UP Election 2017: Will 'imported' candidates help or hurt BJP?

Choubey gaye Chhabbey banane, Dubey banker lautey”.

Those who know colloquial Hindi will understand the nuance of this wise, age-old adage instantly. And those who don’t, here is a close English parallel that explains BJP’s current predicament in battleground Uttar Pradesh: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.

 UP Election 2017: Will imported candidates help or hurt BJP?

The BJP might wind up losing much of its core vote bank. AFP

The party, which had been trying hard to rope into its fold non-Yadav OBCs and Dalits all these months, might in fact, lose much of its core vote bank – upper castes and Jats – in the bargain.

Already, Brahmins and Banias are beginning to look towards the Grand Alliance, if reports emanating from the grassroots’ level in eastern UP can be relied upon. What further adds poignancy to BJP’s problems is that while the Dalit camp remains united behind BSP as solidly as ever, non-Yadav OBC votes are likely to suffer a three-way split among BJP, SP and BSP.

Not too far away in the western parts of the state, most of the Jats appear to have raised the banner of revolt against the saffron outfit, thanks to notebandi. Read this slogan that has, of late, been gaining currency in the Jatland: “Modi tere raj me, munji gai byaj mein, aur prali gayi sharam-lihaz mein” (Modi, under your government, all my paddy crop has gone into paying off debt and, at the same time, the hay had to be donated for free). Don’t be surprised if you find this slogan painted across boundary walls and behind tractor-trolleys plying on the road leading to the Shamli sugar factory.

You may also recall that it was Jats who led the wave of ‘Hindu backlash’ across western UP in particular and North India in general in the aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar communal riots. And, as we all know, it was this backlash that hugely influenced the outcome of 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

In an exhaustive report titled ‘Angry with BJP, khaps play Jat card in west UP’, The Indian Express wrote on January 15: “With payments from sugar factories sluggish, minimum support price for crops stagnant, crop loan debts on the rise and Rabi sowing season impacted by demonetisation, Jat farmers, the dominant vote-base in this region, are up in arms against the BJP. So much so, that almost all khap panchayats here have declared that they will vote to defeat the BJP this time.”

The newspaper report further said: “On 8 January, around 35 khap leaders and thousands of Jats from UP and Haryana gathered at Kharad in Muzaffarnagar under the banner of Jat Arakshan Sangharsh Samiti to declare that the community would not vote for the BJP again. The rally was significant for its presence of Muslim Jats and speeches in which the BJP was accused of spreading communal hatred. And, although the key concern expressed at the rally was the denial of reservation to Jats, much of the talk among community leaders is also about problems plaguing the farming sector, lack of visible development and the aftermath of the Muzaffarnagar riots.”

Those who know UP rather well know the importance of khaps in the socio-political life of people in western UP. To their respective followers, khap diktats by chaudharys and fatwas by maulvis carry equal weight. Few people can dare to flout them.

Clearly, the BJP’s social engineering experiment has not been working to the satisfaction of its strategists. Maybe that’s why the party has been opting for import of ‘winning candidates’ from rival parties.

Here are just a few examples: Congress turncoat Thakur Dhirendra Singh, who had joined BJP on 8 January, has been given a party ticket from Jewar assembly constituency in Gautam Buddha Nagar. Ajit Pal Tyagi, who had entered the saffron camp in December from Congress, has been fielded from Muradnagar in Ghaziabad. And Pradeep Choudhary, yet another defector from Congress, has got the party nomination from Gangoh.

The BJP list of candidates also includes many new entrants from SP, BSP and RLD– Mahaveer Rana from Behat, Dharam Singh Saini from Nakur, Om Kumar from Nehataur, Mamtesh Shakya from Patiyali, Roshan Lal Verma from Tilhar, Romi Sahni from Palia and Bala Prasad Awashi from Dhaurahra (all sitting BSP MLAs).

Amit Shah’s party has also given a ticket to Rani Pakshalika Singh, the wife of sitting SP MLA Raja Aridaman Singh from Bah in Agra. You may recall that both Raja and Rani had joined the BJP earlier this week. Likewise, two MLAs belonging to Choudhary Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal – Dalveer Singh and Puran Prakash – have been chosen over aspirants from within their own ranks in Baroli and Baldev respectively.

Obviously, UP is too important a state to be taken lightly by the powers that be in the BJP. Don’t be surprised if you find many more imports of ‘winning horses’ from rival camps in the party’s upcoming second list of candidates. But what’ll happen if even imports turn counter-productive? Let’s not stretch our imagination too far at this juncture.

Updated Date: Jan 19, 2017 16:02:48 IST