Winning Uttar Pradesh is the biggest challenge that the BJP is facing after its spectacular performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Riding on a huge Modi wave, it had bagged 71 of the 80 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. However, there is no certainty that it will be able to replicate this historic victory in the 2017 Assembly elections, especially after its experience in Delhi and Bihar. In Delhi, it had won all the seven Lok Sabha seats, but lost most of its steam in a span of 10 months. It faced a most humiliating defeat when it got only three seats in an Assembly of 70 members. In Bihar too, its performance was nothing to write home about.
Yet, as the deliberations at the two-day national executive meet held at Allahabad show, the party has decided to continue with its two-pronged poll strategy and the division of labour between Prime Minster Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. While Modi will chant his vikas (develoment) mantra, Shah will focus on the contentious and emotional identity issues that have the potential for communal polarisation. Which of these two prongs will acquire greater importance will become clear only as the poll campaign unfolds and gains momentum.
The BJP enjoys an advantage in UP. In contrast to Bihar, where such implacable political foes as Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar buried the hatchet and formed an alliance, it faces a fragmented Opposition in UP. By no stretch of imagination, one can think of an alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — the two main contenders for power. Only Congress, Rashtriya Lok Dal and the ineffectual Left can come together. And, even if they join hands, the combine does not look very formidable as of now. But it may acquire some muscle if the BJP strategy fails to deliver.
When assembly elections take place in UP next year, the Modi government would have completed nearly three years at the Centre and the voters would have formed some opinion about its commitment to deliver on poll promises. The youth that had got tremendously enthused and energised by the hope that new jobs would be created, if Modi were voted to power would have some idea about his sincerity. So far, as the prices of essential commodities are concerned, the unanimous verdict goes against his government. In all likelihood, the talk of development will not be able to entice voters.
Modi’s attack on corruption too had a hollow ring. He said Mayawati and Mulayam Singh took turns to loot the state for five years and did not act against the other's corruption when in power. He perhaps forgot that the CBI and Enforcement Directorate work under the Centre and it was indeed he who had failed to initiate any action against either of them in the past two years. Moreover, the UP electorate cannot be entirely unaware of what has been happening in the Vyapam case in Madhya Pradesh.
In any case, the ideological agenda of the BJP is also making its presence felt more and more with each passing day. Even at Allahabad, the political resolution adopted by the national executive talks of the BJP as the party of “Bharat of present as well as Bharat of future.” Here, it must be noted that instead of India, ‘Bharat’ has been used in the resolution drafted in English. This conforms to the current mood in the BJP that the time has come to put into practice its core ideological beliefs.
As the speech of party president Amit Shah focused on Mathura and Kairana, it became clear that the communally divisive campaigns that began with Love Jihad — it paid dividends by stoking communal fires in Muzaffarnagar — ghar vapasi and beef eating will be intensified with Kairana being projected as the new flash point and a fiercely-contested “exodus” of the Hindus becoming the new poll plank to revive the old theme of “Hindus are not safe in their own country”. Needless to say that these campaign will have a strong impact on the Muslims.
The Samajwadi Party is a silent supporter of this dangerous game. However, its hope of getting the Muslim vote might crash as the Muslims might look for a more credible alternative. This alternative can come from either Bahujan Samaj Party or the Congress-RLD combine. If the Congress is really making serious effort to woo its Brahmin base back and if it succeeds in this effort, it will have a good chance to give the BJP the run for its money despite its organisational weakness.
While the two main players — SP and BSP — have clear chief ministerial candidates, the BJP and Congress are yet to announce. Modi praised the governments of Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh for their good work, but as of now the BJP has not declared its chief minister candidate. If Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka join the fray, it might think of Varun Gandhi. However, all this remains in the realm of speculation.
The Allahabad session of the BJP national executive further reinforced the impression that the BJP has virtually become a one-man party. Never before in its history, or in the history of its previous incarnation as Bharatiya Jan Sangh, has one man dominated it so completely and a personality cult has been so consciously and assiduously created. This is enough to make any man megalomaniac, and when that man is Narendra Modi, nothing can be predicted.
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Updated Date: Jun 14, 2016 13:35:32 IST