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'As of now, BJP has an edge in UP'

By ARCHANA MASIH
January 11, 2022 18:24 IST
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'There is dissatisfaction and disaffection for the BJP, but there is no anti-incumbency against the government in UP.'

IMAGE: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Mohan Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath addresses a poll rally. Photograph: Yogi Adityanath/Twitter

"The crowds thronging Akhilesh Yadav's meetings reveal the disaffection for the BJP, but it is too early to say if this disaffection will convert into votes for the SP," says Professor Badri Narayan social scientist and director of the G B Pant Institute of Social Sciences in Prayagraj.

The author of three books on Dalit identity and politics, his recent book was Republic of Hindutva - How the Sangh is Reshaping Indian Democracy.

In a telephone conversation with Rediff.com's Archana Masih,, he discusses the precarious juncture where the BSP stands today, the weakening of the anti-Muslim narrative and why the BJP has an edge in UP.

 

What changes have you seen in Mayawati as leader since the ascent of Narendra Modi?

It is difficult to say, but it is clear that the political sharpness that she had in 2010 has been blunted.

Yet Mayawati, the leader, is very important in the politics of UP.

What accounts for her silence? Why does she appear subdued?

That has always been her style of politics. She is not a leader who talks too much. She only speaks when she addresses public rallies or gave press conferences when she was in government.

She has taken to Twitter which wasn't so earlier.

The party is practically run by Satish Chandra Mishra. What is the future of the BSP?

The BSP is at a difficult turn in its political history. It is difficult to say how it will evolve further. Many of its leaders have been expelled and the second rung of leadership is absent.

Satish Mishra has said in many forums that the party does not need a second rung of leadership because Mayawati will lead the party for another 20 years.

But we all know that a second rung of leadership is required in politics and democracy.

The social engineering that she had forged with other groups also stands diluted and diminished, even though Satish Mishra has tried to get Brahmins into the fold.

Despite these shortcomings, the BSP continues to be organisationally strong. They have a strong cadre and organisational structure at every level -- but that is not enough to win an election.

To win an election you need alliances with other social groups and parties.

Will the BSP end up like the RPI and other Dalit-based parties with some Dalit loyalty but not a prominent player like it used to be?

One can never predict politics. In the present, it does not appear that the BSP will end up like the RPI, but if it continues to decline one can't say what will happen.

I can neither refute or support this contention because even today, organisationally, the BSP is second after the BJP.

The BSP cadre is still strong even if its mass base is eroding.

Mayawati will perform well in several seats in this election. She will be in the number three spot -- which will not be a poor third, but a respectable third position, I feel.

IMAGE: Akhilesh Yadav prays at a temple. Photograph: Akhilesh Yadav/Twitter

Jatavs have always remained loyal to Mayawati. What about the other Dalits who moved to the BJP in 2019 and 2017? Will that trend continue?

The votes of other Dalits will be divided among the BJP, SP and BSP.

The BJP has created several beneficiaries among the various poor communities through its welfare schemes like PM Awas Yojana, Ujjwala Yojana, free ration, etc.

This beneficiary group will vote for the BJP.

Is there a polarisation of Dalit votes because of the reported Thakurisation of the UP administration?

The BJP will continue to get the votes of the smaller Dalit communities.

The educated and ambitious section of the Jatavs whose aspirations have not been fulfilled may not vote for the BJP like they did last time, but many will still vote for them.

If the BJP loses some Jatav or Balmiki votes, it will make it up from other Dalit communities.

The BJP has the ability of covering up its losses. If it loses a section of Dalit votes, it will make up those losses through the beneficiaries it has created among the rural poor who have benefited from its welfare schemes. This includes Dalit subcastes like Pasi, Kori, Dhobi etc.

How do you account for the crowds that Akhilesh Yadav is drawing which are reminiscent of the crowds at Jagan Mohan Reddy's rallies in Andhra Pradesh in 2019. Does this mean that there is a churn against the BJP?

There is dissatisfaction and disaffection for the BJP, but there is no anti-incumbency against the BJP government in UP.

The crowds thronging Akhilesh Yadav's meetings reveal the disaffection for the BJP, but it is too early to say if this disaffection will convert into votes for the SP.

At this point of time what is your assessment of which way the UP 2022 election is headed?

As of now, the BJP is in a position to win and form the government in UP. It may not get as many seats as in 2017.

Elections can take a turn as the campaign progresses, but as of now the BJP has an edge.

What happens if BJP wins but does not get the majority of 2017? Will it curb Yogi Adiyanath's ascent?

It will not impact Yogi Adityanath because the party got its best-ever majority in the last election without projecting a chief ministerial face.

It was won because of Modi and the BJP's narrative of Hindutva.

If Yogi Adityanath can form a government a second time albeit with a reduced majority, he will not face much criticism because he has steered his government through a difficult time including the pandemic.

He may not have been able to control the tsunami of the second wave which was difficult for the entire world, but UP has run a successful vaccination programme and handled the post second wave period effectively.

This is why the state will hopefully not see a harsh effect of the third wave.

If he gets fewer seats, he will not be seen as a loser but an achiever because he has steered the state through very difficult times.

How do you rate his performance?

1. Law and order.
2. Medico-centre politics: The Covid care centres that he set up in the first phase and post second wave.
3. Effective delivery of government schemes.

Apart from that there is a network of highways being built by the central government.

Work on temples has been undertaken by both central and state governments. Both Modi and Yogi have given a boost to temple tourism.

There is no conflict or contradiction about the image of Modi or Yogi in the public mind.

In UP, many see Yogi and Modi as one.

IMAGE: Bahujan Samaj Party President Mayawati.

If the BJP comes to power, do you see the anti Muslim sentiment in UP becoming entrenched?

Anti-Muslim rhetoric serves a purpose during elections. The anti-Muslim narrative is weakening in the BJP because the party wants to reach Muslim voters also.

Muslims are also part of the beneficiary class that it is receiving government schemes.

I don't think the anti-Muslim narrative will sustain. It has a shelf life and will run its course.

Once a party is in power it needs others communities; power also makes you soft and inclusive. It compels parties to include other groups and communities.

I think the BJP will give tickets to some Muslims also this time.

There are some sections within Muslims, especially the rural poor, who praise Modi.

I don't think there will be a need for the BJP'S old conventional politics anymore.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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