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Can BJP recreate Modi’s 2014 wave in Uttar Pradesh in 2019?

Can the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recreate the magic of 2014, when it won 71 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, and meet its ambitious target of winning 75 of the 80 seats in the state in the 2019 elections

india Updated: Jul 30, 2018 15:58 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
BJP,Uttar Pradesh,Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a mega ground-breaking event at Indira Gandhi Pratishthan, in Lucknow, India, on Sunday, July 29, 2018.(Subhankar Chakraborty/HT PHOTO)

Can the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recreate the magic of 2014, when it won 71 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh, and meet its ambitious target of winning 75 of the 80 seats in the state in the 2019 elections?

In an informal chat with editors in Lucknow recently, chief minister Yogi Adityanath said: “I guarantee 75 seats, including the Gandhis’ strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi.” Rae Bareli is former Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s constituency and Amethi is current party president Rahul Gandhi’s.

Experts aren’t sure that he can pull it off, arguing that ‘waves’ don’t usually recur in the state’s electoral history. They also foresee a fiercer direct fight between a combined Opposition and the BJP. Still, even strong critics admit that the Opposition is grappling with leadership issues and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity hasn’t waned.

The BJP’s 2014 performance was the best by a single party since 1984, when the Congress, riding a sympathy wave after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, won 83 of 85 Lok Sabha seats in undivided Uttar Pradesh. If the CM actually manages to translate his target into a tally, the BJP will not only create history in electoral politics of the state but also find it easier to return to power in the Centre.

Asked what gave him the confidence to aim for 75 seats, Adityanath simply said, “Wait and watch.” The chief minister appears to be confident, touring all 75 districts of the state in the past year since he assumed office. He dismissed the chances of a possible grand alliance: “The opposition has yet to decide under whose leadership they will contest the polls -- Mayawati, Mamata Bannerjee, Akhilesh Yadav or Rahul Gandhi.”

Adityanath may be banking heavily on communal polarisation that will blur caste lines and loyalties; Amit Shah’s scientific management of polls; and Modi’s mass appeal. That Modi and Adityanath will be the star campaigners is clear from their tour programmes -- the PM is expected to visit all the parliamentary constituencies in the state in the next few months, while the CM is now gearing up for yet another tour of the state. He is also deploying teams of ministers and bureaucrats to review the performance of welfare schemes.

Experts say that Adityanath could emphasise the TINA (there is no alternative) factor at a time when Rahul Gandhi’s wink has undervalued his hug during the Lok Sabha no-confidence debate; and talk about the Ayodhya issue, cow slaughter, and love jihad.

Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party (SP) cautioned his friend Rahul Gandhi, using a famous couplet of poet Bashir Badr, : “Koi haath bhi na milayega joh gale miloge tapaak se; yeh naye mizaaj ka shehr hai zara fasle se mila karo (no one will return your greetings if you embrace them in a rush; the mood is different now, maintain your distance).”

Still, analysts feel 75 does seem like a stretch, especially given that the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will fight the election together. Though politics is not pure arithmetic, the combined votes polled by the Congress, BSP and SP was 49.3% as compared to 43.3% of the BJP and its allies in 2014.

Allahabad-based Vinod Chand Dube, a socialist who has been watching the dance of democracy for the past five decades, cites two major reasons that will dent Adityanath’s 75-seats promise -- the caste combination under the SP-BSP and an air of despondency in the state. He identified three sections -- young people, farmers and the middle-class -- which may remain unaffected by communal polarisation.

Professor Rajesh Singh from Gorakhpur is also of the view that the Ram temple card may not cli-ck as no poll issue pays dividends twice. Admitting that there was a leadership crisis in the Opposition, Singh said that people still supported the Opposition (minus a face) in 1977, 1989 and 1996. Nonetheless, caste could play pivotal role in the elections, experts say.

While focusing on the personality of Modi, BJP president Amit Shah is also working on caste combinations in every constituency as he is well aware of the challenge that an SP-BSP alliance can pose.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 09:03 IST