Does a high voter turnout in West UP indicate a challenge for BJP?text_fields
Lucknow: Does a high voter turnout indicate any kind of anger against the incumbent government? If that is the case, then what became visible in most of the 58 state assembly constituencies that went to poll during the first phase of the 7-phased election in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, could be a reflection of a major challenge emerging before the ruling dispensation led by Yogi Adityanath here.
The ruling party had bagged as many as 53 seats in this belt, which was responsible for the surge that the BJP received in 2017 when it won an unprecedented 312 of the state assembly's 403 seats.
The huge win in this region was widely attributed to large-scale Hindu polarisation that the BJP managed in the aftermath of the infamous and violent Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013, that forged a deep divide between Hindus and Muslims in the Jat-dominated farmers' belt.
The year-long farmer's agitation against three controversial and unilaterally introduced farm laws by the Narendra Modi government somehow bridged this communal divide, leading to restoration of the traditional unity between Jat farmers and Muslims of the area.
Sure enough, that was bound to become a cause of worry about the ruling party, whose top leadership therefore did not leave any stone unturned to re-create the fissures between the two communities in the run-up to the current elections.
The roll-back of farm laws was a step in the direction of winning over the Jat farmers. But the decision came in rather late in the day by when some 700 farmers had already lost their lives. No wonder, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah pitched in to raise issues with the obvious intent of pitting the Jats and Muslims against each other. That effort seems to have gone in vain.
While various other factors have also come into play in this part of the country's most populous state, there were certain issues that are believed to have triggered anger among the dominant Jat community of this region. Besides price rise and failure of the government to create jobs seem to have also played heavily on the minds of the voter, according to reports reaching here.
"We are looking for change" seemed to be the common refrain of many voters contacted by local reporters, particularly in the vast rural expanse of the 11 districts that went to poll in this rich agrarian belt of the state. Contrary to BJP's oft-repeated claims that there was no impact of the one-year long farmers' agitation against three controversial farm laws unilaterally pushed by the Modi government (though withdrawn a year later) , today's voting speaks otherwise.
BJP's bid to overwhelm the electorate with its Hindutva card also did not seem to have cut much ice with the larger section of farmers who have yet to get over the pangs of how they were condemned ,rebuked and labelled as "terrorists", "khalistanis" and "separatists".
What appears to have added fuel to fire was a veiled threat by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath , who , while referring to the vociferous campaign undertaken by the Akhilesh Yadav-Jayant Chaudhary duo, said he would bring down their tempers. "I will take out all their heat and convert this place in Shimla after March 10, " he had asserted.
The remark has not gone well with the highly emotional Jats community that has apparently taken it as an indirect threat to the community. "Is that the language of a chief minister?" asked prominent farmers' leader and Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) chief Rakesh Tikait. "The chief minister's threat will boomerang, " he stressed.
BJP's much hyped 'lawlessness' charge against the Samajwadi Party may also not work in West UP. Even if it were to be believed that crime was on the rise during the Akhilesh Yadav regime (2012-2017) , voters were accusing Yogi Adityanath government for providing state protection in case of heinous crimes like the Unnao gang-rape, Hathras gang-rape, Lakhimpur-Kheri killing of farmers as well as the Gorakhpur killing of a young trader.
Even though Yogi Adityanath claims that action was taken in each of the cases, what is cleverly concealed that the government got into action only after intervention of the Supreme Court or Allahabad High Court.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's repeated attack against Akhilesh on the issue of "parivarvaad" (dynastic rule) also appears a bit too exaggerated. His allegation that 45 members of the Yadav clan were holding political positions was not backed with any data and therefore seemed like a deliberate attempt to tarnish Akhilesh's image. Fact remains that as of today, the Samajwadi Party chief has taken care to keep most of his family members away from politics.
Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), that was a major factor in the 2017 election, appears to have lost much ground in West UP. And the manner in which BSP supremo Mayawati had kept herself far away from electioneering this time reflects her wilful reluctance to withdraw herself from mainstream politics.
Many political analysts have described her as simply playing the role of a BJP 'B' team. As such, her decision to field a large number of Muslim candidates in West UP was also seen as a move to divide the Muslim vote in an obvious bid to give advantage to the BJP.
Considering that Muslims turned out in large numbers in most of the 58 constituencies today, seems to however, give an indication that the community was polarised in favour of SP-RLD combine which they see as the most potent force that could fight the might of the BJP, that is seen by them as "anti-Muslim".
While there can be no denying that BJP's tally is bound to come down from the peak of 53 in this 58-seat polling phase, what remains crucial is the extent of its loss. The top BJP leadership has moved heaven and earth to see that its losses were minimised.
Even today, while polling was on in the 58 constituencies; both Modi and Yogi were busy addressing rallies in other parts of West UP, where polling is due on February 14. And for most of time, it was just SP and its leader Akhilesh Yadav on their target.