The ‘Modi wave’ that triggered a saffron surge during the 2014 parliamentary polls led BJP to power in 21 out of 29 states by March, 2018. The Congress, hitherto the largest pan-India party, has continued its downhill journey towards irrelevance.
Congress held 16 of 26 states on its own and one in alliance till 1993. Having made inroads in south and northeast, where it was traditionally weak, the BJP displaced the Congress.
BJP cast off its principles and chose a short route through defections towards achieving its goal of ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ by toppling nine states governments including Manipur, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, MP and Puduchery in seven years.
The Rashtriya Swayam Sangh (RSS) looked the other way while its political offspring kept playing the dirty game. It did caution the BJP against wiping out Congress and favored a strong opposition to sustain the roots of democracy in India.
BJP gets a taste of its own medicine
For the first time desertions have rattled the BJP on the eve of Uttar Pradesh assembly polls that hold the key to Prime Minister Narendra Modi retaining power through 2024 General elections. In a big jolt three cabinet ministers, and ten legislators left the party government in 48 hours accusing Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of indifferent attitude towards Dalits, backwards, farmers, unemployed youth, traders, women, etc. Yogi is also facing flak for encouraging ‘Rajputs’ and causing resentment among the Brahmins who have been so far solidly supporting BJP in this populous state. But BJP seems to be unaffected and went ahead with minor change of strategy thereby not permitting Yogi to shift to Ayodhya which might resulted in complete focus on this seat which was unacceptable to high command. BJP has also refrained from major surgery in the denial of tickets to sitting MLAs to put break on desertions.
Samajvadi Party may be the major gainer
The deserters have expectedly joined the Samajwadi Party (SP). The main Opposition party is thus the biggest beneficiary in the assembly constituencies of these caste leaders. The defectors enjoy a clout among the non-Yadav OBCs which played a crucial role in ensuring the BJP’s thumping victory in the 2017 assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha polls. At this juncture, the defections appear to have dealt a heavy blow to BJP which has created a new record in Indian history for managing caste politics through social engineering and experimenting with new slots within OBCs and other classes. Akhilesh is averse to encouraging more defectors to give signal that he does not want to do it at the cost of his original party leaders.
Sticking to hawkish stand
Chief Minister Yogi is bound to be upset over such exodus but seems to still persist with BJP’s core agenda of polarising castes and Hindu vote bank through radical Hindutva. Adityanath said, “Yeh ladai usse bahut agay ja chuki hai. Yeh ladai ab assi banam bees ki ho chuki hai ( this battle has already moved far ahead into a fight between 80 percent (Hindus) and 20 percent (non-Hindus hinting at Muslims in Uttar Pradesh). With a very effective digital support, Yogi’s new slogan is “Raj tilak ki karo tyari aa rahe hain bhagwadhari” (get set for coronation, ‘men in saffron’ are arriving).
Akhilesh goes beyond M-Y combine
Akhilesh Yadav’s SP has managed to create a perception that the fight is between his party and the BJP. The others are but marginal players. The SP will emerge strongest once the deserters officially join his party. Going beyond the old image of heading a party of Yadavs and Muslims, Akhilesh has expanded his horizon by inclusion of OBCs and SCs under new poll strategy. This convergence accounts for a staggering 85 per cent of the electorate in Uttar Pradesh and it is reflected in stitching the alliance with more than half a dozen caste-dominated parties to match seven party alliance of BJP with Hissedari Morcha. Akhilesh has turned the elections into a bipolar battle i.e., 85 versus 15 percent to counter Yogi’s 80 percent Vs 20 percent.
New dimension in UP
Keeping the development plank aside, poll-bound Uttar Pradesh is pooling smaller and marginal parties with growing alliance with the SP making it a front-runner against BJP. The ruling BJP stayed ahead since last October by allying with seven smaller parties as per the scheme of social engineering gurus, Modi and Amit Shah. The caste appeal of these groups looked stronger till the
former ally O.P. Rajbhar of the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party tied up with SP.
Ahead of UP assembly polls these parties had joined hands with ruling BJP as they represent different caste groups across the state. The BJP then shifted focus on smaller parties in the state. The composition shows these parties are part of the Hissedari Morchaa, a coalition which came together to provide their communities a bigger voice and representation from various OBC groups including Bind, Gadariya, Kumhaar, Dhimar, Kashyap and Rajbhar. Hissedari Morcha claims the support of these castes holding influence in 15 assembly segments.
BJP’s focusing on non-Yadav OBCs and Dalits had clinched the alliance. The parties that allied with BJP are: Bharatiya Manav Samaj Party, Shoshit Samaj Party, Bharatiya Suheldev Janata Party, Bharatiya Samata Samaj Party, Manavhit Party, Prithviraj Janshakti Party, and Musahar
Andolan Manch aka Gareeb Party. The cumulative voting percentage of registered unrecognised parties reveals that since 1989, except in 1991, such entities have garnered a significant vote share.
Widening the social base in UP
The data shows more than a dozen registered unrecognised parties have gone into alliances with BJP or Samajvadi Party which include the likes of Suheldev Rajbhar Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP), Apana Dal, Apna Dal (S), Nishad Party, Mahan Dal, Jan Adhikar Party, Janwadi Party (Socialist), Azad Samaj Party, Bhagidari Party, Bhartiya Vanchit Samaj Party, Bhartiya Manav Samaj Party, Janata Kranti Party,Rashtriya Uday Party, Vikashshil Insan Party, Qaumi Ekta Dal, and Peace Party among others.
The sociological profile of these small and marginal parties shows that a significant number of these have a natural base amongst the Most Backward Castes (MBCs) of Uttar Pradesh.
In the final assessment, BJP has taken the risk of banking solely on Modi’s appeal by making him the poll mascot in five assembly elections. And, this could be counter-productive if results go against the party? The BJP is therefore expected to change its strategy of denying tickets to a large numbers and thereby check the exodus from the party in Uttar Pradesh.
(K.S.TOMAR is national columnist and political analyst)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.