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Complacent candidates, disgruntled caste groups, and more: What went wrong for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh

The overconfidence of several BJP leaders was at its peak during these elections, so much so that they did not even step out of their residences and try to connect with voters.

Lok Sabha elections are over, the BJP-led NDA has won the majority for the third time in a row. Despite this, the election results have emerged as a shocker for the BJP-NDA. The most shocking results for the BJP came from the most reliant state—Uttar Pradesh, where the BJP won 62 out of 80 seats last time and has now been reduced to just 33 seats. The significant drop in BJP’s seats warrants an analysis of what went wrong for the BJP despite its development works, construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya and so on.

Caste dynamics and alliances

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s best efforts in a decade of his government, the INDI Alliance successfully re-mainstreamed caste-based politics, especially in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP faced significant challenges from the caste-based mobilization of the opposition, particularly the INDI alliance, which included the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress. This alliance effectively capitalized on the caste equations in the state, which has a history of influencing electoral outcomes. The Samajwadi Party, with its strong Yadav and Muslim support base, and the Congress, trying to regain lost ground, managed to consolidate votes against the BJP. It took three parties who have literally no admiration for each other to come together to oppose the BJP effectively. It is interesting to recall how Akhilesh Yadav called its ally Congress a “chalu” party and appealed to people not to vote for Congress.

Conspicuously, the Samajwadi Party’s policy of polarisation of Muslim and Dalit votes overshadowed BJP’s development-based campaign. Muslim votes have traditionally gone against the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, and with SP and Congress cementing their alliance, the Muslim vote consolidated even more in seats where they are dominant. Moreover, as Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which once dominated the Dalit votes, has now nearly vanished, its vote bank shifted to the SP-Congress alliance. It is pertinent to note here that Uttar Pradesh has a 20% Muslim population and 20% Dalit population.

Political analyst Preetam Srivastava rightly said “The way BSP’s core voters got scattered, it is very clear that Dalits this time voted for the INDI alliance.”

The Samajwadi Party successfully managed to encash its M-Y [Muslim-Yadav] vote bank. BJP also failed to address the resentment of Rajputs who were complaining of underrepresentation and neglect by the government.

The Rajputs, who make up approximately 10% of the population in western Uttar Pradesh, are dissatisfied with the lack of Lok Sabha seats for their leaders. The BJP fielded only one Rajput candidate in the eight constituencies that voted in the first round, Kunwar Sarvesh Singh, who died the day after the election. In the remaining eight constituencies, the BJP had no Rajput candidates. The Rajputs have expressed their anger, convening a large mahapanchayat in Saharanpur in April this year. To no surprise, Congress’s Imran Masood defeated BJP candidate Raghav Lakhanpal in Saharanpur.

Source: ECI website

Besides, Rajputs, Dalit voters also turned against the BJP. There was a rumour that the Modi government in its possible third term would “change” the constitution, effectively reducing reservations. This rumour stemmed from Karnataka BJP leader Anant Hegde’s remarks that BJP would change the constitution. He apologised later. However, the damage was done and opposition leaders used this to build a narrative that the BJP if managed to get a thumping majority, would use it to end reservations.

Overconfidence of BJP candidates and complacency of BJP workers

Several BJP candidates have heavily paid the price of their overconfidence, and negligence of voters. BJP leaders in the state relied more on Prime Minister Modi’s charisma than their groundwork. In many areas in Uttar Pradesh, even those who voted for BJP were of the opinion, “Modi ke naam pe vote de rahe, nahi toh inko kaun jaanta hai” [We are giving vote in Modi’s name, otherwise, who even knows these people (BJP candidate)]. The overconfidence of several BJP leaders was at its peak during these elections, so much so that they did not even step out of their residences and try to connect with voters.

Similarly, BJP workers also remained complacent forgetting that merely saying “Aayega toh Modi hi” or “Abki baar 400 paar” does not win seats but a rigorous campaign does. While many BJP candidates were ensconced in their houses, Samajwadi Party and Congress gained ground. BJP needs to introspect into how will people connect with their leaders if they do not work for them, or visit localities, and villages in their constituency. Why will people vote for someone who has zero interest in understanding and addressing their grievances?

The BJP’s decision of heavily relying on the charisma of national leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath did not resonate as effectively this time. The opposition’s focused and localised campaign strategy, highlighting specific regional issues and addressing the concerns of various communities, proved to be more effective in garnering votes​.

Resentment among youths and students

The short-term Agniveer scheme and the repeated incidents of exam paper leaks contributed to youth and student dissatisfaction. Over 48 lakh candidates who had enrolled for police jobs were surprised when the exam was called off due to a paper leak.

Why even Ram Mandir could not help the BJP: The Curious Case of Ayodhya

In January this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. This was a historic moment as Hindus reclaimed the birthplace of Lord Ram after 500 years of continued struggle and sacrifice. While Ayodhya witnessed a significant transformation from being perennially neglected to becoming a tourist hub, with Increased economic activity in the area. Despite this, BJP candidate Lallu Singh lost the Faizabad seat to Samajwadi Party candidate Awadhesh Prasad by a margin of 54,567 votes.

Lallu Singh’s defeat shocked the BJP supporters not just in Uttar Pradesh but across the country with many questioning, what do the people of Ayodhya want that even Ram Mandir could not consolidate the Hindu vote?

Source: ECI website

BJP’s loss in Faizabad that includes Ayodhya: What went wrong

There are many factors contributing to BJP’s defeat in Faizabad. One of the key factors was resentment among people who were reportedly not given adequate compensation for their properties that were taken by the government for various infra projects. It is worth recalling that after PM Modi laid the foundation of Ram Mandir on 5th August 2020, he announced plans for the construction of Ayodhya Dham Airport, railway station, two km long elevated road to the Janmabhoomi temple complex and the development and 84 kosi parikrama marg etc.

For these infrastructure projects including the widening of roads, the administration demolished several houses and shops belonging to local residents. Nearly 450 shops and 20 temples were demolished in the process by 2022. It was alleged that affected people were given scant compensation after land acquisition and some affected families had to face a lot of hurdles to get compensation. Despite the state government’s efforts and distribution of over Rs 100 crore compensation, this resentment could not be curbed.

Besides, BJP’s Lallu Singh ensured his own defeat when he talked about changing the constitution. In April this year, Lallu Singh while addressing a public meeting in Milkipur said that the NDA would need a two-thirds majority to “change or make a new constitution”. “A government formed with 272 seats cannot amend the Constitution. For that, or even if a new Constitution is to be made, there is a need of over two-thirds majority..” Singh said. He later said that it was a “slip of tongue” adding that by changing he only meant “constitutional amendments”.

The damage, however, was done. Singh’s remarks spectacularly backfired for the BJP in an already polarised scenario and helped the opponents in their fear-mongering that the BJP would remove or change to constitution using its brute majority.

Absence of RSS, ground level Karyakartas basically ‘sat this one out’

The overconfidence was not limited to just BJP candidates but also reflected in the conduct of BJP’s high command. In May this year, BJP national president JP Nadda said that the party has become stronger and now runs itself. “Initially, we would have been less capable, smaller and needed the RSS. Today, we have grown and we are capable. The BJP runs itself,” Nadda said adding that RSS is the “ideological front”. This indicated that BJP does not need RSS on the political front, however, the Lok Sabha election results suggest that the BJP should reconsider its position on RSS’s involvement in election campaigning.

In the ru up to the elections, there were reports that many RSS members, who had earlier participated in ground level awareness programs, and even worked actively to get voters to go out and vote, chose to sit this election out. There were also reports of RSS cadre facing neglect and indifference from some senior party leaders.

Conclusion

Poor candidate selection, weak campaign, complacency of BJP leaders and workers, absence of RSS, controversial statements by BJP leaders alongside the opposition’s consolidation of Muslim, Dalit and Yadav votes coupled with the vote of those upset with BJP contributed to the party’s dismal performance in Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP needs deep introspection and some major overhaul structurally and mentally, before the 2027 assembly elections in India’s largest and most populated state.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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