For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Demotivated 'Parivar', Internal Discord, Strong Push by INDIA Mar BJP's Campaign in UP

It is believed that in the Congress a candidate contests the elections, while in the BJP the organisation handles the responsibility. But this time, there seems to be little enthusiasm in the BJP-RSS cadres.
Voters in Unnao, UP. Photo: X/@ceoup

Agra/Mathura/New Delhi: Girish Sharma can’t understand why the Bharatiya Janata Party’s election campaign lacks enthusiasm this time. A resident of Isapur village in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura district, he has witnessed several Lok Sabha elections in the past. “Their workers used to escort us from our homes to cast votes. What happened now? Where have their panna pramukhs (party workers in charge of voter lists) all gone?” he asks.

With a substantial population of upper castes, Isapur falls on the other side of the Yamuna in Mathura, a city that had seen vigorous campaigns by the Sangh parivar over the Krishna Janmbhoomi issue in the last few years. This reporter had covered the 2022 assembly elections in the city, which were marked by aggressive campaigning around the temple issue. But Mathura seems quieter this time.

A major reason behind the BJP’s electoral successes in the last ten years has been the party’s wide and dense network. The foundational unit of the organisation, panna pramukhs, handle the responsibility of each booth in each parliamentary constituency. They are handed a list of voters in their area whom they pay frequent visits to much before voting, and ensure that they cast their votes. As a result, many citizens who are not necessarily BJP voters lean towards the party after being persuaded by panna pramukhs.

This year, however, these party workers are hard to come by in several parliamentary constituencies of UP. According to analysts, it has made the elections in UP this year quite different from the polls in 2014 and 2019.

Demotivated parivar

It is believed that in the Congress a candidate contests the elections, while in the BJP the organisation handles the responsibility. “This time there is very little enthusiasm among BJP-RSS workers. They are hardly visible,” said a Mainpuri-based senior journalist who has been associated with Dainik Jagran for several decades and has a deep understanding of the BJP.

“Exactly three months ago, these people (the RSS) left no stone unturned for the consecration of Ram temple,” pointed out a Saharanpur resident. “They launched a door-to-door drive a month in advance, distributing posters of the janmabhoomi and Narendra Modi. This was their modus operandi during the elections. What has happened this time? There are no posters, leaflets or flags. No one visited our house to ask for votes.”

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

A resident of Deendayal Dham, the birthplace of RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay, says swayamsevaks are angry. “You have brought outsiders. The people against whom we were fighting till yesterday have joined our camp,” he said.

Some dissatisfaction also seems to be brewing against Modi. “He did away with Shivraj Singh in Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. Is this what he is going to do with Yogi (Adityanath)?” he added.

An RSS official in western UP said, “I was never without work during elections. This time I did not even step out of the house. The RSS workers are not campaigning at all.”

Internal discord in the BJP

Fatehpur Sikri, a Lok Sabha seat which has been with the BJP for the last two elections, is a prime example of the discord. In 2019, BJP candidate Rajkumar Chahar had won from the seat by 495,065 votes, a margin bigger than Modi’s victory in Varanasi. The main reason for Chahar’s record victory was the support lent to him by 2014 BJP MP and local strongman Babulal Chaudhary. This time, Babulal and several other BJP leaders strongly opposed Chahar. He had made it clear in public meetings that if the BJP gave the ticket to Chahar, he would ensure his defeat. Consequently, Babulal rebelled against the party and fielded his son Rameshwar Chaudhary as an independent candidate.

The infighting over ticket distribution is visible elsewhere too. “The ticket of Meerut MP for three consecutive terms (Rajendra Aggarwal) was cancelled. The ticket of two-time MP from Ghaziabad (retired General V.K. Singh) was cancelled as was the ticket of two-time MP from Baghpat only because the BJP high command was unhappy with him,” said an RSS functionary in western Uttar Pradesh.

It is believed that the BJP top brass is upset with the current BJP MP from Baghpat and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Chaudhary Satyapal Singh. Not only was his ticket cancelled, the BJP also formed an alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal and handed over the seat to an RLD candidate. “There is a lot of resentment among workers over the cancellation of tickets of these three leaders,” said the Sangh official.

Also read: ‘140 Crore People of India Won’t Even Give the BJP 140 Seats’: Akhilesh Yadav in Ayodhya

Low vote percentage of upper castes

There is a lack of enthusiasm among the BJP’s traditional upper caste voters this year. This reporter spoke to many families across several districts of western Uttar Pradesh. All of them shared the sentiment. “It is true that very few of our people have gone to vote this time,” said a Delhi-based lawyer, a resident of Aligarh and whose family members have represented the BJP government in the state.

A retired officer in Agra had voted for the BJP in the last two Lok Sabha and assembly elections along with his wife. This time, his wife did not cast her vote while he opted for NOTA. “No one even came to campaign in our colony. Why would we go to vote,” he said.

Stronger INDIA alliance

The Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance seems to be working better. “For the first time in our village, half of the Thakurs voted for the Congress. Even when Congress was at its peak, Congress did not get their votes. They either voted for the BJP or Chaudhary Charan Singh,” said Girish Sharma.

Significantly, such voting was seen even as the alliance’s Congress candidate from Mathura, Mukesh Dhangar, is a lesser-known leader as compared to his opponent and sitting MP Hema Malini.

The Mainpuri-based journalist concurs. “The alliance is indeed strong. Some votes of the BSP [Bahujan Samaj Party] are also going to SP [Samajwadi Party].”

Considered to be a Yadav-Muslim party, SP has fundamentally changed its ticket distribution strategy this time. In 2019, SP had fielded its candidates on a total of 37 seats, out of which ten were Yadavs and four Muslims. This time SP is fighting on 63 seats, out of which only five are Yadavs and four are Muslims.

SP’s strategy is to give tickets to members of the community whose share in population is the highest. On a seat where the BJP gets the traditional Lodhi votes, SP has fielded a Lodhi candidate, suggesting a possible slice of 20% to 30% of the BJP’s votes.

The party has given more tickets to backward castes and Dalits rather than Muslims and Yadavs. Last time the SP had not handed any tickets to Jatavs, whereas this time it has fielded six Jatavs. It is clearly an attempt to make a dent in the BSP’s vote share.

Given the strength of the alliance, it is believed that Muslim votes may not see much division.

Also read: Food, Clothes, Prayers, Population: You Name it, the BJP Has Communalised it

Has the impact of the Ram Temple waned?

Perhaps the biggest difference is over an issue that was the parivar’s centrepiece in the last two Lok Sabha elections. The parivar’s karyakartas seem indifferent towards the issue which had defined their existence over the last several decades. “We had created an atmosphere in January that this time the entire election would be fought in the name of Ram Temple. But we have retreated now,” said an RSS official.

Even though prominent BJP leaders are bringing up the Ram Temple in their rallies, ground cadres are not seen carrying forward the mandir message.

Some RSS workers are also miffed with Modi’s statements. “Why are you making statements like Adani-Ambani giving money to Congress? You are the prime minister. If someone is involved in such dealings, take action against them,” said an RSS official.

It seems that some traditional voters of the BJP have now become either indifferent or demotivated. They may not have drifted to the opposition, but they are turning away from the party.

On May 8, Dainik Hindustan offered an apt explanation of the four phases so far, when its journalists travelled 170 km from Runkata to Bateshwar. “There’s neither any party nor any national issue. There’s not even any wave,” it wrote.

On May 9, the newspaper pointed out the big factors determining these elections: The Dalit vote bank has drifted from the traditional path; Muslim voters are united and avoiding fragmentation; visible division among Thakurs, Brahmins and Jats; breaches in existing strongholds.

It is quite possible that the voters are not revealing what is on their minds. The personal cult of the prime minister might render the above observations meaningless and he might get elected again for a third time with a huge majority. But on the surface, the elections have a vibe clearly different from the last two polls.

Translated from the Hindi original by Naushin Rehman.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter