How the BJP retained its large social coalition in UP - Hindustan Times
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How the BJP retained its large social coalition in UP

ByBadri Narayan
Mar 25, 2022 11:43 AM IST

From campaigning and narrative setting to social engineering and caste management, the BJP functioned as one unit, from the grassroots cadre and the candidate right to the top leadership

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the recent assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) decisively. Behind its impressive performance were visible and invisible factors. The visible factors included an assertion of beneficiary consciousness among large sections of the rural poor – a phenomenon that was seen across castes and faiths – an implicit trust in Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and his promises, a silent Hindutva consolidation on the ground and the party’s aggressive campaign around a strong law-and-order plank during the election.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Union home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, March 10, 2022 (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Union home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi, March 10, 2022 (PTI)

Indeed, the effective delivery of welfare schemes such as Ujjwala, PM Awas Yojna, free ration, pension schemes and direct cash transfer helped the BJP win the poor vote. It is also true that the campaigning of PM Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath shaped the poll discourse and helped blunt the Opposition’s charge. But there is an additional factor that helped the party to retain its large social coalition: Its organisational capabilities of social engineering.

The BJP’s senior leaders, helped by its grassroots workers, strategically planned to mobilise communities, evolve the Hindutva social engineering machinery and neutralise caste-based assertion by the Samajwadi Party (SP) and its allies.

The biggest example of this was how the party managed to stop a consolidation of Jats behind the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and small Other Backward Class (OBC) groups behind rebel BJP leaders as Swami Prasad Maurya.

Before the election, there was a feeling that Jats might move away from the party after backing the BJP in 2014, 2017 and 2019, due to anger over the now-scrapped farm laws. Similarly leaders such as Maurya, Dharam Pal Saini and Dara Singh Chauhan – who all quit the BJP weeks before the election -- were raising issues of the dignity of Dalits and OBCs, and threatening to rupture the BJP’s broad social coalition.

But this didn’t happen.

Union home minister Amit Shah worked to pacify Jat anger by going from door to door in western UP. But, in the end, only about half of the Jats voted for the SP-RLD. Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who was also the election in-charge of the party in the state, tried hard to neutralise the impact of caste-based assertion by carefully tailoring the candidate list and asking nominees to keep the campaign focused on the poor. This campaign, centred on social justice and anchored by PM Modi, helped the party safeguard its poor vote.

The BJP planned the electoral mobilisation around its beneficiaries, sent a list of welfare receivers to its candidates, and asked its cadre to follow up with people and persuade them to reach the booths on poll day. Organisers such as Sunil Bansal prepared booth-level management designs that helped the campaign run smoothly at the grassroots level. It ensured that party supporters turned out in large numbers and created a perception of the BJP’s dominance or hawa.

There may be many such sub-narratives behind the BJP’s victory. In this election Mahabharata, many characters played their role and further analysis will explore the role of important figures and issues that shaped the polls.

For now, the challenge before the BJP is to respond to this impressive majority and various governance challenges in India’s most populous state. But one thing is certain: From campaigning and narrative setting to social engineering and caste management, the BJP functioned as one unit, from the grassroots cadre and the candidate right to the top leadership.

Badri Narayan is director, Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Prayagraj.

The views expressed are personal

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