After losing in Delhi and Bihar, BJP has big challenge ahead in Uttar Pradesh. After sweeping the State in the general elections of 2014, the party has been on a downward slope. Recently, BJP President Amit Shah claimed that the party will get a majority in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and exhorted its cadres to inform the people about the Narendra Modi government’s achievements. When Mayawati spoke in the Rajya Sabha and forcefully reiterated her demand for a Dalit member in the committee investigating Rohith Vemula’s suicide, she was not in a mood to listen to anyone. The BSP chief brushed aside the Chairman and told him, “You listen to what I have to say.” Mayawati told the HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who had threatened to cut off her head if the former UP CM was not satisfied, that she was not impressed–and mischievously asked her what Irani would do now. Mayawati’s speech on Vemula was not marked with great flair. Her tone remained monotonous, but the aggression was palpable. And this aggression was expected as she was relatively silent for long without issues. They are her vote bank in UP. Mayawati had three cleared objectives in her speech: 1). Use the Vemula issue to consolidate and polarize the entire Dalit community behind her. 2). Project a strong anti-BJP message to send a signal to the state’s Muslims; and 3). Position herself as a ‘strong leader’ ready to take over Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
On the other hand, there are three other issues that might go against BJP in UP. Dalits in UP are heterogeneous and while Jatavs, Mayawati’s own community, is solidly behind her, other non-Jatav Dalit communities often incline towards BJP. We have seen this trend in the 2014 General Elections. By picking up the issue that discriminates against a Dalit student, Mayawati hopes to consolidate all Dalit communities–or at least, sow a seed of doubt in their minds about the BJP.
Mayawati’s newly found aggression is also a signal to the state’s Muslims that they can bank on her. And finally, the BSP hopes to convert the Uttar Pradesh 2017 battle to one where Mayawati is projected as a ‘strong leader’.
The Samajwadi Party government’s tenure is, in the public perception, associated with a degree of lawlessness and a weak CM, riddled with super-CMs from his family and party. This is contrasted with Mayawati’s term, where she was seen to be strict on law and order and who kept the administration under tight control. If people in UP today look back at her rule with nostalgia, it is because she was strong. Meanwhile, BJP assumes that there is no challenge before the party in 2017 as the state’s people are fed up with caste politics unleashed by parties like the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Ahead of the assembly elections, due next year, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has rediscovered the maxim: United we stand, Divided we fall. Accordingly, the party is launching a massive effort to win over dissidents, both within the party and those who have parted ways. They will be drafted into the districtwise samanvay samiti (coordination committee) to work closely with the party leadership in the coming campaign.
The party is perturbed that, at the moment, the BJP state unit is beset with dissidence. In the 16th general election, the party swept the state winning 73 of the 80 seats in the Lok Sabha—a record for the BJP.
The need for coordination committees was felt because of the ongoing differences in the top rung of the BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit. While senior leaders admit that the BJP has several factions in Uttar Pradesh, the problem is visible as the party has not been able to choose its state president. There is an internal fight within the party leaders for becoming state president of the party and because of which lobbying has been started, as it is an important post. Some of the senior leaders of Uttar Pradesh, both at the national and the state levels are trying to influence their views but party President Amit Shah will take the final decision.
Senior leaders pointed out that though a coordination committee is not a constitutional body in the party, it was started to accommodate all party leaders so that there is no dissidence and people don’t quit to join other political parties.
BJP is trying to accommodate as many leaders as it can through these committees, so that the dissidents, former MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) and MPs (members of Parliament) return to the party and start working for the BJP again. Political analysts cautioned that while the effort to start the coordination committees is a “good step” towards team building, but there are inherent differences and contradictions in the BJP, both at the national and state level.
Mr. Shah set to redo his national team in by the second week of March; it will be interesting to see just who is finally going to Lucknow, as a BJP’s state unit president. For a struggling BJP to even appoint a party president to engage the complex caste arithmetic of Uttar Pradesh, Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani can be an ideal candidate along with other contender who is also Union Minister in Modi’s government.
With Rajnath Singh eminently suits the UP bill to confront the entrenched charismatic Opposition leaders like Mayawati, Mulayam but that will unsettle Union cabinet with none in BJP to step into Rajnath’s shoes. Modi will also not be inclined to spare him for UP when the Centre is yet to grapple with increasing problems created by the constant side-kicks of left supported Congress. Irani’s parliamentary performance has no relevance to UP’s rural voters. After its Lok Sabha victory, the BJP chose to rest on oars without taking steps to consolidate by nurturing and projecting local leadership or by drafting suitable people from the central cabinet to lead the party in UP.
Rajnath Singh has previously served as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh from 2000 to 2002. Losing an active member of central team should be gain for the party as he as a chief ministerial candidate can save BJP. Muslims are unhappy with Mulayam and tactically vote for BSP. SP or BSP with whom Rahul goes may tilt the balance. Neutrals will like to vote for a formidable combination. In any case, BJP has a record immensely difficult to sustain.
Irani’s so called fiery speech ended up opening a Pandora’s Box, for the time being. It’s put on hold due to budget; it will be taken up in right time by Mayawati to expose the lies of Irani. UP does not belong to BJP, results are very clear. BJP’s winning streak is over, unless Ram Temple attracts some publicity.
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