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Mainstream, VOL LV No 15 New Delhi April 1, 2017

Why and How BJP Won So Massively in Uttar Pradesh

Sunday 2 April 2017, by Bharat Dogra

The recent elections in Uttar Pradesh were very important and the results have surprised most people. It is very important to try to understand the election results in an unbiased way with a view to learning from them.

For the sake of better understanding the causes of the massive win of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, these can be divided into three categories—(1) those relating to mistakes and weaknesses of other leading parties; (2) those relating to the very successful planning and management by the BJP; and (3) those relating to malfunctioning of EVMs. While those supporting the BJP generally emphasise the first and second factors, those supporting other leading parties often mention the third factor. People coming from different socio-economic backgrounds also emphasise different factors. However, for an unbiased and proper under-standing we need a balanced understanding of all the three factors so that proper lessons can be learnt from these very important elections.

1. Weaknesses of Other Parties

It is often seen that any State which is not properly governed for five years faces strong anti-incumbency. This was true of Uttar Pradesh also. Some supporters of the SP have tried to paint a very rosy picture of the achievements of the SP Government in Uttar Pradesh, but the reality is that despite some good intentions and initiatives on the part of the young Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav, on the whole his five-year tenure had a record of poor governance including poor law and order situation. People of one caste dominated the scene in many villages and used their dominance arbitrarily. Akhilesh was not allowed to function independently by the old guard of his party and the continuing tussle between the two during the entire tenure adversely affected governance. This ultimately led to an open confrontation towards the end of the five-year period resulting in internal sabotage by the ousted and sidelined old guard who remain resourceful.

The BSP under Mayawati has sidelined many grassroot leaders in recent years and this has weakened the party. At some places these sidelined leaders and their associates also fought elections taking away a chunk of the BSP votes. Among various Dalit sub-castes, the BSP has been dominated by just one and the other sub-castes have felt sidelined.

For many local leaders the Congress party’s alliance with the SP came too late. It was not a bad thing but should have been announced much earlier. Due to its late announcement, many Congress leaders had already spent a lot of their time and other resources in preparing for their own election campaign and so felt suddenly left in the lurch by the late alliance. The Priyanka- Dimple talks for the alliance appeared interesting news but one should ask the leaders of the Congress, who were denied tickets in about 300 out of about 400 odd constituencies, about the impact of this alliance on their morale. As a result they could not possibly have extended their whole-hearted support to the SP candidates fighting elections in their own constituencies.

Alliances can succeed if these are entered into early enough and firmly enough to enable them to mature and grow at the grassroot level. Hasty alliances reached at the last minute just on the basis of telephone talks by top leaders cannot have the desired effect. 25 per cent and 15 per cent vote-share of the two parties is supposed to add up to 40 per cent, but the electoral maths is very different. When a significant section of local leadership is demoralised and there is internal sabotage, this maths can be quite different. This is an important lesson to take for the Lok Sabha elections.

2. Successful Management by the BJP

The BJP and Sangh Parivar taken together have by far the strongest political organisation in Uttar Pradesh which worked with more dedication and motivation compared to any other political force in these elections. As if this was not adequate, outsiders were also brought in. Even people in remote villages had visitors from these organisations. In areas where some old pracharaks were popular but no longer worked there, they were asked to come back and work in those areas for the time being. If the ticket had gone to community A in a particular area and community B was angry then such campaigners were selected who could specifically work on community B telling them it was not a question of the local leadership but a question of voting for Narendra Modi.

The overwhelming presence of Prime Minister Modi as a leader who presented hope for the future was very well propagated by them so that today many people, including the youth, are firmly convinced about Modi as a big hope of our times. Genuinely good measures of the Modi Government like Ujjwala which provides LPG gas to rural poor were highlighted by the campaigners very well while adverse effects of demonetisation were projected in a way to convince people that in the long run these will bring out money from the corrupt and exploiter elements. The opposition to Triple talaq, voiced strongly by Narendra Modi, was propagated widely as a very progressive step by the campaigners.

The BJP and Sangh Parivar managers planned their social engineering well in advance. They focussed on getting the support of various OBCs other than Yadavs. Among Dalits they focused on getting the support of various sub-castes other than the sub-caste which is considered to be the main strength of the BSP. Leaders from these communities which had a sense of being neglected were picked up on a preferential basis so that strong support of these castes could be obtained. In addition of course a broader strategy was drawn up to position the BJP as the party which should get the votes of all Hindus, building on their existing efforts to polarise people along religious lines.

All these efforts were successful in terms of getting more votes for the BJP ,whatever objections one may have on the basis of ethics or principles.

In addition, of course, the BJP certainly had the most financial and human resources to implement its carefully thought-out election strategy.

3. Malfunctioning of EVMs

While all the factors mentioned above are important in themselves, it is likely that their impact was enhanced by the malfunctioning of EVMs at least in some places. These complaints are being made mainly by people of the weaker sections and minorities. As a very well-informed Dalit woman leader told me, after I had assured her of complete confidentiality, people from her community in her area had voted overwhelmingly for the Congress but were left wondering when the results went in favour of the BJP in a big way. Like most of the persons interviewed for this article, she was not willing for her name to be quoted. She added that while she was speaking the truth, people in the village will not tell all this to a stranger as they fear attacks if they venture to speak the truth openly.

So this alleged malfunctioning of EVMs should also be taken as a factor which further increased the margin of the BJP’s victory. The extent of the role played by this factor in increasing the margin of the BJP’s victory cannot be stated at present but instead of ridiculing these allegations, the strong suspicions many people have expressed on this issue should be examined impartially and with an open mind.

The author is a freelance journalist who has been involved with several social movements and initiatives.