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UP and Maharashtra civic polls: BJP needs new strategies?

As the reports on the panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh and civic polls in Maharashtra came in, BJP leaders remained silent.

Written by Liz Mathew |
November 3, 2015 6:31:14 pm
Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Shiv Sena, BJP, BSP, Maharashtra polls, Maha polls, UP panchayat polls, Panchayat polls up, Sena, KDMB polls, KDMB poll result, KDMB news, India news The performance in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh will definitely give party chief Amit Shah a jolt — he had personally crafted the BJP victory strategy for Uttar Pradesh.

Last month while addressing reporters at the BJP headquarters, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had said about local body elections — “after winning the mainland (Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh), we have won the island (Port Blair) and the highland (Ladakh).’’ On Monday, as the reports on the panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh and civic polls in Maharashtra came in, BJP leaders remained silent.

It was bad news for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh where the party had swept the general elections with 71 seats and is now preparing the ground to win the 2017 state assembly polls: the party’s performance was poor in almost all the VIP constituencies. The worst was the PM’s constituency, Varanasi, where it has lost 40 of the 48 zilla parishads including Modi’s adopted village. While it has lost Singpur, the adopted village of party veteran leader Murli Manohar Joshi, party candidates fared poorly in firebrand leader Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur and young leader Varun Gandhi’s constituency of Sultanpur.

In the BJP-Shiv Sena-ruled Maharashtra, things were better, but its estranged ally Shiv Sena’s performance has stunned the BJP leadership. Of the 122 seats in Kalyan-Dombivili Municipal Corporation (KDMC) in Mumbai’s suburbs, the Sena has won 52 and the BJP 42. However, the BJP, which fought the elections without its ally for the first time, did see its tally rise from 9 to 42.

It is significant that the Sena, which has recently soured its relationship with the BJP – warning against the “arrogance” of its leaders and by threatening to withdraw its support to the Maharashtra government — has managed to perform remarkably well. One reason given for the BJP’s lacklustre performance is its failure to get organizational support at the grass roots level.

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However, the performance in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh will definitely give party chief Amit Shah a jolt — he had personally crafted the BJP victory strategy for Uttar Pradesh. Like Bihar, a victory in the UP assembly elections is crucial for the BJP to fulfill its dream of gaining a majority in the Rajya Sabha to push its legislative agenda.

Some party leaders argue that the Congress’ performance in its VIP constituencies – Amethi and Rae Bareli – was equally bad. The Congress-backed candidates lost 28 of 36 seats in Rahul Gandhi’s Amethi and in Rae Bareli, sitting zila panchayat chairman Suman Singh, sister-in-law of local MLA Dinesh Singh, also lost. The Congress says its performance in Amethi has improved from five in 2010 to eight whereas the BJP’s has gone down from seven to three.

However, the BJP leaders forget that it’s not the Congress they are fighting in UP. With the BSP emerging from the ashes of the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has to redraw its strategies. There is a tendency in panchayat polls to vote for the party in power, and the party will wonder why the electorate did not favour the party at the Centre but chose to remain with the Samajwadi Party or sided with the BSP.

The general belief that Hindu consolidation is the best bet for the BJP may have to be revisited. The defeat in Varanasi may suggest that voters are not impressed by the governance record of the Modi government. The majority of the electorate looks at the governance record before voting. That could be the reason why the BJP had repeated successes in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh — during the election campaigns in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh, one did not hear about Hindutva or caste but about welfare politics.

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