HT Explains: A 5-point FAQ on the Lok Sabha battle in Uttar Pradesh | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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HT Explains: A 5-point FAQ on the Lok Sabha battle in Uttar Pradesh

May 17, 2024 04:18 PM IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hopes to continue its winning streak in Uttar Pradesh, which sends the highest (80) lawmakers to Parliament

Uttar Pradesh has been at the centre of Hindutva politics since the 1980s when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took charge of the campaign for the Ram Temple construction in Ayodhya. But Hindutva gained political salience only after 2014 with the emergence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi nationally. The BJP swept the 2014 general elections in Uttar Pradesh, winning 71 of the 80 seats. Ally Apna Dal won two seats, Samajwadi Party (SP) five and Congress two. In 2019, the BJP bagged 62 seats and its allies two. And in both 2017 and 2022, the party swept the assembly elections. As the BJP looks to the state in pursuit of its 370 target, here are the five questions that will matter in the state, which sends the highest lawmakers to Parliament:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public meeting in Uttar Pradesh’s Bhadohi. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public meeting in Uttar Pradesh’s Bhadohi. (PTI)

What is the likely impact of the Ram Temple’s opening?

The BJP hopes the fervour over this acts as a binding force for the larger rainbow coalition of Hindus, across castes and classes that the party has built since 2014. Modi was front and centre of the consecration ceremony on January 22 in the run-up to the national polls. Top BJP leaders including Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath have referred to the temple in their speeches. On May 5, Modi visited the temple and held a road show ahead of the polling in eastern Uttar Pradesh. But there’s a theory that the Ram-wave may have peaked too soon.

Can the SP-Congress alliance achieve what the SP-BSP tie-up failed to in 2019?

The seemingly stronger SP-BSP alliance failed to dent the BJP in 2019 despite its social base among the Dalits, Other Backward Classes (OBC), and Muslims, and the BJP increased its vote share to over 50%, presumably because of strong counter-polarisation. The Congress has been a spent force in the state for years and received just around 3% of the votes in the 2022 assembly polls. Its alliance with the SP was expected to prevent a split in the Muslim votes, which account for around 20% of the total. The SP has managed better coordination with the Congress , unlike what happened in the BSP’s case in 2019. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi have campaigned together; Yadav held a press conference with Gandhi in Ghaziabad and Congress president Malikarjun Kharge in Lucknow; and there has also been better co-ordination in candidate selection with the SP focussing on OBCs, Dalits, and Muslims. The opposition is banking on the promise of caste census and hoping that its effort to build a narrative around the BJP’s pursuit of an absolute majority being a ploy to change the constitution and end reservations – the BJP has countered this strongly – finds some traction.

Who will the BSP hurt?

In 2014, the BSP could not even win a single seat even as it captured almost a fifth (19.70%) of the vote. It won 10 seats with a similar vote share in alliance with the SP in 2019. But its vote share shrunk to 12.8% as it won just one assembly seat in 2022. The BSP still maintains its sway over its core Jatav voters, although it may have lost the support of other Dalits. BSP‘s move to contest on its own was expected to help the BJP, but there is a growing realisation that it may have hurt both the BJP and SP-Congress alliance. In Ghaziabad, Bijnor, Mathura, Meerut, and Aligarh, BSP candidates are believed to have cut into the BJP’s vote bank. And in Badaun, Saharanpur, and Amroha, BSP’s Muslim candidates are believed to have eaten into the SP-Congress vote. The BSP factor remains relevant in the remaining phases in the state too.

How important is the Adityanath factor?

Adityanath is the BJP’s most sought-after campaigner after Prime Minister Modi and Union minister Amit Shah. He has so far addressed 135 rallies, including 26 outside Uttar Pradesh in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir. Adityanath has since 2017 built an image of a strong leader, tough on crime, and with unwavering commitment to Hindutva and development. Modi has emphasised this in his election rallies and said he is fortunate to have an able administrator such as Adityanath.

How important is the caste factor amid debate over reservation, caste census, and the Constitution?

Caste has always shaped politics in Uttar Pradesh. From the early 1990s to 2012, Dalit and OBC politics countered the BJP’s faith-based agenda. By 2014, the BJP had expanded its social base by reaching out to non-Jatav Dalits and the non-Yadav OBCs to build a larger Hindu base. The social coalition seems to be under stress as the opposition has been able to make the caste census a major poll issue. The opposition has also claimed that the BJP wants to change the Constitution and do away with reservation. The claim has emerged as a major issue.

The BJP has rubbished the claim even as its opponents have stuck to it ahead of the polls in eastern Uttar Pradesh, where Dalits and OBCs have a significant presence. In these regions, the BJP is also banking on its allies such as the Apna Dal, which has a strong base among Kurmi OBCs, to do their bit.

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