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Challenges ahead for Yogi Adityanath as BJP loses ground in UP

Between March and May, the BJP has lost four by-elections in Uttar Pradesh. The losses have come in both the eastern and western parts of the state.

india Updated: Jun 01, 2018 14:33 IST
Sunita Aron
Sunita Aron
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Kairana byeelection results,kairana bypoll results,kairana by election
In the March by-elections, the BJP lost Gorakphur, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s constituency. (AFP)

He’s become the go-to person for the BJP’s central leadership when it comes to campaigning in far-flung non-Hindi speaking states such as Tripura and Karnataka. Yet, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s record in home elections since a landslide win in 2017 has been anything but impressive.

Indeed, in the period between March and May, the score is 4-0, and not in his favour. Worse, the losses have come in both the eastern and western parts of the state.

The western part of the state is often described as the BJP’s communal lab for two reasons — a high concentration of Muslim population, which at the time of polling creates reactionary voting in Hindu areas, and the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots which violently divided the Muslims and Jats , the two communities that the late Chaudhary Charan Singh had assiduously united.

The tallest Jat leader from the region had built a social coalition of castes called MAJGAR (Muslims, Ahir, Jat, Gujjar and Rajput) to fight the hegemony of upper castes. His son and grandson — Chaudhury Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhury — partially repaired the social and communal fabric by winning Kairana, regaining some of the legacy they appeared to have frittered away not so long ago.

Dr Satish Prakash, a Dalit activist from Meerut, said Jats, and to some extent Gujjars, voted for the Rashtriya Lok Dal’s Muslim candidate despite the efforts of BJP and Yogi Adityanath to invoke their Hindu sentiments. “Jats also realised (that) though they gave 22 MPs to BJP, they lost their representation in Lok Sabha. Thus, they remained untouched by communal feelings that BJP ignited,” he added.

By-election results
Voting was held on May 28 for four Lok Sabha and 10 assembly constituencies
LOK SABHA
ConstituencyWinsHeld by
Kairana (Uttar Pradesh)RLDBJP
Palghar (Maharashtra)BJPBJP
Bhandara- Gondiya (Maharashtra)NCPBJP
NagalandNDPPNPF
ASSEMBLY
ConstituencyWinsHeld by
Noorpur (Uttar Pradesh)SPBJP
Shahkot (Punjab)CongressSAD
Jokihat (Bihar)RJDJD(U)
Gomia (Jharkhand)JMMJMM
Silli (Jharkhand)JMMJMM
Chengannur (Kerala)CPI(M)CPI(M)
Palus Kadegaon (Maharashtra)CongressCongress
Ampati (Meghalaya)CongressCongress
Tharali (Uttarakhand)BJPBJP
Maheshtala (West Bengal)TMCTMC

Till the 2017 assembly elections in the state, Adityanath and his Hindu Yuva Vahini (HYV) concentrated on their stronghold of east UP till he was specially sent to west UP to consolidate the BJP’s support base. His efforts paid off and he was rewarded with the chief ministership.

Once BJP chief Amit Shah, when asked if Adityanath was the choice of the RSS, said: “He is the BJP’s choice. His name was decided after consultation with about 48 leaders from the state.”

Now, Adityanath may come under pressure. In the March by-elections in Gorakphur, his pocket borough that he vacated after taking over as CM, the BJP lost. Now, he has lost the other stronghold of BJP in the west where the slogan was “Jinnah or Ganna” a reference to the two factors that many people believe matter in the region, faith and the interests of the sugarcane farmer (ganna is Hindi for sugarcane).

Adityanath’s adviser Mritunjaya Singh, while admitting the government’s failure to publicise the higher disbursement of funds for cane , insisted: “The by-polls were neither a referendum on Yogi’s performance nor on his continuation in office. The fact is, in all the five seats that went to the polls between March and May, the BJP has either retained or increased its vote share, though the party may have lost the seats primarily because of unity in Opposition ranks.”

For months, Adityanath has been pushing for a cabinet reshuffle and he may be allowed to go ahead with one now, say analysts. They point out that the going hasn’t been smooth in the party and that growing differences between the CM and deputy chief minister Keshav Maurya have been a subject of discussion for long.

Senior RSS leader Chandra Mohan said: “Appropriate strategy or changes will be adopted by the party high command after detailed analysis of the party’s defeat in Kairana.”

Insisting the results will not have a direct bearing on the CM, he said the crowd at Yogi’s rally in 47 degrees Celsius temperature is ample proof of his continuing popularity.

Chandra Mohan insisted that the social alliance built by the opposition paved the way for their candidates’ victory.

Still, as a senior government official who asked not to be identified said: “Elections are won by public perception about the powers that be.”

Adityanath will have to change the public perception about his government if it has gone awry. Uttar Pradesh is key to the BJP’s play in 2019.

First Published: Jun 01, 2018 14:33 IST