Rout in UP Panchayat Polls Expose Chink in BJP’s Armour

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, Amit Shah at New Chief Minister Yogi Aditya Nath oath taking ceremoney at Smriti Upvan in Lucknow on sunday.Express photo by Vishal Srivastav 19.03.2017

The humiliation the party had to suffer in Ayodhya, Banaras, Mathura, Prayag Raj and Gorakhpur suggests something very significant as all these places have religious importance and are situated in five different corners of the state

Soroor Ahmed | Clarion India

IT would be a bit hasty to draw the conclusion that the rout of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the rural local bodies polls in Uttar Pradesh heralds bad news for the saffron party in the state just ahead of the next year’s Assembly election. Yet it gives an indication about the mood of the voters. An electoral loss at any level certainly shatters the morale of any party and at the same time gives an idea that the opposition is not only alive but has the potential to inflict damage to the ruling establishment.

Local bodies elections—both rural and urban—is important for political parties to consolidate their base. The Left Front did make one such effort just after coming to power in West Bengal in 1977. That paved the way for their 34 years long rule in the state. Mamata Banerjee of Trinamool Congress too adopted the same strategy. Her hold at the Panchayat-level made it easy for her to return to power this time. She had swept the last rural bodies poll held in the state in 2018.
The BJP too has mastered the art of consolidating its position at the grassroots level, be it an attempt to control Municipal Corporation of Delhi or similar civic bodies in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, etc.
The saffron top-brass put all its energy with leaders like Union Home Minister Amit Shah and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath extensively campaigning and holding road-shows in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation election held on December 1 last. The party succeeded in increasing its tally from four to 48 in the 150-ward civic body. The ruling Telangana Rashtriya Samiti was the biggest loser as its tally came down to 55 from 99 last time. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, a Hyderabad-based outfit, managed to retain the same number of seats, that is 41 as last time.

In Bihar among the first steps Nitish Kumar took after coming to power on November 24, 2005 was the introduction of a legislation which increased reservations in panchayat and urban local bodies from 49 to 86 per cent. If he is still surviving it is largely because of that very move. Before his advent to power there was 33 per cent quota for women and 16 for SCs and STs. He brought about new change and increased the reservation for women from 33 to 50 per cent. Besides, he introduced 20 per cent quota for the Extremely Backward Castes—a new social group carved out from the Other Backward Castes. Thus the EBCs and women became the vote-bank of Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United)-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.

So the importance of local bodies election results cannot be underplayed and that too when it comes just nine months ahead of the Assembly poll, as in Uttar Pradesh.
That is why the BJP has not celebrated the result in UP as it used to do after victory in any other state, even in a tiny one in the North-East.

The challenge for the BJP in UP is that the arch-rival Samajwadi Party led by the former chief minister Akhilesh Singh Yadav has retained a lot of ground it lost to the BJP after family feud just on the eve of 2017 Assembly election. It was none else but his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle, Shivpal Yadav, who queered the pitch for him and gave the BJP an easy opportunity to win the election with a thumping majority.
Otherwise, till November 2016 Akhilesh was very well-placed and the BJP was bogged down by the November 8 demonetization move.  Till then the UP BJP was not in the best of shape and Yogi was nowhere in the race for the post of the CM. Akhilesh had a quota of admirers as he had done some good works. But the infighting destroyed the Samajwadi Party.

By emerging as the strongest party in the Panchayat polls the Samajwadi Party has shown that Akhilesh has come of age. The old Mulayam and his brother have been marginalised.
As unlike in several other states, the BJP has in Akhilesh a prominent figure in the rival camp. The result also indicates that the weakening of Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati has further made the position of Akhilesh strong in the opposition camp.
The emergence of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekar Azad Ravana, especially in the western part of UP, is likely to erode Mayawati’s hold on Dalits.  He along with the Rashtriya Lok Dal of Jayant Singh are likely to join hands with the Samajwadi Party. The post-farmers’ movement re-alignment of social forces and coming together of Jats, Muslims and Jatavs or Ravidas has the potential to pose a big challenge to the BJP.

As the Panchayat election was held in the second half of April just after a prolonged farmers’ movement and huge surge in coronavirus cases, in which the government both at the Centre and the state were caught napping, the BJP was bound to pay the price.
The humiliation the party had to suffer in Ayodhya, Banaras, Mathura, Prayag Raj and Gorakhpur suggests something very significant as all these places have religious importance and are situated in five different corners of the state. Besides, Banaras and Gorakhpur have political importance—the former is the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi while the latter had long been represented in the Lok Sabha by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Yet in all these five places the party could not win even 20 percent of seats.
The BJP, it is feared by UP watchers, may have to pay a price in the coming Assembly election due in February next year, for the way in which the government let Covid-19 to spread. It has taken a huge toll of life in the state. Thus, the pandemic coupled with the farmers’ agitation may emerge as major election issues.

Though Yogi had in the last four years emerged as a strong regional leader within the BJP, yet there are many others within the party who want to cut him to size because of obvious reasons.



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