With Opposition Numbers Swelling, BJP Has to Rely on PM Modi’s Charisma for Battle 2019

BJP will have to rely heavily on the charisma of PM Modi in 2019 to bridge the deficit generated by a high index of opposition unity.

Jan Sangh in its neo-natal days had developed pockets of influence in north and west India. For instance, Kota in Rajasthan, Indore in Madhya Pradesh and Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh had strong RSS presence due to the sharp communal polarisation witnessed during Partition. Jan Sangh founding member Deen Dayal Upadhyay was from Hathras, a tehsil in Aligarh district at the time of Independence.

Jan Sangh metamorphosed to Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. The BJP’s Hindutva face and its first CM in UP Kalyan Singh also started his political career from Atrauli — just 25 km north-west of Aligarh.

But quite unlike Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh where Jan Sangh could expand to emerge as the main opposition to Congress, the saffron outfit found the going tough in UP, especially in the western districts of the state till late 90s.

One of the reasons for the initial impediments which the Jan Sangh and later the BJP faced has been attributed to the strong hold of former Prime Minister Charan Singh over agrarian communities, his core constituency. When in the Congress and even later, a devout follower of Arya Samaj movement, Charan Singh’s right of the centre politics left little space for the BJP to grow.

Some of the speeches and letters written by Singh as parliamentary secretary to then UP CM Govind Ballabh Pant explicitly display his political predilections.

The BJP got its first major breakthrough in western UP with the disintegration of the Lok Dal. Mulayam Singh appropriated the leadership of the socialists after a bitter tussle with Charan Singh’s son Ajit Singh.

Over the years, Singh’s influence in state politics has been confined to one particular community — Jats — spread over about a dozen districts in western UP.

The BJP’s phenomenal growth in western UP since 2014 has been at the cost of the total decimation of the RLD. In 2017 Assembly polls, Ajit Singh’s party won just one seat, Chaprauli in Bhagpat, which was for many years was held by Charan Singh. Singh and his son Jayant both lost the last lok Sabha polls by a considerable margin.

The BJP’s success in western UP has been on account of large polarisation in these areas where minority population varies from 25% to 45%. The consolidation of Hindu votes has seen politically aggressive and dominant Jats leaving the RLD for the BJP.

Samajwadi Party in Kairana by ‘donating’ its candidate — a Muslim — to the RLD has attempted to bring together Jats and Muslims back on one platform. Fielding a Muslim candidate from Chaudhary Charan Singh’s party was a well thought out gameplan.

The Kairana result brings about a complete mobilisation of non-BJP forces in UP — SP, BSP, Congress and RLD. It is like 1977, when all political forces merged to challenge the might of Indira Gandhi.

After Gorakhpur and Phulpur, Kairana has shown that in 2019, the arithmetic is heavily staked against the BJP in 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

The party will have to rely heavily on the charisma of PM Modi to bridge the deficit generated by a high index of opposition unity.

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