gathered while travelling through this region, the strategy is paying off.

The BJP has, in this election, emerged as the force against whom everyone else, chiefly the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), are fighting. The very fact that the BJP is the chief target of the two provincial players is reflective of the political ground that has been covered since 2009.

D-day dynamics

Besides Modi’s rising appeal and the anti-incumbency against the ruling UPA, efforts to polarise the electorate on communal lines are also visible on the ground.

Party workers expect a Hindu-Muslim polarisation on voting day.

“Wherever we are lagging, it will be matched on the polling day. If minority votes are not divided between the SP, BSP and the Congress, we are sure many communities such as Yadavs will votes for us,” said Markandey Sahi, BJP’s coordinator for Deoria constituency.

According to veteran BJP leader and former MLA Lallan Prasad Tripathi, who is coordinating his party’s efforts in four constituencies here, there is a “Hindu wave” in the region.

“I will not call it a wave similar to 1977 because at the time, it was a Hindu-Muslim joint effort to defeat the Congress. But it is similar to the wave in the late 1990s where, in three consecutive elections, the BJP managed to win 50 seats on an average.

“It is a Hindu wave in favour of change, in favour of Modi,” said Tripathi.

However, the BJP’s claim that this “wave” is breaking through caste barriers is not entirely accurate.

The party is still struggling to not just consolidate its traditional base of upper caste voters but add more caste groups to its kitty. In the 1990s, the BJP had chiefly been a party of the upper castes which added other castes in the wake of communal mobilisation during the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

Upper caste votes

However, in the last decade or more, the upper caste voters drifted away from the BJP due to the party’s poor organisational framework.

The emergence of other parties, chiefly the BSP, also played a role. The BSP wooed Brahmins with the slogan Chadh gundan ki chhaati par, Brahman baitha haathi par (The Brahmin is riding the elephant to defeat the rule of the goons in UP). The elephant is the party’s symbol.

The BSP secured a majority in the UP Assembly in the 2007 largely because of the rainbow coalition of castes that Mayawati was able to create with the help of Brahmins.

But the Brahmins this time are clearly favouring the BJP. And, as the SP’s vote base of Muslims and Yadavs is being split with the BSP emerging as the favourite of Muslims, the BJP expects to add a good number of Yadav votes to its kitty. The party also hopes that a number of Most Backward groups and young Dalit voters will also be attracted by the Modi wave.

The party has formed new alliances and experimented with some fresh ideas in the region. The alliance with Sone Lal Patel’s Apna Dal has helped the party in attracting the Patels, a significant OBC caste. Additionally, intensive efforts by the Sangh Parivar too have helped the BJP in consolidating its vote base.

RSS campaign

“We have seen RSS members from various States going from house to house and asking Hindu voters to come together and vote. We have urged authorities to take a look at such incidents,” said a BSP activist in Motiram Shankar locality.

The practise of people voting differently for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections has also kept the BJP’s hopes high.

“The public is angry with the Congress. So while it may not be the ruling party in UP, factors like price rise, agricultural distress and lack of infrastructural development affect people everywhere,” said NB Singh, a professor at SGR PG College, Jaunpur.

“This is also the reason for the Modi wave in this region. People think that he can bring about change. It will not be a vote for the BJP, but for Modi,” he said.

Published on May 02, 2014

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