BJP plays temple card again to overcome anti-office in Uttar Pradesh – The Diplomat
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the temple city of Varanasi last week to inaugurate the hallway of the Kashi Vishwanath temple with great fanfare, ahead of the 2022 elections in Uttar Pradesh. For the ruling Bharatiya Janata (BJP) party, the elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh are the most crucial contest of all the five states that will go to the polls early next year; its outcome will be critical to securing the BJP and Modi another successful candidacy in the 2024 national general elections. By the way, Uttar Pradesh alone has 80 parliamentary seats.
Leaving nothing to chance, Modi himself camped in Varanasi, which is also his parliamentary constituency, for three days. After laying the foundation stone for the 594 km Ganga Highway, Modi publicly endorsed the incumbent Yogi Adityanath as the relevant Chief Minister. “AT THE TOP [Uttar Pradesh] more Yogi bahut hai upyogi (Uttar Pradesh plus Yogi have great use), ”he said to applause.
Projecting Yogi Adityanath as the face of the chief minister, Modi ended all speculation about a strained relationship with the saffron robed Adityanath, the incumbent chief minister of the state. The image of Modi putting his arms around Adityanath like an older brother, which circulated a few weeks ago, further reinforced this vision. By including Adityanath in its arsenal, Modi and therefore the BJP are sparing no effort in their mission to win the assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh.
Fully playing the “Hindutva” card (to bow to the majority Hindu sentiment), the BJP, which is the party in power in the center and in Uttar Pradesh, aims to attract votes by projecting itself as the true champion of the faith. Hindu. The party also draws attention to the fact that construction of the long-promised Ram Mandir in Ayodhya has already started. An extensive outreach program is underway in Varanasi and will continue until the ‘Makar Sankranti’ festival on January 14th.
The BJP is also leveraging Modi’s popularity to allay voter dissatisfaction with Adityanath’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, the migrant labor crisis during the lockdown, and the horrific incidents of rape, including the Hathras gang rape case.
The temple blitzkrieg aims to counter the anti-titular factor.
Modi and the BJP also attempted a course correction. For more than a year, farmers in Punjab and western Uttar Pradesh have protested the Modi government’s controversial agricultural laws. He recently overturned those laws. Opposition parties point to the humiliating decline of the BJP.
Party leader Samajwadi (SP) and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has repeatedly attacked the Yogi government, most recently accusing the chief minister of wiretapping the phones of political opponents. Congresswoman Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is the state official for the Congress Party, criticized the Yogi administration for its dismal record on women’s safety. She sent a strong message on women’s empowerment by promising to give 40 percent tickets to female candidates. She also criticized the Yogi government for the atrocities committed against Dalits.
To counter the opposition’s attack on its poor governance, Yogi and the BJP once again turned to their successful strategy of community polarization.
Muslims make up 19% of the population of Uttar Pradesh. Yogi used this figure to project the community as a threat to Hindus. His government passed a controversial law to prevent so-called “love jihad” (Muslim boys marry Hindu girls with the intention of converting them) and to crack down on interfaith marriages. His uncompromising Hindutva ideology found many takers in the BJP and the Sangh Parivar, a family of right-wing Hindu organizations, making him the most powerful chief minister of the BJP. In terms of popularity and stature, Yogi is second behind the powerful duo Narendra Modi and Amit Shah (the Minister of the Interior).
In the past, Yogi’s independent streak was frowned upon by the leaders of Parivar. But at the head of the powerful Gorakhpur mutt (religious organization) in eastern Uttar Pradesh, he has the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a group of young activists, under his command. Today, it enjoys the full backing and backing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological wing of the Parivar, and its leader Mohan Bhagwat.
The BJP is keenly aware that Hindutva on its own might not work to bring it back to power, especially as the caste factor continues to reign in Uttar Pradesh politics. So, while he enjoys broad support from the upper castes (Brahmins and Thakurs), he is aware of his limited appeal among the Listed Castes (Dalits), who traditionally vote for the Bahujan Samaj party. It will also be difficult for the BJP to attract the voices of the Yadavs and Jats, which the SP and Rashtriya Lok Dal attract respectively. To secure its position in such a complex political matrix, the BJP is forging alliances with smaller caste-based parties like the Shoshit Samaj Party.
Given its hostility towards Muslims, the BJP will not attract the Muslim vote, which is likely to be taken over by the SP. Interestingly, Congress, which in the past attracted Muslim votes, is now reduced to a fringe actor in Uttar Pradesh.
Significantly, in the 2017 parliamentary elections, the BJP did not present any Muslim candidates. Yet the party won 325 of the 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh. He hopes to repeat that performance now, but party insiders are aware of the difficulty of the challenge this time around.
The announcement of the legislative election dates is only a few weeks away. In a last-minute attempt to impress voters, Modi inaugurated infrastructure projects including airports, highways and state medical schools. The BJP is trying to project Uttar Pradesh as the new “development center”. The reality on the ground is different. The state ranks abominably in the human development indices and is still among the BIMARU (struggling) states. The latest report from the National Family Health Survey highlights severe anemia and malnutrition among children in Uttar Pradesh. Its scarce health infrastructure collapsed during the pandemic, with an erratic oxygen supply and a shortage of hospital beds leaving a trail of corpses floating on the Ganges.
However, none of these disturbing statistics will be mentioned in the BJP’s election campaign or even in its poll pledges for Uttar Pradesh. Surprisingly, the opposition parties have also failed to make the ruling Yogi government’s opposition a deciding factor in the polls.
For Modi and Adityanath, the results of the Uttar Pradesh polls are essential for their political survival. For Adityanath, a decisive victory in the state would secure him a second term and appoint him as one of the three greatest leaders of the BJP.
For Modi, who still suffers from electoral defeat in Bengal’s legislative elections, winning Uttar Pradesh is imperative. The victory of the Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerjee in Bengal prompted the opposition to confront Modi nationally. To rule out any prospect of the opposition challenging him in the 2024 general election, Modi must win a decisive victory in Uttar Pradesh.