By : Shashank Suresh
As the country has just started recovering from the devastating 2nd wave of Covid, all the parties in UP have started gearing up for Assembly elections. BJP’s senior leadership has begun making arrangements for the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections next year. In the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections early next year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has set an aim of capturing more than 300 seats.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) will have state elections in March 2022. UP had lost its traditional national relevance between 1998 and 2014, as those in power in Delhi did not place a high value on the state. However, since 2014, UP has served as the bedrock of Modi’s national dominance. Despite being from Gujarat, Modi has chosen Varanasi as his election stronghold. The BJP won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh in 2014, and 62 in 2019. In the 2017 state elections, the BJP swept out every major party in a historic win, reversing a lengthy trend. Modi would not have secured a legislative majority in 2014 or 2019 without UP. His political prospects are dependent on UP.
Polling and Covid
The curve of Covid’s second wave has begun bending in UP recently, but the ghastliness that occurred in March-April stunned the residents, who are still recuperating. Covid patients dying screaming for oxygen and ventilator beds would never have crossed the minds of the capital Lucknow, which represents mini-UP. By posting notifications and circulars on the front gate, premier hospitals in Uttar Pradesh were turning down patients and even dismissing them owing to oxygen deficiency. These tragic events, which have been reinforced by the media, have shattered all the constraints of a pre-determined narrative for the approaching election, necessitating the establishment of a new political language.
The positioning of the West Bengal polling results, as well as the subsequent UP Panchayat election, have combined to become the BJP’s most recent vote catastrophe. In Uttar Pradesh, there were 3,051 Zila panchayat seats, with the Samajwadi Party winning over 1,000 and the BJP close to 800. While the consequences of these results have trickled down to rural areas of UP, the Rashtriya Lok Dal has seen a revival in the western portion of the state. Farmers’ agitation against three agricultural regulations, Ajit Singh’s tragic death, and Jayant Chaudhary’s aggressive attitude in protest while rubbing elbows with the Bharatiya Kisan Union have given RLD fresh life.
The importance of Caste
Even though Covid has changed Uttar Pradesh’s political language, the caste equation will continue to play a damage control role in the upcoming election due to its inherent character. A counter-polarization occurred in the 2019 Lok Sabha election when the SP and BSP formed an unusual coalition to defeat the BJP. The SP-BSP was counting on Muslims (19%), SC/Jatavs (11%), and Yadavs (9%), but the BJP responded with OBC/Non-Yadavs (26%), General (23%), and SC/Non-Jatavs (10%) votes. The BJP will be hoping that a fractured opposition, voter forgetfulness, and the brand of PM Modi and CM Yogi will work in their favor, but the local element, which is presently dominated by health concerns, will be crucial.
Meanwhile, other important parties’ Muslim vote-banks, like the BSP’s, maybe null in 2022, since the West Bengal election outcome has given a clear message to the minority. In Muslim-dominated areas, though, an alliance with a newcomer AIMIM might be a gamechanger. For openers, the AAP won a few seats in the UP-Panchayat elections and may have a say in a few seats in Western UP. The revival of the RLD by joining farmers’ protests and the compassion factor outplaying in Ajit Singh’s memory might potentially hurt the BJP’s fortunes in the Western region.
Congress has become less relevant in Uttar Pradesh as a result of its consistently poor performance, but it still has the potential to sabotage the ruling dispensation’s vote share. The main opponent would be the Samajwadi Party, which may take advantage of anti-incumbency, the Covid issue, and executive incompetence, among other factors. However, the BJP’s election machinery, RSS’s booth-level cadre, vast resources, status as a social media czar, PM Narendra Modi’s stature, the construction of the Ram Temple, various State schemes, CM Yogi Adityanath’s image, and the government’s claims during the pandemic give the BJP a significant advantage.
Division over next CM?
AK Sharma, the newly-appointed vice president of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, has backed Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister candidate for the state Assembly elections next year, despite reports of internal strife within the party. Sharma, a close adviser of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, endorsed Adityanath as the CM candidate for the forthcoming Assembly elections in a letter to state BJP president Swatantra Dev Singh.
Swami Prasad Maurya, a prominent BJP leader, and UP minister claimed earlier today that the BJP’s national leadership will name Uttar Pradesh’s next chief minister following the state Assembly elections next year. Recently, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya made a similar comment, saying that the party’s national leadership will select who will run in the forthcoming elections.