Why UP election results could shock BJP

Rajeev Sharma
Rajeev SharmaMar 05, 2017 | 13:20

Why UP election results could shock BJP

Results of Uttar Pradesh elections may well be quite contrary to the poll bravado used so extensively by Team Modi. 

There is a sense of deja vu about how Team Modi has been handling the ongoing UP elections, arguably the political semifinals for Indian politics, before the 2019 finals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his handpicked president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah and their entire team of the government and the ruling party at the Centre have done it before - not once, but twice before. 


Team Modi approached Bihar elections in the last quarter of 2015 in a similar vein. Prior to that, Team Modi had done it in Delhi Assembly polls two years ago. 

Modi ensured carpet bombing in campaigning during Assembly polls for Delhi and Bihar and personally led the poll campaign. He lost both elections miserably for different reasons. 

He lost Delhi because he underestimated the vast political undercurrent in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which feasted on the Congress' vote share, and also, because he para-trooped a rank outsider, Kiran Bedi, and projected her as the BJP's chief ministerial candidate. She eventually lost even her own seat.

Assembly elections are much different from general elections and local issues as well as state leadership matter hugely.

Modi lost Bihar because of some ingenious political engineering, wherein Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United), Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress came together to forge a “mahagathbandhan” or “great alliance”, while Modi decided to go to Bihar polls without projecting his party's CM candidate.

Like in Delhi and Bihar, this time in UP too several chinks in Team Modi's armour are visible.

Like in Bihar, there is no chief ministerial candidate of the BJP, while it's two main rivals, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, have well-established CM candidates. Moreover, Team Modi's sole poll mascot is the PM himself, an experiment that backfired badly, first in Delhi and then in Bihar.


Assembly elections are much different from general elections and local issues as well as state leadership matter hugely. One simply cannot judge BJP's electoral chances for a crucial state like UP on the basis of the fact that the party had won 71 out of 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP in general elections nearly three years ago on its own steam. 

A prime question before the UP electorate should be that though nationally the image of Narendra Modi is still good and he continues to be far ahead of all Opposition leaders in public perception, but he is not going to administer the state himself. Will the UP electorate vote for an unknown UP version of a Manohar Lal Khattar or a Devendra Fadnavis? That's an important question. 

Next, the question is how is the BJP going to poll at least 30 per cent of the votes required to win UP, though the party had polled a whopping 42 per cent votes in the 2014 general elections? Those were different times when a Modi tsunami was sweeping the state, like the rest of the country. But this time, there is no Modi wave, let alone a tsunami!


Next, there are wide cracks within the BJP in UP this time. For instance, consider the Yogi Adityanath factor, the BJP strongman in UP whose vast followers are livid over the fact that he has not been projected as the party's CM candidate. 

Next, consider the Rajnath Singh factor, another BJP heavyweight in UP and the Union home minister, who has been party president and was majorly responsible for the annointment of Modi as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate way back in September 2013 at the expense of veteran LK Advani.

Rajnath Singh has rocked the Modi-Shah boat with his calculated remarks recently that the party should have given tickets to Muslims while expressing surprise that the BJP did not field even a single candidate from the community in 403 seats.

Union ministers like Uma Bharti and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi have made similar noises which may well be part of bad portents for the Modi-Shah duo if the BJP were to lose UP on March 11.

Next, the Samajwadi Party-Congress pre-poll coalition may well prove to be a game-changer, largely because of the youthful image of Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, and the reasonably good work done by Akhilesh in a large state like UP while braving challenges within and outside. Also, anti-incumbency may not be a factor. After all, haven't we seen this in Bihar in 2015?

Against this backdrop, it looks very uncertain as to how Team Modi is going to repeat its general elections' performance in the state Assembly polls now.

Actually, the phrase “Team Modi” is quite misleading given the PM's style of functioning as an autocratic leader who hardly believes in team work.

However, there is one saving grace for Modi this time in UP. Unlike in Bihar, the RSS has not rocked his boat in UP so far like it did for the BJP in the middle of Bihar elections with anti-reservation remarks.

The million-dollar question is whether this concession from the RSS will be enough to allow the BJP to sail through the choppy UP electoral waters? Well, we will know on March 11, but my gut feeling is that the BJP is in for a shock in UP.

Last updated: March 06, 2017 | 16:01
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