Understanding The 'SOCIAL' Factors Behind BJP’s Performance In UP

The UP Index

Jun 19, 2024, 01:41 PM | Updated 02:54 PM IST

A BJP meeting in Uttar Pradesh(SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/Getty Images)
A BJP meeting in Uttar Pradesh(SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP/Getty Images)
  • BJP's UP losses stemmed from overconfidence, communication failures, internal sabotage, arrogant leaders, and local issues.
  • The dust has settled on the general elections 2024. Prime Minister Modi and his council of ministers have taken oath for Modi 3.0. Despite winning fewer seats than expected, it looks like the third term of Modi Sarkar will be as smooth and seamless as the previous two terms.

    Important allies like the Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) have firmly expressed their commitment to back Prime Minister Modi and his government for the next five years, thereby killing the hopes of the INDI alliance’s attempt at government formation.

    First thing first. The number of seats notwithstanding, this is a clear verdict in favour of Prime Minister Modi and the NDA. He is the only Prime Minister since Jawahar Lal Nehru to win three consecutive terms in Lok Sabha. This is a massive feat to achieve, more so for a non-Congress alliance and leader.

    The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) alone won 240 seats, more than the entire INDI alliance. Congress on its own could not win this many seats in the last three elections combined.

    BJP as a party has many positives to celebrate this time. The 2024 election results are best for BJP in terms of becoming a truly pan-India political powerhouse. The party was taunted for being the so-called 'cow-belt party' or 'Hindi heartland party,' for decades.

    There are at least four noteworthy performances of the BJP in this election. First, winning the Odisha assembly elections on its own for the first time ever. Second, opening the party’s account in the communist den Kerala. And third, increasing its vote share in the Dravidian heartland, Tamil Nadu. The party also gained significantly in both Telugu-speaking states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

    Now, let’s talk about the setbacks. The party got unexpected results in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

    While numbers in Maharashtra and West Bengal were somewhat expected, the shocking performance in Uttar Pradesh was not anticipated at all.

    The results in UP came as a rude shock not just to the BJP but to everyone else. While most of the observers were predicting a landslide victory for BJP in UP, some of them did say that the BJP will not get more than 50-55 seats. But none predicted that the party’s seat tally will decrease by half in 2019.

    A decline of such magnitude cannot be attributed to one single reason. This was a highly localized election and hence seats were lost due to multiple reasons.

    So far, as I have understood, BJP’s loss was primarily due to the 'SOCIAL' factor. Let’s analyse how.

    S – Social Engineering

    Since 2014, the BJP has practised a different set of social engineering. The party played caste politics at two levels.

    At one level, the BJP always projected itself to be a caste-neutral party by appointing chief ministers from non-dominant castes in many states. Thus, Jharkhand got a non-tribal CM, Haryana got a non-Jat CM, and Maharashtra got a non-Maratha CM. These non-conventional choices helped the party to cement its 'Hindutva Chhavi' among a larger Hindu base.

    But at the same time, the BJP also carefully stitched alliances with smaller caste-based parties, particularly in northern India. The ticket distribution was always well thought out based on caste equations on that seat.

    This time, however, it seems ticket distribution was done randomly without analysing the caste arithmetic in the area.

    Samajwadi Party ticket distribution seemed a well-thought-out strategy. They gave fewer tickets this time to their core support group, Muslim-Yadav and gave a large number of tickets from other non-core caste groups like Brahmin, Kurmi, Thakur etc. While doing so, they also managed to take care of seat-wise caste arithmetic.

    BJP failed here miserably. The desertion was at two levels. First, the party had to face the anger of their core support groups like Rajput, Brahmin, and Baniya on many seats. And the blame squarely lies with the BJP. Many party leaders made outrageous comments against these castes and the party remained a mute spectator, not doing anything to control the damage.

    Second, new caste groups from OBC, SC-ST groups, which had supported the party since 2014, shifted away from the party this time primarily due to faulty ticket distribution. Kurmi-dominated Awadh region had no Kurmi candidates from the BJP.

    Dropping a high-performing MP like Gen VK Singh from the Ghaziabad seat angered Rajput voters in Western UP massively. Banda, Pratapgarh, Kaushambi, and Allahabad were lost due to Rajput-Brahmin anger.

    12-15 seats were lost because of this very reason.

    O – Overconfident BJP

    The second important factor was the party’s overconfidence. Many people say that ‘Abki Baar, 400 Paar’ was a brilliant marketing slogan galvanising the supporters to work for the 400-seat target.

    The reality seems different. This slogan made party workers and core voters complacent. They thought the party was anyway winning comfortably. Core voters did not feel motivated enough to go out and vote. Hot summers and disillusion with candidates were another reason for lower turnout. However, the BJP lost as the opposition vote groups always vote like they have a mission to defeat the BJP.

    Voting percentage in 2024 dropped to 56.92 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, a drop of almost 3 per cent from 2019. This resulted in BJP’s vote share dropping significantly from 2019.

    On top of that, BJP President J P Nadda made a remark during a media interaction that BJP is not dependent on RSS now. It has grown big enough to manage and win elections on its own. This irked the RSS cadre. The same cadre that visited almost every house in every corner of the country barely three months back during the Ram Mandir Pran Pratishthapana ‘Akshat Vitran’ campaign was absent during the elections.

    Complacency and lower turn-out affected at least half a dozen seats where win-loss margins were less than 25,000.

    C – Communication Failure

    Another big reason for the loss was communication failure — both offline and online.

    Many have not commented on this. In fact, no one has attributed BJP’s loss to communication strategy so far.

    But this is real. INDI alliance’s communication, especially on social media, was top-notch.

    BJP’s campaign has nothing new to offer. They remained stuck around toilets, houses, bank accounts etc. State BJP campaign could not think beyond double engine ki sarkar and bulldozer. There was no future narrative in the campaign, apart from India becoming third third-largest economy in Modi’s third term. These are good for newspaper headlines but do not connect with common voters.

    On the other hand, the INDI alliance’s 'khatakhat' campaign caught people’s attention. However fiscally irresponsible this poll promise may have been, the reality is that it attracted a large number of women voters.

    Many fake videos of BJP leaders went viral on social media. Most notable was one of Amit Shah's about ending the reservations. By the time the party realised and countered, it was too late.

    Congress was ahead in the on-ground campaign as well. By now, we have seen hundreds of videos of Congress workers going door to door explaining the Rs 1 lakh guarantee scheme. This made a huge difference, evident from the fact that large number of women lined up outside Congress offices to demand Rs 1 lakh, immediately after the results were announced.

    In the end, Congress and other parties of the INDI alliance were able to create and execute a campaign which could draw the attention of voters in Uttar Pradesh.

    I – Internal Sabotage

    Since the election results were announced on 4 June, many BJP leaders who lost have spoken about ‘bhitarghat’.

    Former CM Kalyan Singh’s son and 3-time MP from Etah constituency, Rajveer Singh spoke to reporters that ‘bhitarghat’ was the reason behind his loss. He claimed many others also lost due to this.

    He is not entirely wrong. Internal sabotage was playing on many seats.

    Raebareli is a prime example, where a local MLA did not campaign for party candidate Dinesh Pratap Singh. The same was happening in Lakhimpur Kheri, Salempur, Chandauli seats. Result — BJP candidates lost.

    Muzaffarnagar was lost because the party’s Thakur and Jat leaders were working against each other.

    Basti, Hamirpur, and Ballia are some of the other seats lost due to the internal struggle of local leaders. Local MLAs, corporators, and party functionaries did not come out to campaign for their Lok Sabha candidates.

    Even high-profile seats like Varanasi, Prayagraj, Ayodhya, and Lucknow where the party was sure of big wins, were either lost or won with a reduced margin. Reason — local leaders did not campaign.

    A – Arrogant Leaders

    Being in power for long has its own set of challenges. Keeping yourself grounded throughout is one among these.

    BJP has been in power at the centre for 10 years and in the state for seven years now. This has created a sense of entitlement and indifference in many leaders.

    Pankaj Chaudhary, MP from Maharajganj, boasted in a video that even if he goes to sleep throughout the election, he will win by at least 3.5 lakh votes. He escaped the defeat somehow, winning by just 35,000 votes.

    Similarly, the party candidate from Hamirpur claimed, "I will see who has the guts to defeat me." He lost.

    Sultanpur, Pratapgarh, Mohanlaganj, Lakhimpur Kheri — all lost mainly because of anger against BJP candidates.

    In Ballia, people say Neeraj Shekhar was never seen among people of his constituency. He also lost. In Mau, the party cadre was not ready to campaign for OP Rajbhar’s son, because of his past comments about BJP and its leaders.

    L – Local Challenges

    Another factor which made a difference was certain local issues which were not dealt with effectively.

    Since the start of the election campaign, power cuts have become a talking point in the entire state. Even in the state capital of Lucknow, there were regular power cuts, sometimes for many hours. This was partly due to increased demand, but majorly due to the inefficiency of the department.

    Similarly, paper leaks have been an issue for a long time. No one can deny the fact that thousands of students have suffered due to frequent paper leaks. Although, arrests were made and action was initiated in all such cases but cancellation of exams irked youngsters for sure.

    Another issue was the lack of any big recruitment drive for major government departments. There have been no efforts to fill the vacancies in education, police or health departments in the last 3-4 years. Some recruitments were made in health, police, and irrigation departments but those were not enough.

    People kept flagging the issue of stray animals, especially cows, regularly. However, the government kept saying that enough cow shelters have been opened in the state and all stray animals are being kept in those shelters. The reality is that regular incidents are reported in the state of people being attacked by bulls, and their crops being destroyed.

    All said, none of these issues are so big that cannot be resolved. Government which can eliminate Encephalitis from the state or can destroy the mafia and big-ticket corruption, can certainly solve these issues also. It is only a question of government’s will and priority.

    One thing is clear. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath remain the best bet for the party in the state. Their popularity remains sky-high. People still look up to them and hope that only these two can transform the state. People just wanted to punish local candidates.

    General elections are over. People have spoken. State elections are three years away. Party leadership and state government have enough time to overcome these challenges.

    People of Uttar Pradesh certainly want Yogi Adityanath back in 2027, there is no doubt about that.

    The author writes on developmental and infrastructure stories from Uttar Pradesh

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