Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Suggestions for BJP for 2017 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh

By : Manmath Deshpande
Please pass on to BJP leaders whatever is deemed fit. This is a battle not just for the BJP, but for the Hindu society, for the nation, for ideology. Not just the BJP is fighting this battle, all nationalists are fighting this.

     Though what I will write may already be known, and I am no qualified person to give long lectures on such a topic, I am just giving a list of a few suggestions which could perhaps help the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of February 2017. Any or all of them can be accepted or rejected. The following are my unsolicited suggestions:

1- Identify seats in Uttar Pradesh out of 403 where it is impossible for the BJP to win. There could be at least 50-70 such seats in Uttar Pradesh. In the 2014 LS polls, when the BJP swept Uttar Pradesh winning 71 out of 80 on its own and 73 with its ally Apna Dal, it led in some 330 odd Assembly seats.That is, there were 60-70 seats where the BJP could not lead even after getting 42% of the vote in the state and getting an eye-popping 73 seats out of 80. Do not waste time and energy by unduly working on unwinnable seats. Concentrate on winnable seats only.

2- In Feb 2002, the BJP's Brahmin vote drifted away due to perceived "Thakurization". The then  Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh courted the Thakurs and though the then BJP Chief Minister did a great and commendable work, the Brahmins and Thakurs voted for candidates rather than parties. That is why in Gorakhpur, the Hindu Mahasabha won defeating the BJP in 2002. In 2007, much of this vote again drifted away from the BJP. There were many predictions in 2007 that the BJP has improved its position and will improve from the 2004 Lok Sabha performance (of just 10 seats out of 80) and win 100-120 seats. And though the opinion and exit polls all said the same thing, the actual results proved to be completely different with BJP winning just 51 seats. One reason for this was because, the voting was very low, just 45 % voting done. This benefited BSP the most, since its supporters always came out to vote, and the SP to a lesser extent, because the Muslims also always vote. The low turnout proved fatal for the BJP in 2007. A similar repeat should be avoided in 2017.

    The then Gujarat Chief Minister and current PM Narendra Modi learnt from this and ensured that BJP workers work and take people out of their homes to vote in Gujarat in December 2007 and hence won a huge majority with almost 60% voting done. The 2004 Lok Sabha polls saw a mere 45% voting in Gujarat which saw BJP win only 14 out of 26 seats, with Congress winning 12. The current PM learnt from this and ensured a high turnout in Gujarat in December 2007. The other major blunder done by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in 2007 was assuming that upper caste votes would come to it. The upper castes Brahmins and Thakurs may this time also prefer candidates over parties, hence BJP should not assume their votes and choose winnable candidates who will be voted for by the upper castes.

3- In the identified seats where there is a prospect of a BJP victory, the following should be done. The voter's demography should be carefully studied. And the BJP workers should be assigned tasks to ensure maximum voting by the castes which are likely to vote for the BJP. For example, in a seat with 28 % Brahmin vote, if the BJP fields a winnable Brahmin candidate, then the cadres should work to ensure more that more than 90 % BRAHMINS of that seat vote.(There would also be no point in getting people out to vote who would not anyway vote for the BJP.) Actually, maximum voting will benefit the BJP most, since BJP's opponents (Muslims and some other caste people) anyways go to vote. Hence the focus should be on getting maximum voters out, but in particular, in getting the community's voters out which is likely to vote for the BJP. If the overall voting in Uttar Pradesh this time crosses 60%, BJP may have a good chance of winning a majority on its own.

   The opinion polls predicting BJP as being the single largest party or getting a majority should not be taken at face value, they can go horribly wrong. The Todays Chanakya exit polls (not even opinion polls, but exit polls) along with IBTL exit polls in Bihar 2015 were identical, giving BJP-led NDA 155 out of 243, but the RJD-JD(U) alliance won 178 out of 243 with the BJP-led alliance winning only 58, 53 of which were by BJP.

  LOW VOTING LIKE 45 % of 2007 WILL DOOM THE BJP. 90% Muslims anyway vote. If total 45 % vote it means 90 % out of the 20% Muslims voted i.e 18 out of 45 votes polled were by Muslims-more than 38 % OF THE ACTUAL VOTES POLLED! High voting from Hindus and potential BJP voters  is a must. BJP must work overtime to ensure that more than 90 % of the Brahmins, upper castes and potential BJP supporters vote. Despite me saying this 100 times, in the Lok Sabha 2009 polls in Nagpur, hardly 40 % voting from Nagpur West was done which is a BJP stronghold. This low voting from the BJP stronghold resulted in Congress winning Nagpur seat by 24,000 votes. Had West Nagpur seen 70% voting, BJP would have easily won. Same for other seats with BJP supporters.

4- For ensuring a high voting, every BJP worker must be given a task out of voters list. Each and every BJP member, from former Chief Ministers to ordinary workers must be assigned some task to bring out people on voting day. This was done in Gujarat in December 2007. If there are 3 lakh voters in a seat, around 1.6 lakh may vote out of which BJP would need 55,000 odd votes to win. For this every worker should be given 25 houses- he must ensure that everyone out of those 25 houses comes out to vote, meaning 100 voters. The voters too should be classified as "LIKELY BJP SUPPORTERS" and "BJP Opponents".  In case of lack of manpower, only the people belonging to BJP's supporters caste should be wooed. And in case of lack of workers, workers from other states should be called into Uttar Pradesh 2 weeks before the polls and there help be taken. Workers from Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and even Maharashtra can be called.

5- Campaigning and active work and concentration on winnable seats will work wonders for the BJP. No matter how much the leaders campaign (like Hon'ble PM Narendra Modi, or Akhilesh Yadav or Mayawati) majority of the people in normal elections vote for an MLA, not a Chief Minister or a leader. Perhaps this was one reason why the BJP-led NDA lost Bihar badly in November 2015 despite the PM drawing huge, massive crowds. A correct choice of candidates (dedicated workers, who are winnable candidates belonging to the right caste) can totally upset the plans of SP-Congress-RLD (who will have either  formal or an informal, tacit alliance) and BSP.

     BJP should not assume assume upper caste votes. Upper caste votes can come easily if the right candidates are chosen, I feel this time too they may prefer candidates over parties. Brahmin leaders like Kalraj Mishra should be asked to campaign extensively for Brahmin votes, while Rajnath Singh can court Thakurs.

    Samajwadi Party and BSP will surely lose their advantage by their choice of candidates, since they will give tickets to sychophants and rank outsiders ignoring loyal workers. Already we saw the conflict of ticket distribution in SP- Mulayam-Shivpal gave 393 tickets but Akhilesh Yadav gave his own list of 235 candidates. One of the main causes of Congress' rout in Bihar in Nov 2010 (4/243 seats) was this- its candidates. BSP also 'sells' tickets, so wrong candidates will definitely be given tickets in some places. In 2009 Lok Sabha Congress got 21 seats when it fielded mostly right candidates. Also, in Lok Sabha independents are not a factor since they can't win a Lok Sabha seat, but can easily win or spoil chances in Assembly polls.

6- Rajnath Singh was the CM of UP between October 2000 and March 2002. Unfortunately, in the sleepy year between Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta as the CM had caused a lot of damage to the BJP's image in the state. He was perceived to be old and forgetful, administratively incompetent and politically irrelevant (Whatever the reality, this was the perception). Rajnath Singh had a great personal image as a decisive administrator, but it was always going to be too late for him. Maybe if he had more time on his hands to undo the damage his preceder had done to the state's economy and the BJP's image, the results in Feb 2002 would have been different. He has a goodwill at least among the Thakur community, and also in the state. The BJP could not utilize the goodwill for Rajnath in the Feb 2012 polls in Uttar Pradesh. Even now, the perception is that Rajnath is reluctant to become Chief Minister of UP.

      Whatever the reality, the Home Minister of India should be persuaded to make a statement that he will not rule out a return to state politics and will abide by any decision the party takes, thus throwing the possibility open for him to be UP CM again. He need not be declared as CM candidate, but his goodwill must be translated into votes. His becoming CM in the event of a BJP win should not be ruled out, as if its ruled out, the party won't gain. In his last term as UP CM, BJP did not have a full majority, it led a coalition government where other partners had to be handled, reportedly some infighting also was there in the party, and the CM had very less time on his hands, only 14 months or so before the Model Code of Conduct came into being. With a clear majority with no dependence on allies and a full 5-year term, a decisive BJP CM will do much better than last time- this perception must spread in Uttar Pradesh.

     7-  BJP's  trouble started in October 1999 when Kalyan Singh was still in the party and was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and the BJP won a mere 29 seats in Uttar Pradesh out of 85, 4 of them in Uttarakhand meaning 25 out of 80 in today's state. This was down from the 50+ it always won right since 1991. Kalyan was soon expelled from the party. The BJP blundered by making Ram Prakash Gupta as Chief Minister. In his 1 year tenure, he caused tremendous damage to the state's economy and the BJP's image, and also refused to take any action on Hindutva issues saying "Uttar Pradesh government is committed to 'NDA agenda'- which excludes Hindutva issues". Why then would voters vote for BJP which would neither deliver neither on ideology nor on governance?
   In Nov 2010, BJP gave a spectacular show in Bihar winning 91 out of the 102 seats it contested there. It was reported that the National President has given the next task as neighboring Uttar Pradesh, which I found very hopeful. However, the BJP learnt absolutely nothing from any of its past mistakes in UP polls in 2012. In 2007, BJP projected itself too late in UP. In 2012, BJP did not seem to project itself at all, and seemed resigned to the fact of SP's victory!  The decision to bring in Uma Bharti in 2012 was taken way too late, her contesting the election from Charkhari was too declared far too late (that she still won easily was a different matter). Uma Bharti did help the BJP, as it won 3 seats in Bundelkhand from 0 last time, and could have won more had Uma Bharti been brought in earlier.

   There are 2 leaders in the BJP who can help the BJP in Uttar Pradesh- Uma Bharti and Rajnath Singh with age on their side as Kalyan Singh is 83. People still remember, and can see even today that Rajnath Singh was and will be by far the best Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, far better than Akhilesh Yadav whose image has improved now due to orchestrated drama. The law and order was poor in UP in past 5 years despite Akhilesh being CM, but the drama enacted has tried to absolve him of the blame. The SPs decision to bring in new face Akhilesh Yadav saved it in 2012, had Mulayam Singh alone been the face, may be BJP could have done better and gained by default in 2012. In 2012 BJP had a lot of chance to utilize the goodwill that Rajnath Singh had, his pro-farmer image and his image as a decisive administrator. But BJP failed to translate it into votes, perhaps because of the feeling that Rajnath Singh is in national politics and not in state politics. BJP again failed to utilize all available talent- mass leaders like Rajnath Singh (who could have, as a minimum, shifted most upper-caste Rajput votes to the BJP, or at least Thakur votes, a large section of which went to Samajwadi Party in 2012) and Uma Bharti in 2012.

   Two mass leaders, Uma Bharti and Rajnath Singh must now focus on helping the BJP in the state. Uma Bharti is not only effective with the masses, she has the capacity to enthuse and motivate the cadres. As a matter of fact, even Kalyan Singh could have been asked to campaign in Uttar Pradesh, resigning from his post of Governor. It may be too late now. He and Rajnath Singh are two mass leaders of the BJP and also past Chief Ministers, with stature and maturity, as faces to counter Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. Both the talents appear to be not being utilized fully, one being a Governor and other being away from state politics. Kalraj Mishra who is a Union Minister should also utilize his goodwill in the state.

     The BJP stunned everyone, including itself and some of its most diehard supporters in the 2010 Bihar Assembly elections by winning an astonishing 91 out of 102 seats it contested, and 5 out of those 102 were no-hope seats with massive Muslim presence. A good strategy with proper implemenation may give a similar result in Uttar Pradesh too in 2017, which is needed to make BJP win 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of TUFFER and TUFFER does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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