In the wake of the Bulandshahr violence, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be going through a bad patch: assailed by allies, it is in danger of losing social constituencies and is facing a credibility crisis.
Let’s begin with Uttar Pradesh, where two senior police officers said the priority of the forces is finding out who allegedly killed cows and dumped their carcasses in a village in Bulandshahr district; this after a police officer was killed by a mob, and his service revolver and mobile phone stolen. One of the senior police officers who outlined these priorities is the director-general of police (DGP) and the other is heading the special investigation team investigating the mob violence in Bulandshahr. The latter has actually given a pass to Bajrang Dal leader Yogesh Raj, an accused named in the first information report who is on the run after he uploaded a video claiming innocence.
BJP youth wing leader Shikhar Agarwal, another accused, also released a video clip not just proclaiming his innocence, but also levelling serious charges against the murdered officer, including that of being in cahoots with Muslim leaders to orchestrate attacks on cows. It remains to be seen whether he gets a pass as well.
It has also been reported that local BJP leaders had written to the party’s Bulandshahr MP Bhola Singh three months ago alleging that the lynched officer, inspector Subodh Kumar Singh, the station house officer in charge of Siana police station, had been obstructing Hindu religious events.
Are the statements made by the police officers part of a command performance? We don’t know. But we do know that they chime with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s reported instructions for strict action against those involved in cow slaughter delivered at a meeting with the chief secretary, principal secretary (home), DGP and additional DGP (intelligence). This might succeed in playing to the Hindutva gallery, but it is hardly a great advertisement for ‘good governance’.
There have already been signs that the events in Bulandshahr have not gone down well with one ally. Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) leader OP Rajbhar issued a statement saying the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad were responsible for the violence and should be banned. He earlier said the Ram temple issue was being raked up to garner votes and backed Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav’s demand for the deployment of the army in Ayodhya.
Though the SBSP has no Lok Sabha members, it does have four MLAs and Rajbhar is a minister in the Uttar Pradesh cabinet. The ‘community’ Rajbhar represents, the Rajbhars, does not have a statewide presence, but it constitutes 18 percent of the population in eastern Uttar Pradesh and can affect the electoral outcome in around 20 districts. Clearly, Rajbhar’s statements will not be music to the ears of the BJP brass.
The same goes for the resignation of Uttar Pradesh Dalit MP Savitri Bai Phule from the BJP. The Lok Sabha member from Bahraich resigned on Thursday, calling the party anti-Dalit and accusing it of orchestrating ‘divisive politics’. Whether or not Phule returns to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) remains to be seen, but given that the BJP and the Union government has been under the cosh so far as its Dalit policies and politics are concerned, from Dalit allies and its own Dalit leaders, this resignation will be yet another alarm bell. The development the BJP most fears is Opposition unity, whether it is nationwide or regional. In Uttar Pradesh, it risks losing a substantial chunk of the 71 seats of 80 it won in 2014 if the BSP and SP contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as allies.
Other alliances elsewhere will further nibble away at the 282 Lok Sabha seats it won in 2014. The prospect of a one-party majority is anyway dead in the water. In this context, the imminent departure of Upendra Khushwaha and his Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in Bihar will come as a further blow. The RLSP won three seats in the 2014 elections and 3 percent of the vote. But the Koeri community, which the party represents, is concentrated in some areas, which allows it to punch above its weight.
If Khushwaha joins the Rashtriya Janata Dal-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in Bihar, by itself it may not affect the 2019 outcome much, especially since the Janata Dal (United) is now an ally of the BJP. But such a development will have to be viewed in the overall context of NDA and the ‘social engineering’ project masterminded by BJP president Amit Shah that has gone into its making.
Former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has already quit the NDA with his Hindustani Awam Morcha and joined the mahagathbandhan, or grand alliance, forged against the BJP in Bihar.
Added to the Hindi belt travails of the BJP, comes the news that the Calcutta High Court has, in an interim order, turned down an appeal against the Bengal government’s decision to refuse permission to a rath yatra which was scheduled to start from the north Bengal district of Cooch Behar today. Shah was to have led the yatra, which was one of three planned to criss-cross Bengal, covering all its 42 Lok Sabha and 294 Assembly constituencies, before ending in a meeting in Kolkata in January 2019.
On the face of it, this is a setback to the BJP’s plans to challenge the ruling Trinamool Congress by experimenting with its brand of polarisation in Bengal. In truth, however, the BJP’s prospects in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections continue to be bleak, with practically no sign of a serious breakthrough despite its impressive increase in support fuelled mostly by the migration of the Left Front base to it.
Despite that, if one were to add up what has been happening, this seems to be the winter of BJP’s discontent. It can be alleviated, though, if it reels in a good performance in the five Assembly elections scheduled to end today. For that it will have to wait till 11 December, when the results will be announced.
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Updated Date: Jan 08, 2019 13:10:31 IST