The 2024 Verdict: BJP's Problems In Uttar Pradesh Go Beyond Poor Candidate Selection Or Cadre Indifference

Vikas Saraswat

Jun 09, 2024, 12:07 AM | Updated Jun 11, 2024, 11:48 AM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. (Rajesh Kumar/Hindustan Times via GettyImages) 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. (Rajesh Kumar/Hindustan Times via GettyImages) 
  • It would be inappropriate to attribute the Uttar Pradesh results merely to candidate selection or the success of Akhilesh Yadav's social engineering.
  • This was a vote consciously cast against the NDA and in favour of the SP-Congress coalition.
  • The results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections are out, and the path is clear for the incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi's third swearing-in ceremony.

    However, falling 32 seats short of a majority means the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will have to work within the confines of coalition politics this time. Clearly, this situation is not very pleasant for the BJP.

    Geographically, the party has expanded in several states where it was previously on the margins. In Tamil Nadu, although the party was unable to secure a seat, it increased its vote share from 3.7 to 11.1.

    On the western coast, by winning the Thrissur seat, the BJP has opened its account in Kerala for the first time.

    The BJP's performance has also been impressive in the eastern coastal states. In Odisha, the party not only won 20 out of 21 Lok Sabha seats but also came to power in the state for the first time.

    The party's performance has been quite good in both Telugu-speaking states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, as well.

    Despite this expansion, the BJP did not achieve expected success in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. The reasons for this vary from state to state.

    While it was Rajput discontent in Rajasthan, the Agniveer scheme in Haryana impacted the results.

    In Maharashtra, merger of half the opposition into the NDA meant that the voter was displeased with the ideology-free politics that had taken over the state. However, the party did anticipat some losses in these three states.

    The most surprising results came from Uttar Pradesh, where the party's tally fell behind even the Samajwadi Party's.

    Understanding the results of UP is a matter of curiosity not only for the party but also for political analysts. Looking closely at the vote in the state, in the 2022 assembly elections, the Bahujan Samaj Party received slightly less than 13 per cent of the vote, which fell to 9.44 per cent this time. It is believed that this benefited the INDI coalition.

    In addition to this drift in the Dalit vote, some castes from the OBC group also showed a tilt towards the coalition. The Saini vote in Rohilkhand, the Nishad vote in Doab, and the Kurmi vote in Awadh drifted away from the BJP.

    Rajput discontent against the BJP and its allies also had an impact in many places. In the absence of a major national or nationalist issue, this election reverted to the default state of Indian politics—casteism. Herein, Akhilesh Yadav's clever coalition formation outweighed BJP's poor candidacy.

    The problem that began with strong resentment against MPs was exacerbated by the indifference of the BJP and RSS cadre.

    However, apart from all these reasons, there were certain significant macro-factors that affected the election in Uttar Pradesh.

    The BJP's performance was poor in rural areas and in seats dominated by the Scheduled Castes and the OBC communities. It would not be entirely appropriate to attribute this trend merely to candidate selection or the success of Akhilesh Yadav's social engineering because the NDA's vote decreased seat by seat across the state while the INDI coalition's vote saw a spike.

    This was a vote consciously cast against the NDA and in favour of the SP-Congress coalition.

    Prime Minister Modi cannot be blamed for being a poor candidate choice, and yet, even he received 60,000 fewer votes in Varanasi compared to the last time. On the other hand, Ajay Rai received 1,70,000 more votes than the combined total of the SP-BSP coalition and the Congress in 2019.

    The profile of the affected seats indicates that the Congress's promise of one lakh rupees and the false narrative about BJP abolishing reservations were successful.

    The Congress's social media campaign not only successfully propagated the lie around reservations but also made its propaganda about EVMs headline news. By the time the fake video of Amit Shah, created by AI, was caught, it had already done significant damage.

    The BJP's social media team failed to counter the Congress's disinformation in the narrative war.

    The absence of a coalition like that in Bihar, with parties representing the EBC and SC communities, allowed the 'reservation will be abolished' narrative to gain traction in UP. While leaders like Manjhi and Chirag Paswan debunked this lie in numerous small public meetings in Bihar, no such effort was seen in UP.

    Open AI's revelation about the Israeli company Stoic's influence on Indian elections shows that technical manipulation could be a significant challenge in future elections.

    In many ways, the 2024 elections saw a repeat of the 'India Shining' blunder of 2004. It's true that the in infrastructure, provision of basic amenities, and GDP, the country has seen unprecedented growth, and about 25 crore people have risen above the poverty line. However, the portrayal of economic progress through terms like "Vishwaguru" and "Developed India" irked a large segment by reminding them of their relatively poor economic condition.

    The vote shift among the lower-income class shows that this kind of propaganda will keep annoying voters and will be risky as an election issue until more people are economically better off.

    Problems like poor ticket distribution, bringing in external leaders and neglecting the old cadre, have emerged in the BJP because of the growing high command culture.

    Prime Minister Modi's administrative record has been unprecedented. It is his extraordinary talent that the BJP has defied a two-term anti-incumbency to form a full majority government with the NDA. This would have been impossible under any other leader.

    However, central control and decisions imposed by Delhi have affected the dynamism of state governments. The top-down approach has made it difficult to accurately assess the seriousness of local issues.

    It's important to note that the high command culture was also a major reason for the Congress party's decline.

    The relatively poor results in Uttar Pradesh necessitate an analysis of the state government's working style, which shows an excessive reliance on bureaucrats. While Chief Minister Yogi has broken the back of organized crime and freed the state from fear, the neglect of public representatives and workers has led to organizational apathy.

    Despite some problems, just as Modi is essential at Centre, Yogi is indispensable for the party in the state. The uncertainty created by the opposition about Yogi's future, coupled with the lack of denial from the top, sent the wrong message to party supporters.

    The good news for the BJP is that it while it has received a setback, it has not lost power. Past records show that the party and its leadership have consistently adapted when necessary.

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