The state election commission on Friday evening declared candidates for 349 posts out of a total of 825 victorious in the absence of any opponents in the development block heads elections in Uttar Pradesh. This was followed by the ruling party BJP claiming that 334 candidates backed by the party have won ‘unopposed’.
Unpacking the ‘unopposed’ factor in this claimed victory lays bare two important undercurrents; the complete breakdown of democratic state mechanism in UP and the political necessity for BJP to win these local elections by hook or crook ahead of the 2022 state assembly elections.
The Violence Has Implications for the Larger Democratic Framework
The local elections in the state in past have known sporadic violence during polling and even nominations irrespective of the ruling political party. However, the widespread violence that was allowed to unfold on Thursday as candidates in the state prepared to file their nominations, raises questions about the increased centralisation of power in the state and its implications for constitutional morality.
Typical of 2021, a lot of this violence is on camera circulating around the internet, all of which share a common occurrence whereby UP police which on every occasion flexes its ‘strict actions’ and is infamous for inflicting violence upon peaceful protestors, is seen too nonchalant about the happenings around it. So, you find them casually walking while a crowd tear off the nomination papers of a candidate or running for their lives amidst firing and bombing.
This clearly is not a case of police failure rather the police forces seem to be doing exactly what they had been directed to do. Be the best mute spectators!
The deliberation behind the inaction of the state machinery which includes the bureaucracy that seems to have attained a position over the political representatives in the state is bound to worry any proponent of democracy.
So, the ‘unopposed’ victories carry with themselves the baggage of undemocratic actions. It means that the masses are withheld by a government that is capable of only seeing political power, from exercising their most basic democratic right- that is to elect their own representative by voting. Here, it must be acknowledged that elections in the country have always been far from fair but the danger, in this case, lies in the absence of the chance to vote.
With candidates supported by opposition parties not being allowed to file nominations or intimidated to take it back to journalists being beaten up and women candidates being molested allegedly by BJP workers- there is only lawlessness in Yogi’s reign.
A complete surrendering of the state machinery in the glory of one populist leader can surely not be beneficial to the cause of democracy, can it?
Preparations for 2022 State Assembly Elections Amidst Widespread Discontent
The genesis of the political anxieties of the ruling BJP regime lies in its victorious rein in a populist wave brought about by its communal and divisive politics and its rhetoric of development here and there. The party has always fought elections using one popular face but it’s out in the yard that the party’s only prominent face in UP is not so popular anymore.
The growing unrest due to the farmers protests, repression of students, angry families of hundreds of teachers who died in compulsory poll duties is very much visible. This coupled with the masses and even MPs, MLAs, and party workers of BJP left helpless and uncared for at the hands of the state government during the second wave of COVID19. The consequences of this apathy followed suit.
In the recent gram panchayat elections in UP, out of 3,050 seats, BJP only won 600 seats, ways behind SP’s 800 seats and 1000 independent victories. The elections were conducted during the second wave of COVID19 amidst several requests from polling officers to postpone it.
This defeat even in its strongholds like Lucknow, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur, and Varanasi and the emergence of candidates supported by the opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) as victorious without much effort makes evidence to the loss of whatever faith people had in the Yogi regime.
With no other face to replace Yogi’s leadership for the upcoming elections, the party has since then intensified its PR management to set the narrative that everything is well in UP. The violence that took place on Thursday must be looked at as preparations by the ruling party ahead of state elections scheduled in 2022.
So when the Zila Panchayat chairperson polls were held on July 3, the party publicised that along with ally Apna Dal its candidates had secured 67 out 0f 75 seats in the elections. The electoral anomalies that are in question in both the Zila Panchayat and block chairperson elections are representative of the desperation in BJP but mainly for Yogi as he tries to save his face not only among the masses but also among his own party workers.
Whatever the Yogi govt proposes as its good governance model is nothing but brute repression of masses and intimidation of opposition by force.
The defeat of this regime in 2022 state elections therefore, become all too important for those who are resisting fascism.