Maiden Article by Luy for Bharat Bhagya Vidhata
“Will win 2022 UP polls just like we defeated coronavirus crisis”, stated Yogi Adityanathji, but the first part of the statement sounds more plausible than the latter.
The 2022 Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly election is going to be a first next year in a series of assembly elections to be held in Gujarat, Punjab, and Uttarakhand. A victory in Uttar Pradesh is going to be watershed for the Bharatiya Janata Party to turn its tide of losses in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry. A win in Uttar Pradesh, which is likely, will also help the party kickstart a winning streak for the elections following.
The stage for the UP assembly elections was set with the conclusion of the state’s panchayat elections in which the BJP faced a major setback. The contestants generally do not contest based on party symbols but for the first time, the BJP declared a list of all 3050 candidates it was backing, which was followed by the Samajwadi Party declaring support for around 1500 candidates. Out of the 3050 candidates declared by the BJP only 900 managed to secure a victory while from the roughly 1500 candidates the SP had announced a little more than thousand managed to win. The BJP was decimated in its strongholds of Ayodhya and Prayagraj, while having a neck to competition in Varanasi and Gorakhpur.
The panchayat polls were followed by a deluge of deaths, due to COVID-19, of teachers and staff who were assigned duty in the polls. The death toll of teachers rose to over 1600, as claimed by a union for the primary teachers of Uttar Pradesh. This led to the people being antagonised and the Allahabad High Court took cognisance of this matter. The grave mismanagement of the COVID crisis was evident when dead bodies were found floating in the holy river Ganga and laying on its banks. The reason for this mishap may have been lack of knowledge, scarcity of firewood, poverty leading to unaffordability of burials but that does not mean that the state government should be let off the hook. The videos and images made rounds throughout the state and the country, further angering the people, after which the state decided to give a maximum of Rs.5000 for each funeral as a relief measure.
Apart from managing COVID, the report card of the government will include curbing crimes and maintaining law and order. Yogiji has taken various measures to strengthen the law and order in the state by introducing the anti-Romeo squad, anti-love jihad laws and “the zero-tolerance policy” of extrajudicial or encounter killings. The mysterious flight of Vikas Dubey, his dramatic arrest and his eventual encounter raised several doubts. Since March 2017, from the time of Yogiji’s ascension there have been more than 100 extrajudicial killings. Further more the harassment of the Unnao rape victim, with her father dying in judicial custody and relatives dying in a car accident does not indicate a just and robust system. The handling of the Hathras case in which the accused were Thakur men also points out the plight of the victims and the troubles of the justice system. The state has also seen an increase in crimes against women and dowry deaths according to the data from National Crime Records Bureau, and with a recent unruly comment from a member of UP Women’s Commission will factor in on how silent voters especially females will influence the outcome of the elections.
Adityanathji may have wooed the core Hindutva voters with the construction of the temple at Ram janmabhoomi and changing the name of Allahabad to Prayagraj but he has failed to win over the Brahmin community who perceive his policies as pro-Thakur. Yogiji himself being born a Thakur has been seen as having a soft corner for the Thakur community which is merely 7-8% of the population but owns more than 50% of the land in UP. The Brahmin voters who saw a haven in the BJP in 2017 have now been in disagreement with the party over allotment of key positions and ranks to members of the Thakur community.
The BJP’s move to induct Jitin Prasadji into the party becomes crucial when we understand that his father Jitendra Prasadji was renowned Brahmin face for the Indian National Congress in Uttar Pradesh. Jitinji himself had launched the Brahmin Chetna Samvad under his Brahmin Chetna Parishad to communicate better with the Brahmin community. The INC had distanced itself from Jitinji’s actions but BJP may have struck gold by taking Jitinji in and finding a probable solution to their rift with the Brahmins.
The BJP has also launched the “Seva hi Sangathan” campaign as a means to ensure relief work being carried out in the pressing times. Distribution of ration kits, face covers, and food packets is the highlight of the campaign. A success of this programme might allay the miseries of the voters. The BJP learning from its setback in the panchayat polls has decided to conduct a survey and examine the candidates based on their performance, analysing their work by preparing an individual report card and then deciding on whom to give the ticket. The party is clear that Yogiji will remain their chief ministerial candidate but major changes are expected in the cabinet to make the process more merit based and efficient.
With all being said it is likely that the BJP is going to achieve a resounding victory with the only visible opposition being from the Samajwadi Party, who have been saying “22 mein bicycle” and have had significant success in the panchayat polls. The Yogi government will have to show it to the to the people that there is more to their manifesto than Hindutva, because the COVID affected economy is going to cause mass unemployment and the people are going to demand jobs. The government will have to promise and ensure that the crime rate in the state and in the cadre reduces. The BJP has no choice but to win this election if it wants to regain its lost momentum of being “an election winning machine” as described by some.