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'BJP using Modi-Yogi as Ram-Lakshman jodi'

By ARCHANA MASIH
January 17, 2022 10:45 IST
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'Both Modi and Yogi are contesting this election together.'>br>'Both bring their individual strengths to BJP in UP.'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Mohan Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath at the inauguration of various developmental projects in Kanpur, December 28, 2021. Photograph: ANI Photo

"If the BJP comes back to power with reduced numbers it would not impact Yogi's stature because he will be the only CM in 32 years to get a consecutive second term in UP," psephologist and political analyst with the Centre for Developing Societies Professor Sanjay Kumar tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih.

The concluding segment of a two-part interview:

 

Has Yogi Adityanath taken over as the face of the UP campaign? Or is Narendra Modi still the mascot of the campaign?

Certainly, Yogi Adityanath has not taken over from Modi. At the same time, it would be incorrect to say that only it is only Modi who is the face of the BJP's UP campaign.

The BJP is cleverly using both Modi and Yogi like Ram-Lakshman ki jodi.

Both Modi and Yogi are contesting this election together. If the BJP had decided to contest elections only in the name of Modi, that may not have worked in favour of the party.

Both these faces bring their individual strengths to the BJP in UP.

What tone, tenor and shades of Hindutva are we seeing in this election compared to the past?

The language of Hindutva in the 2019 Lok Sabha election was very different. More than Hindutva it was about national security which was the larger narrative -- Pulwama, Balakot and the country's security.

Modi was projected as the man with the capability of keeping the nation secure and giving a befitting reply to Pakistan.

The 2017 UP election took place three years after Modi became prime minister (in 2014). The BJP was also on a winning streak in different state elections.

The BJP used the religious card, for example, the references to shamshan and kabristan, supply of electricity during Eid and Diwali etc in the 2017 UP campaign also; but in 2022, religion is being used right from the very beginning of the campaign by the BJP.

There is not a single rally where the religion is not invoked by one of the leaders of the BJP -- whether it is Jinnah, taking credit for the Ram Mandir, or invoking the issue of Kashi and Mathura or rebuilding temples that were lying in disrepair.

The BJP is sending out the message that it cares for the Hindu community.

So compared to 2017 or 2019, this election might be more polarised. The BJP needs this Hindutva narrative because it fears the cracks appearing in the lower OBC vote bank and the Samajwadi Party's ability to make a dent in that base.

Hence, the BJP wants to create a larger narrative under which people belonging to different castes and communities can be subsumed.

The Samajwadi Party will evade being overtly seen as a party which mobilises Muslim voters because that can result in counter-polarisation which will then benefit the BJP.

In the coming weeks, we will witness sharper polarisation of voters on religious lines.

The BSP seems to be on the decline. What do you see as the position of the BSP in this election?

In my opinion, Mayawati has a sense that the BSP cannot defeat the BJP in 2022. Hence, she wants to go slow this time and doesn't want to spend too much of money and effort.

It is said she has a tacit understanding with the BJP, but there is no evidence of it.

The BSP expanded its base in the last couple of decades, but its support started shrinking in the last five-seven years.

There was a time when the BSP used to get sizable number of votes in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and few other states.

The BSP used to get 8%-10% votes in the Punjab assembly elections, but got less than 2% last assembly election. Similarly in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

There is no sign of revival of the party. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 5-7 years it remains a party in name and new political players emerge to champion the cause of Dalits like Chandrashekhar Azad.

IMAGE: Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi at the 'Mahngai Hatao, BJP Bhagao Pratigya Padyatara' in Amethi. Photograph: PTI Photo

Any signs of revival of the Congress?

It is equally difficult for the Congress. If they had managed to at least win Kerala and Assam in the last round of assembly election, then losing all the states in this round may not have damaged its electoral revival.

The Congress lost Kerala, was unable to win Assam and got decimated in West Bengal. This round of assembly elections are extremely crucial for the Congress.

The party's prospects don't look good in the coming state elections.

Punjab: They would have had a chance if they had kept their house in order.

No party may be able to get a majority in Punjab, but AAP seems to be the frontrunner in Punjab.

Uttarakhand: AAP is also damaging the Congress's electoral prospects in Uttarakhand where the latter would have got a certain victory if AAP was not in the fray.

I would put my money on the BJP for winning in Uttarakhand.

Goa: The state is heading for a hung assembly. The Congress has no chance of winning in Goa because many elected MLAs have defected to other parties. The party is left with only two of its elected MLAs of 2017.

Manipur: There is a close fight. At the best, the Congress can win elections in Manipur with a thin majority.

UP: No chance.

The best case scenario for the Congress is winning Manipur and retaining Punjab. But, it is going to be very difficult to win Punjab considering the infighting within the state Congress.

Revival of the Congress is going to be very difficult if it does badly in this round of state elections. Many leaders within the Congress will lose further hope in the Central leadership.

If the BJP comes back to power in Uttar Pradesh with a reduced majority, will it curtail Yogi Adityanath's future rise in the party?

If the BJP comes back to power with reduced numbers Yogi will remain as strong as he has in the last five years because he will be the only CM in over 30 years to get a consecutive second term.

I don't think that if the BJP comes to power with a smaller majority, Yogi will be cut to size or his stature in the party will be diminished.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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