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Ignoring local leaders and an Opposition alliance: could these weaken BJP’s chances in UP?

Sidelining the local leadership was the major mistake BJP made in Bihar where it had to face a humiliating defeat in 2015.

Written by Liz Mathew |
January 17, 2017 4:36:12 pm
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The mood is upbeat in the BJP as it appears to be confident of a victory in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh. One of its leaders, who is also a pollster, said on Monday that the sense he got from the ground was that the party’s position is better than even that of May 2014.

However, he added a word of caution: the party cannot be over confident, it has to consider all the established norms and practices in the selection of candidates as well as in the campaign. However, the first list of 149 for the first and second phases of UP elections, released on Monday, did not satisfy a section of party workers. Also the political developments in the Opposition camp may not be good news for the BJP especially since a victory in UP is essential to keep its morale high in the countdown to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

According to a party MP from Uttar Pradesh, the first list reflected the “bullying” nature of the leadership, which went ahead with its own choices without taking into account the opinions of local leaders. The top leadership has kept senior state leaders who are seeking tickets for kin in suspense by not allotting tickets or respecting their preferences.

The move to accommodate almost everyone who joined the party on the eve of elections, ignoring the claims of those who have been working consistently for the party, has also displeased many BJP members in the state. Many of those who have been camping at the party headquarters expressed apprehensions that the BJP’s prospects would not be bright if it does not consider criteria like experience in the organization, the caste formula and an acceptance of the candidates amongst party workers. For its part, the leadership maintains that in a state like Uttar Pradesh where the BJP was out of power for more than a decade, winnability should be the primary criteria.

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Sidelining the local leadership was the major mistake BJP made in Bihar where it had to face a humiliating defeat in 2015.

Read | Congress to piggyback on Akhilesh Yadav’s SP in Uttar Pradesh polls; Grand Alliance on the cards?

Another factor reminiscent of the Bihar elections is the prospective of parties like SP, RLD and the Congress coming together. As one leader pointed out, the Election Commission’s decision to allot the cycle symbol to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s faction of the SP has emboldened him. Some political observers see the latest developments in SP’s first family as advantageous to Akhilesh. The young CM already enjoys a lot of goodwill in the state as voters feel that he has worked hard for the state’s development during his five year tenure as the CM.

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What was harming his prospects is the allegation of “goonda raj” and corruption charges against some ministers in his government. Now, Akhilesh may blame the other faction in the party for these drawbacks..

If the alliance works out successfully, it could expect a favourable caste combination and Muslim support base. The coming together of the three parties may also change the narrative in the election campaign, said one BJP MP. So far, the ground report for the BJP has been that the demonetization could play in its favour as the rural people feel that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had dared to go after the rich and that the move would contain corruption and black money.

However, BJP leaders admit that they are not sure about the sustainability of these perceptions. They fear that the farmers, who used small traders for credit, could turn against the party as the latter is now not in a position to provide it. There have already been reports of `notebandi’ affecting small scale industry units in the state, leading to job losses.

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The party CEC will meet again to clear the remaining seats for Uttar Pradesh and the state leaders hope that the leadership will consider their views before finalizing the candidates for them.

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First published on: 17-01-2017 at 04:36:12 pm
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