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BJP's Mission UP: Winning All 80 Lok Sabha Seats

By Aditi Phadnis
January 05, 2024 08:59 IST
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The BJP lost 15 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2019. Union ministers have been deployed in all 15, tasked with turning the result around.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi at a roadshow in Ayodhya, December 30, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttar Pradesh is on a roll.

Last month, the Yogi Adityanath-headed government cleared the excise policy for 2024-2025. For the first time, the government has introduced a franchise fee so that global brands can collaborate with local distilleries in UP to use existing bottling facilities and augment supply without the pressure of setting up new distilleries.

Beer shops will now be able to develop 100 square metres in an adjoining space as 'permit rooms' at a cost of Rs 5,000 a year.

Sanjay Gupta, a local businessman who has set up the first wine project in the state on his property, Gupta Resorts, in Muzaffarnagar, says his project is underway: "The unit has been installed on National Highway 58 and will have the capacity to produce 155 litres of wine per day, which means an annual production of over 50,000 litres."

The policy is not without its critics.

Akhilesh Yadav, former chief minister and Samajwadi Party chief, reacted sharply to the liberalisation of the excise policy.

"Is this the only way left for the UP BJP government to create a $1 trillion economy by selling liquor at railway and metro stations and on cruise ships? It means that all the claims of investments worth crores of rupees are false, which is why the government is adopting such unethical means (to earn revenue)," Yadav said.

But this is not all. Since October, the UP government has taken many significant administrative steps that are likely to have a far-reaching impact.

The decks are being cleared for the construction of nine more airports in the state over the next two years.

Union Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia let the cat out of the bag in the Lok Sabha when answering supplementaries last month.

UP had got three airports in the past 65 years, Scindia said, and this number was expected to go up to 18 by 2025-2026, including a facility in Meerut.

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party National President J P Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at the inauguration of the 'Women's Half Marathon' in Lucknow, December 31, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

In November, the state government acknowledged that foreign direct investment flows into the state, at Rs 9,435 crore (Rs 94.35 billion/about $1.13 billion), or 0.7 per cent of FDI inflows into India between October 2019 and December 2022, were low and announced a new FDI policy with incentives for overseas investors, including exemptions in land acquisition, stamp duty, and capital investment.

Other voter-friendly moves have been cleared by the government.

The state government will give two free liquefied petroleum gas cylinder refills to the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana beneficiaries for two quarters, from October 2023 to March 2024.

The move will cover 17.5 million families and cost the state government Rs 2,312 crore (Rs 23.12 billion).

The beneficiaries will first get a cylinder refill by paying the prevailing consumer rate, and the subsidy will be refunded later by oil companies to the Aadhaar-certified account of the beneficiaries.

IMAGE: A view of the Maharishi Valmiki international airport in Ayodhya, December 30, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

In an interaction in Delhi, Akilesh Yadav announced he was ready to meet the political challenge head-on.

'Our slogan is: '80 harao, BJP hatao'' ('defeat BJP on all 80 UP Lok Sabha seats and oust it'). But it might not be that easy.

In November, the central BJP leadership called a meeting of all the top leaders of the UP unit, including the two deputy CMs.

The meeting discussed ways to get feedback on the performance of representatives, especially MPs.

"Labour under no illusion. Once we receive feedback, up to 30 per cent of sitting MPs (from the state) could be replaced," said a state BJP general secretary.

The BJP lost 15 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in 2019 following a tie-up between the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (while the Congress retained its Raebareli seat).

Vistaraks or observers of the central party have been deployed in all 15. These are Union ministers tasked with turning the result around.

The BJP has already clawed back two Lok Sabha seats -- Azamgarh and Rampur -- in the by-elections.

Rambahadur Rai, chief of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, says the biggest achievement of the Yogi government is to rid "the state of its bimaru (sickly) tag".

This development, along with the ceremonials around the Ram temple unveiling in January, will likely be the propelling factor for the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls.

And it is well into campaign mode already.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Aditi Phadnis
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