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UP crucial for BJP in the 2014 elections

The BJP's campaign for Delhi next year will depend heavily on Uttar Pradesh - a political forecast that actually is not so far-fetched. The BJP now has 115 members in the Lok Sabha. Unless it adds at least 50 more in the next election, it stands no chance of coming to power at the Centre. Varghese K George reports. Northern ray of hope

delhi Updated: Sep 09, 2013 04:23 IST
Varghese K George

The BJP's campaign for Delhi next year will depend heavily on Uttar Pradesh - a political forecast that actually is not so far-fetched.

The BJP now has 115 members in the Lok Sabha. Unless it adds at least 50 more in the next election, it stands no chance of coming to power at the Centre. The only way it can get most of these 50 seats is to do extremely well in Uttar Pradesh, a state that elects 80 members to the Lok Sabha, where the majority mark is 272. And given the fast-changing political scenario in the northern state, such a feat doesn't look impossible.

The importance the BJP attaches to UP is unmistakable, more so with the unexpected elevation of Rajnath Singh - a Thakur from the state - as president of the party recently. There is also speculation that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, widely expected to be the face of the party's campaign next season, might contest the Lok Sabha election from Lucknow. There is also speculation that Amit Shah, a confidant of Modi, may be put in charge of party affairs in UP.

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"We must win at least 40 seats in the state," Singh told a gathering of party functionaries recently. He was talking of a four-fold jump from the current 10 but one can't just laugh it off. Straws in the political wind in UP suggest that the BJP's chances of a resurgence are good as the incumbent Samjawadi Party is fast losing ground.

Here are three interconnected factors working in the BJP's favour in UP.

Communal polarisation: There have been nearly 120 communal clashes in various regions of UP over the past year. At least eight of these were full-blown riots. In this religious polarisation, the Congress, SP and BSP are all seekers of Muslim votes, and the BJP will be the beneficiary of any Hindu consolidation. Organisations associated with the RSS have been successful in creating a perception that the last 10 years of governance in UP and at the Centre have been unduly favourable to Muslims. "Without much fanfare we have been campaigning in villages, particularly on the question of cow protection. There is a resurgence among Hindus," says Chandramohan, a spokesperson of the state BJP. The Hindu Yuva Vahini, a fringe organisation run by the BJP's Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath has revved up its activities in the eastern region.

Modi factor: In urban centres of UP, and particularly among the youth, Narendra Modi's popularity is increasing. UP's political and social conditions are conducive to Modi's twin attributes -- a Hindu leader and a development driver. The surge of the BJP in urban centres of UP was registered even before Modi's arrival on the scene -- in the July 2012 municipal elections, with the party winning 10 of the 12 mayor posts.

Fast-changing caste alliances: The Thakurs are unhappy with the Akhilesh Yadav regime after the ouster of Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya from the government, and they are happy with the BJP after the elevation of Rajnath Singh. The Brahmins -- whose support was crucial to the victories of the BSP and SP in the 2007 and 2012 polls, respectively -- only need an alternative to jump the ship. A BJP on the ascendant will be just that. Potentially, the BJP catchment area will include all non-Yadav backwards, all non-Jatav Dalits and upper castes.

If all these pieces of realpolitik fall into place, the BJP will cross the first of several hurdles it will have to face before gaining power in Delhi after a decade.