Will the leadership exodus harm the BJP, or can it still rely on its caste arithmetic?
Three Uttar Pradesh ministers and 11 MPs left the Bharatiya Janata Party. Most of them are leaders of “other backward classes” (OBC). Swami Prasad Maurya, a former minister, is said to have a good hold on the state’s Maurya, Kushwaha, Shakya and Saini votes. Another minister who resigned from the BJP is Dara Singh Chauhan. He comes from the backward caste of the Lohia-Chauhan. The third is Dharam Singh Saini, a Bahujan Samaj party leader who joined the BJP along with Swami Prasad Maurya in 2016. After serving five years, they now complain that the BJP ignores OBCs, Dalit farmers, youths and others . disadvantaged sectors.
They’re all party hoppers, switching teams before the election. Maurya was the face of the BSP’s OBC who joined the BJP in 2016 ahead of the Assembly elections. It is alleged that he quit the BSP and BJP because his son and daughter could not get ballot papers. Mayawati had said in 2016 that they were denied tickets for the seats they were lobbying for, while the BJP this time could not accommodate Maurya’s son.
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Dara Singh Chauhan was the first of the BSP. Then he went to the Samajwadi Party. He returned to BSP and then joined BJP in 2015. Saini is not another story.
Their jumping political ships can be seen as more political expediency. The appeal of these party hoppers is limited. They are not expected to be great vote-shooters across castes in a decisive election like assembly or parliament, a fact this article will explain later.
But on the other hand, the main factor is the social realignment carried out by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh which these party netas would find hard to disturb.
The social realignment of the BJP in UP
Let’s review the voting preferences of different castes in the state in the last four elections since 2012. The BJP came third in the 2012 Assembly polls but recorded stunning victories in the 2014 and 2019 elections in Lok Sabha and the 2017 elections.
According to the CSDS post-poll analysis of the 2014 elections in Lok Sabha in Uttar Pradesh, 72% Brahmins, 77% Rajputs, 71% Vaishyas, 77% Jats, 79% other upper castes, 53% Kurmi-Koeri ( OBC), 61% non-Yadav OBC, 18% Jatavs and 45% non-Jatav SC voted for the BJP.
In the 2017 assembly polls, according to India Today post-poll analysis, 62% of upper-caste Hindus voted for the BJP while according to CSDS post-poll analysis, the party got 59% Kurmi-Koeri votes and 62% non-Yadav. OBC votes. In 2019, the BJP further consolidated its gains. 82% Brahmins, 89% Rajputs, 70% Vaishyas, 91% Jats, 84% other upper castes, 80% Kurmi-Koeries, 72% non-Yadav OBCs, 17% Jatavs and 48% non-Jatav SCs voted in favour.
There has been a trend of consolidation in favor of the BJP – election after election – since the last three major elections.
Now compare them to the community’s voting preferences in the 2012 UP assembly elections. Polls saw the Samajwadi party win a comfortable majority and form government under Akhilesh Yadav. The SP won 224 seats in the 403-member assembly. The BSP was second, winning 80 seats, while the BJP, which has been a central force in the corridors of power in Uttar Pradesh since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, could only win 47 seats.
This is reflected in the voting habits of different communities. Called a party of traditionally upper caste voters, the BJP could not get votes even from them. Only 38% Brahmins, 29% Rajputs, 42% Vaishyas, 17% other upper castes, 7% Jats, 20% Kurmi-Koeri and 17% non-Yadav OBCs chose him, as in the post-survey analysis of the CSDS testifies.
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But from the 2012 assembly election to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, we see a quantum leap in the BJP’s outlook and performance.
What were the reasons?
This was all due to the social realignment carried out by the BJP – combined with its nationalist and Hindu agenda – and the development promises made by the development-oriented Prime Minister’s candidate and Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, who decided to make from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh its political base not just for the state but for the whole country. Add to that the 2013 Muzaffarnagar communal riots in UP and the opposition to power against the then government and the perfect ingredients were all ready, just waiting to be thrown into the mix.
Prior to the re-emergence of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the state saw two caste-based political parties form governments. The SP had the Muslim-Yadav combination as its base vote bank while the BSP was a Jatav Dalit party. The BJP decided to bring into its fold the non-Yadav and non-Jatav population base, especially the non-Yadav OBC vote bank, due to its greater numerical size. OBCs make up around 45% of the state’s population and the top BJP leader and its PM candidate Narendra Modi, being an OBC, was the perfect starting point.
Non-Yadav OBCs make up about 35% of the state’s population. Combined with the BJP’s traditional vote bank of upper castes and the business community, it was a winning formula. The BJP’s political style, agenda and campaign aimed to realize this potential. The party knew the importance of this winning combination – a win in Uttar Pradesh with 80 Lok Sabha seats means winning India’s general election and poll results since 2014 prove the BJP has been successful in its social realignment efforts in the state. Compared to regional parties in the state, non-Yadav OBC voters saw wider appeal in the promise, outlook and campaign of the national BJP party led by Narendra Modi.
A larger reversal
From 2007 to 2012, the UP saw its first chief minister complete a full five-year term. The anti-incumbent factor helped the SP replace BSP’s Mayawati government in 2012 when the UP got its second CM to complete a full five-year term. It was a reversal from 2007.
But a large part of the state’s population was not even happy with the government of Akhilesh Yadav, as the upcoming elections indicated. They were looking for an alternative and found signs of it in the campaign and political style of Narendra Modi and the BJP. Going with the wider national sentiment, they trusted Narendra Modi’s development campaign with nationalism despite Akhilesh Yadav not even completing half of his term as CM, and their dissatisfaction with the SP government can be understood from the fact that out of 80, the BJP and its ally won 73 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
The BJP could write a different electoral politics in a state plagued by years of caste politics, and the 2017 assembly elections saw an even greater reversal than the 2007 and 2012 assembly elections. 2014, the people of the state, across castes, again backed the BJP campaign led by Modi. Against all calculations, the BJP won 312 seats against the incumbent SP’s 47. This was further reflected in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when the BJP and its allies, despite winning 9 fewer seats or 64 in total, crossed 50% of the vote. share mark while the SP remained limited to only five seats like 2014.
The BJP has been able to effectively weave social realignment in Uttar Pradesh – gaining the support of upper castes, non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits – with its development-oriented Hindu nationalist politics and it will be very difficult for rival parties to just break it based on some leaders jumping ship.
And this is proven even by the results of previous elections. Swami Prasad Maurya and many other OBC leaders joined the BJP in 2016. In Lok Sabha polls in 2014, the BJP got 53% Kurmi-Koeri votes and 60% other OBC votes . But 2017 didn’t see a bigger change despite those OBC big names. That year, the party only got 6% more or 59% in Kurmi-Keori votes and only 2% more or 62% in other OBC votes, according to CSDS post-poll analysis.
Non-Yadav OBC voters believed in the promises made by the BJP and not in some reversals and the result of the 2019 elections in Lok Sabha in Uttar Pradesh further proves it. More non-Yadav OBC voters decided to opt for the party they voted for in 2017. CSDS post-poll analysis indicates that 80% of Kurmi-Koeri and 72% of other voters non-Yadav chose the party. Add to that Yadav voters: even 23% of Yadavs voted for the BJP, a jump of 13% from the 2017 assembly elections.
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If the February-March assembly elections result in the BJP losing its vote share and seats, it is expected to be more in line with what we saw in 2012 and the previous assembly polls, that is, the party is losing support across castes. and not just OBC votes. If the BJP is to fail in the next election, the main deciding factor will be anti-incumbency which will cause its social realignment efforts to crumble along caste lines, be it upper castes or lower castes, and not just OBCs.
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