Op-Ed: BJP Faces Its Biggest Challenge In UP

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The visuals of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi offering prayers at Kedarnath shrine and meditating there were splashed across TV screens ahead of the seventh and last phase of elections. The seats going to the polls in this phase include Varanasi from where Modi is seeking re-election.

Polling in this round will also be held on some other crucial eastern UP seats like Gorakhpur, once considered the fortress of chief minister, Yogi Adityanath. Bhojpuri film star, Ravi Kishan is the BJP candidate from Gorakhpur. Among other important eastern UP seats in this round are Mirzapur and Gazipur. While union minister, Anupriya Patel is fighting to retain Mirzapur her colleague, Manoj Sinha’s prestige is at stake in Gazipur where he is pitted against Afzal Ansari, brother of don-turned-politician, Mukhtar Ansari.

Barring Varanasi, where Modi is facing lightweights, Congress’s Ajay Rai and Samajwadi Party’s Shalini Yadav, no eastern UP seat is going to be easy for BJP. So one can guess what the Prime Minister had on his mind when he offered prayers at Kedarnath.

UP with 80 Lok Sabha seats remains the biggest worry of BJP in this election whatwith traditional rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) burying the hatchet and forming a strong alliance capable of upsetting the saffron apple card.

In 2014 the BJP had won a record 71 seats in Uttar Pradesh taking advantage of the division of votes against it between SP and BSP which fought separately. While BJP alongwith its ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) had won 73 seats in the country’s most important political state in that election Congress had had to satisfy itself with Gandhi family bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli. While Samajwadi Party had won Mainpuri, Azamgarh, Badaun, Firozabad and Kannauj seats BSP had been blanked out.

This was, by far, BJP’s best performance in UP where it also won the state assembly elections convincingly with Yogi Adityanath becoming the chief minister of the state. But SP and BSP, especially the latter, were quick to realise their folly and in the three bye-elections that the state saw after that grand victory of BJP the saffron party was made to bite the dust with two of these seats going to BSP supported SP candidates.

This was a huge embarrassment for the BJP for the seats that it lost to SP in the bye-elections included Gorakhpur, the stronghold of Adityanath and Phurpur that had been vacated by deputy chief minister, Keshav Maurya. Adityanath had scored five straight victories from Gorakhpur before that and also headed the famous Gorakhnath math.

Now that SP and BSP have a formal alliance in place they pose a much bigger threat to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh where Congress has been reduced to the status of a minor player. The real fight in the state is going to be between BJP and SP-BSP gathbandhan which seems to have discovered the winning formula.

Reports from UP suggest that BJP could suffer substantial losses compared to its gains in 2014. The party would seek to compensate this loss by ramping up its performance in other states. One, however, wonders if that would be enough to take it across the victory mark when the results are announced on May 23.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)