UP Assembly Elections 2022: Dent in BJP’s social coalition has aggrieved its masters!

This disillusionment in RSS ranks and urban BJP supporters has made this election tough for BJP candidates along with the anti-incumbency votes that might have spoilt the fortunes of BJP candidates.


After two phases of polling in assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh, it seems that the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has lost its sheen. Moreover, its gilt is getting eroded day by day due to the eyewash tactics that previously remained hidden from public view.

On February 10th when the state witnessed polling over 58 seats, PM Narendra Modi was addressing a rally in Saharanpur that saw 300 private buses carrying an audience from Haryana to fill the ground. This was not known until Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar reported the grievance of bus operators who were demanding a sum of INR 31 Lakh due on diesel and toll charges. As per details, these buses were arranged to fetch a fake audience by the Haryana administration on oral orders of District Transport Officers of Jind, Ambala, and Panipat. Orders to DTO were direct from the Haryana CM office and the key persons involved in arranging this service were BJP Media in-charge Vipin Chaudhary and Saharanpur BJP head Devendra Sharma.

What is compelling the top leadership of BJP to resort to such filthy techniques? The answer lies in the poll trend of two phases that is likely to continue in later phases, maybe turning into a snowball effect.

Dent in BJP ‘s social coalition

Navnish, a senior journalist from Saharanpur gives a catchphrase to understand the scenario, “The crux of the matter lies in the fact that every caste community of Hindus has more or less come out to vote against BJP. Plus the Muslims have voted for SP-RLD alliance”.

In an interview with the Newsclick, Abhay Kumar Dube of the Center for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)  has articulated this phenomenon as dismantling of BJP’s “social coalition” that was responsible for its huge victories in 2014, 2017, and 2019. This social coalition consists of forward and backward Hindu votes. A chunk of votes from each section has now moved to the SP-RLD alliance due to its reasons and woes.

This phenomenon has played out differently on urban and rural seats. For example, in Ghaziabad and Noida that went for the polls in the first phase, the vote percentage remained less than 50 percent. Residents in high-rise societies and apartments did not come out to vote. These voters are predominantly upper-caste BJP supporters. A major chunk of workers of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) abstained from voting on the Sahibabad seat of Ghaziabad.

Sahibabad constituency is the largest in terms of voters (11 Lakh) and claims to hold the single largest number of RSS shakhas in Uttar Pradesh. The local in charge of Seva Bharti says that he did not go out to vote. Similarly, many functionaries of RSS and its affiliate abstained on the excuse that they have their names listed somewhere else.

This disillusionment in RSS ranks and urban BJP supporters has made this election tough for BJP candidates. On the rural seats that saw huge poll turnout in the first and second phase (more than 65 percent), anti-incumbency votes have played the role and spoilt the fortunes of BJP candidates. Here we could see an en masse voting by Muslims plus a chunk from every caste group going to the SP-RLD alliance.

Polling in the initial two phases has shown that the electorate has remained uninfluenced by BJP’s divisive tactics like the hijab row (Karnataka) that erupted just before the second phase polls. The polarisation of votes did happen but that was essentially pro-BJP and anti-BJP, as prophesized by veteran activist Ashok Chaudhary much before the state went to polls. (See The Peculiar Precursor-Part 1)

Out of 113 seats that have been polled in two phases, the SP-RLD alliance seems to be at the upper hand.

An insightful complaint

An interesting video went viral on February 17th in which Sarita Bhadauria, incumbent MLA from Etawah is seen complaining against voters. She says that the “voters have taken ration, salt, money, houses from us and now when we ask for votes they do not even greet us. This is sheer dishonesty….”

MLA is referring to the ration and financial assistance that has been offered by the Center and state government during lockdown to the rural poor. BJP claims that an amount of 3.5 lakh crores has been disbursed to the needy people directly into their bank accounts. This is a first of its kind in Indian politics where citizens are first turned into beneficiaries and then they are expected to vote for the incumbent. This “beneficiary model”, as termed by Dube, has been witnessed since 2014 in the BJP regime.

This complaint gives insight into the confidence that resounds in BJP leaders’ repeated statements and claims of winning UP assembly elections. BJP had two clear-cut strategies beforehand: (a) polarising the electorate on religious lines; and (b) turning beneficiaries into voters. Polarization has failed after repeated attempts. BJP had a gut feeling that a major portion of rural voters will vote for it owing to some sort of obligation to the support and assistance provided by the state. Bhadauria’s video shows clearly that this plank is also failing.

Empty chairs, aggrieved leaders

As the poll progresses into the third phase on February 20th, fake audience manufacturing techniques of BJP are getting more exposed. The most recent case was a photoshopped image of Yogi Adityanath’s rally in Etawah. The UP CM himself tweeted this image and lauded the strong audience that was later caught fake.

On February 16th during a roadshow in Kanpur, Union Home Minister Amit Shah was heard saying, “Drop this roadshow… this is useless… stop this”. The video has gone viral.

Two days later, senior BJP leader and ex-minister Smriti Irani was seen leaving a roadshow abruptly that was organized in support of BJP’s candidate Raghunandan Singh Bhadauria.

The third phase consists of constituencies that have traditionally been SP strong-hold. BJP has just two phases left i.e. 4th and 5th, that it could claim to be winning handsomely. These are seats around the capital city Lucknow and in Bundelkhand. Since most of the media has neglected Bundelkhand and central UP hence there is no clear picture about voter sentiment in those areas.

If the crowd is to be believed then Akhilesh Yadav is ahead of his opponents. But still, nothing could be predicted on who will win the race.

The author is senior journalist and editor of junputh.com

(To be continued)


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May 2024


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