The Opposition in Uttar Pradesh had two bombs to bamboozle the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the run-up to the 2022 State Assembly elections. The two electorally lethal dynamites - Hathras and Lakhimpur Kheri - were enough to rip apart the BJP forte.
After all, the state proportionately (20.7 percent) has the third-largest SC population in the country. And an overwhelming 47 percent of the population is directly dependent on farming.
The Hathras gangrape and murder of a Dalit girl in 2020 and the mowing down of farmers at Lakhimpur Kheri on Oct 3, 2021, had handed in a platter to the Opposition the big banner canvas to paint the double engine of Modi-Yogi -led BJP with Anti Dalit, Anti Farmer and Anti Women (especially after the stern drive with anti-Romeo squads against anti-socials).
Quite a fissiparous for the BJP, when, as per reports, on Sept 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit girl was gang-raped in the district by four upper-caste men. Two weeks later, she died in a Delhi Hospital
The victim's brother had then claimed that Hathras police didn't make any arrests for over 10 days after the incident. But what sparked a national uproar had been, as per the victim's family statement, the forcible cremation of the victim's body by the police without their consent, though UP police denied the claims.
SSP Vikrant Vir had then transferred the SHO of Chandpa police station to police lines for failing to promptly act in the case. Many BJP leaders, including those from far south Tamil Nadu, had stirred the controversy pot by posting some insensitive statements in violation of SC guidelines.
With such explosive ammo, the Opposition had launched a fusillade of attack on BJP's double engine - PM Modi and CM Yogi.
The district concerned has an SC population of over 27 percent. BJP had faced consecutive defeats since the year 1996. The saffron party had reclaimed it in 2017 Assembly elections, it first won in the Mandir wave (1993).
However, on Oct 4, 2020, CM Yogi had recommended a CBI probe into the incident. Moreover, the CM had announced a compensation of over Rs 20 lakh to the family plus a job and a house built by the State Urban Development Agency.
The CBI charge sheet said the victim was gang-raped and murdered by the accused. The special report has been filed under the SC-ST Atrocities Act and other sections of IPC. The 4 accused are in jail now.
March 10, 2022: As per the ECI data, after 25 rounds, BJP candidate Anjula Singh Mahor has taken an unassailable lead of over 67,000 votes from her nearest Bahujan Samaj Party rival. In 2017, BJP had won the seat by over 90k votes. Despite the big incident, the party is again on the way to repeat the show this time. Last Assembly election, BJP polled 1.33lakh votes. At the end of 25 rounds, the vote polled in 2022 was 1.17 lakh.
The Congress party, with Rahul and Priyanka in the lead, which had been in the forefront of putting the Modi-Yogi combine on the mat could garner only 1.9k votes. Akhilesh Yadav's SP has bagged around 35k votes.
Despite Congress at the forefront of the protest, the party could poll only a little over 1k votes.
Why Hathras Bombed Opposition?
While the Opposition has made it a fissiparous explosive to explode the BJP's forte, the results show the bomb exploded on the Opposition.
As per observers, the main reason behind this has been the monitoring of the case by Allahabad HC. Though the HC had berated the UP govt officials for the cremation at dead of night, notwithstanding the reason of law and order problem, there had been no blanket criticism of the UP govt. Moreover, the CBI probe nod by Yogi, compensation for the victim and jail for the accused have helped in watering down the Opposition attack.
The UP govt has put the blame of law and order for the cremation at dead of night on the Opposition, who it alleged can spark caste conflict. The massive protest by the Bhim army et al went against the Opposition, as voters bought the government stand.
Lakhimpur Kheri Dynamite
During the height of protests against the new Farm Laws, on 3 October 2021 at Banbirpur village in the district, eight died and nearly a dozen were injured after being run over by a car. The protestors accused Union Minister Ajay Mishra's son of mowing 4 farmers down.
As per reports, the farmers had blocked the roads to prevent the visit of UP Dy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya and Ajay Mishra Teni. The reports suggested that the protest was led by one farmer leader Tajinder Singh Virk having allegiance to Samajwadi Party.
March 10, 2022: After the end of round 21, the BJP is leading over its SP rival by over 14k votes in the evening hours. Halfway crossed, still, 12 rounds of counting left. The saffron party has till now seen polling of over 80k votes at the end of round 21. In 2017, BJP had polled over 1.22 lakh votes and SP around 85k.
Notwithstanding, the full-size controversy and SC posing some introspecting questions, the SP, whose affiliated leaders had led the large-scale protest, has failed to put a spoke on BJP's juggernaut.
The Key Takeaways
When such is the electoral situation of the Opposition in the epicentres of their political lab, the experiment's outcome elsewhere can be easily guessed. As a consequence, while the Modi-Yogi led BJP had garnered 39.67 percent of the popular vote in UP in 2017, the popular vote share of the BJP in 2022 had gone up to over 41.6 percent, up by nearly 2 percent, though SP has gained a vote share of nearly 10 percent to touch 32 percent.
Odisha Panchayat Polls 2022
Like the two bombs in UP, Odisha had one in the guise of Mamita Murder Case in Kalahandi. The Opposition raised a hullabaloo over many omissions and commissions by the ruling BJD. The Opposition went to the rural polls over this issue. But the result saw a clean sweep in Kalahandi and Balangir by ruling BJD. Such a magnitude of win tells a tale, especially when the case has not been referred to CBI, unlike in UP where CBI investigated both the cases under the close watch of SC/HC.
The results of Hathras and Lakhimpur Kheri are a test lesson for politicians across the spectrum. This is the time for the Opposition to rethink and rework their strategy on such issues. The conventional provocative drama-type protests are not currying any favour with the voters.