The BJP is getting a taste of its own medicine. A party that revels in engineering defections in rival parties to shore up its numbers is now facing desertions from its own ranks in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. A string of exits, including some senior Ministers and legislators, has put the saffron party on the defensive in a State that it has turned into a laboratory for divisive politics. The key grievance of those who have defected to the Samajwadi Party, a major contender for power, is that the BJP has been ignoring the OBCs and Dalits in the State and was only interested in pursuing communal agenda. The contest in UP is largely bipolar between the BJP and the coalition of parties led by the SP. And the resultant effect of this bipolarity may push the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress to the margins in State politics. The BJP leadership must introspect on the reasons for the growing resentment among its ranks and why its bombastic claims about its political invincibility have fallen flat. It had adopted a tactic of luring the rival party leaders in West Bengal ahead of elections last year, but the gambit failed eventually. In all, the BJP fielded 19 turncoat MLAs in the WB elections but only six of them could win. The political stakes in UP, however, are very high for the BJP. The immediate impact of the resignations by heavyweight Ministers and OBC leaders Swami Prasad Maurya and Dharam Singh Saini, and influential ‘Gujjar’ community leader Avtar Singh Bhadana is likely to be felt in selection of candidates for the forthcoming polls. The Uttar Pradesh poll outcome is bound to have an impact on the national politics and shape the contours of the battle in the 2024 general elections. Any setback for the saffron party will mark the beginning of its downfall and accelerate the opposition’s unity efforts.
The Yogi Adityanath government, which has been on the path of rabid Hindutva, faces popular discontent owing to price rise, unemployment and communal tensions. In parts of western Uttar Pradesh, the party may face backlash from the farming community. After coming to power in 2017 with a landslide majority, the party suffered a significant setback in the rural body elections in its bastions of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Lucknow and Gorakhpur. The Akhilesh Yadav-led SP is seeking to capitalise on the growing perception that Adityanath has presided over a ‘Thakur Raj’, favouring his own upper caste Thakur community while thwarting other castes who were integral to the BJP’s winning formula last time around. Swami Prasad Maurya quit the party citing “gross negligence towards Dalits, farmers and backward youths.” It appears that while the 2017 polls were defined by the assertion of Hindutva politics, it may well be the time for the return of Mandal politics in the coming polls.
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