In defeat, BJP has a reason to smile

| | in Oped

Although BJP might have lost the UP by-elections, the fact remains that the party maintained its vote share from 2017 and lost only because of a united Opposition

The result of Kairana and Noorpur by-elections in Uttar Pradesh, where BJP lost to the united Opposition has set tongues wagging and questioning the leadership quality of Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath. Some political pundits have started writing the requiem of BJP in Uttar Pradesh saying that it is the beginning of the end of this party and that it will be decimated in Lok Sabha election. Some even said that ‘ganna' (sugarcane) proved to be better than ‘danga' (Muzaffarnagar riot) suggesting that the ruling BJP had to face the wrath of farmers because of the non-payment of cane dues.

Is this the true reflection of the by-election result? Is BJP really staring down the barrel and is it the end of the road for Yogi and Modi in Uttar Pradesh? A close analysis suggests that even in this defeat, BJP has a reason to smile as it got more votes in Noorpur Assembly segment as compared to the 2017 polls, while in Kairana, the party did well in patches indicating counter polarisation in the by-polls despite a united opposition.

One thing has to be kept in mind is that the battle was of one against many. The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress and many splinter groups combined together to fight the by-elections of Kairana and Noorpur — the seats which were earlier won by the BJP.

Technically speaking Kairana parliamentary seat, comprising five assembly segments, namely Nakur, Gangoh, Thana Bhawan, Shamli and Kairana, had never been a BJP bastion. With 40 per cent Muslims and large population of Gujjars — both hindus and muslims, Jatav (dalit) Ahir and Jats BJP was always at the receiving end. Such was the influence of minority votes in this constituency that even during the Ram Temple wave BJP did not win this seat. The first time BJP won Kairana was in 1998 and later followed it up with party's top leader Hukum Singh winning it in 2014. Because of Jatav and Jat consolidation RLD and BSP had won Kairana many a times.

In 2014, BJP polled around 5.65 lakh votes against Nahid Hasan of SP who got 2.30 lakh votes. Kanwar Hasan, the BSP candidate third who polled 1.60 lakh votes. That time RLD and Congress contested election as an ally and Kartar Bhadana of RLD only got 42,000 votes. In that election BJP won in all the assembly segments.

Things started changing after that. In the 2017 State Assembly polls, BJP polled around 1.3 lakh votes less than the combined tally of Hukum Singh in 2014. The result was BJP winning four Assembly seats and losing Kairana to SP where Hukum Singh's daughter Mriganka lost election.

 In the 2018 by-election result, Mriganka Singh, who contested the election from  Kairana, won from two Assembly segments but lost in the remaining three. Singh won from Shamli and Kairana segments but lost to Thana Bhawan in Shamli, Nakur and Gangoh segments in Saharanpur. Incidentally, Nakur and Gangoh were the segments where 68 booths went to repolls, which also turned the tables against the BJP.

Even in Noorpur, BJP did not surrender tamely - in fact it did better than the 2017 Assembly elections. Party's candidate Awani Singh polled almost 11,000 votes more than her husband Lokendra Chauhan who had won election in 2017 and whose death in an accident necessitated this election. In this constituency BJP lost to the combined Opposition keeping its vote share intact.

In 2012, BJP won the seat by securing almost 27 per cent votes. BSP with 24 per cent votes and SP ( 20 per cent) came second and third respectively. The combined vote share of SP and BSP was much more than BJP. The situation was no different in 2017 where SP and BSP together polled 1,11,000 votes while the BJP got 79,000 votes and won the election. Thus, meaning that BJP had polled almost 32,000 less votes than the combined BSP and SP. In other words, against united opposition BJP should have lost election by 32,000 voted in 2017 but in 2018 by-election it lost by just 5600 votes.

Another point which the Opposition has been raising gleefully is that the failure of the Government to clear cane dues has led to the debacle of BJP in Kairana and Noorpur. But the fact is that BJP lost in those region where cane payment was high and won in those constituencies where cane dues were high.

The BJP won in Shamli, the assembly constituency that has three sugar mills. In these mills the combined cane due is Rs 512.71 crores but in three mills of Saharanpur comprising of Gangoh and Nakkud assembly constituencies the payment was good and the due was just Rs 261.74 crores. Government record shows that over 70 per cent of cane payment was cleared but the ruling party still lost. In Gangoh RLD got 1,08,411 votes while BJP got 96,141 votes. Similarly in Nakud RLD got 1,14,341 votes and BJP got 86,224 votes.

This shows that ganna was not at all an issue in the by-polls. It was caste which proved decisive in this battle of ballots. The result has made it clear that there is a decisive shift of Jat votes from BJP to RLD. The voters who went with BJP in Nagar Nigam and Assembly elections, this time voted for RLD. The muslims consolidated against the ruling party and the revival of Jat-Muslim combination with dalit throwing weight revived the old Muslim-Ahir-Jat-Gujjar and Dalit Jatav formula.

(The writer is Executive Director (News), The Pioneer, Lucknow)

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