‘Modi frenzy has waned; caste polarisation against BJP’

Poornima Joshi New Delhi | Updated on April 14, 2019

Vote percentages are down and caste polarisation favours the Mahagathbandhan in western UP

A decline in vote percentages is among the more tangible indicators of the weakening of the “Modi wave” that engulfed western Uttar Pradesh in 2014 and swirled into a tsunami for the BJP in the politically-critical State with 80 Lok Sabha seats.

In the eight Lok Sabha seats, where voting took place in the first phase of elections on Thursday, a dramatic rise of as much as 14.11 per cent was evident in the vote cast in 2014 as compared to the previous elections in 2009. The overall vote percentage in these eight seats of western UP — Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar — in 2009 was 52.41 per cent.

But as the BJP fielded candidate-Modi, who energised the voter against the 10-year-old Congress-led UPA, they turned out in huge numbers. The overall vote percentage in these seats jumped from 52.41 per cent in 2009 to 66.52 per cent in 2014.

But this time, voter enthusiasm was not at its peak with the overall percentage declining by 2.83 from 2014. The total vote percentage was 63.69 per cent in the seats that polled on April 11.

‘Fierce battle’

While the BJP has fought a fierce battle for each seat, the only constituency where the party cadre is certain of a positive outcome is Ghaziabad, where retired general and incumbent MP VK Singh is the ruling party’s star candidate. For the rest, there is a contest even in the more urban seats such as Gautam Budh Nagar and Meerut, where the BJP should have been otherwise comfortably placed.

“We will win even in Kairana but the margin will be smaller,” said Vipin Kaushik, a committed RSS follower in Shamli, who migrated to the BJP.

According to Kaushik, the “unfortunate” part of electioneering in India is that the electorate gets polarised, either on “communal lines or caste lines”. He agreed that caste polarisation is stronger this time than communal polarisation.

It means that caste polarisation this time favours Mahagathbandhan, which consolidates the votes of the Jatavs, the Jats and Muslims, as opposed to the communal polarisation in 2014 following the 2013 Jat-Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar.

So deep was the communal divide and the effect of Modi wave in 2014 that the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) stalwart Ajit Singh came third in his family constituency of Baghpat. But Ajit Singh is confident that not only will his son Jayant Chaudhary win Baghpat, but he himself will score an impressive win in Muzaffarnagar.

“The BJP will probably get one seat out of the eight that went to polls yesterday. We have worked consistently to restore communal harmony and the BJP in UP has done the rest for us by being completely insensitive to the sugarcane farmers here. The ‘Modi wave’ has been reversed. The reverse countdown has started for them,” Ajit Singh told BusinessLine.

Published on April 12, 2019

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