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  India   All India  19 Mar 2018  UP: Where is the saffron wave?

UP: Where is the saffron wave?

THE ASIAN AGE. | NILOFAR SUHRAWARDY
Published : Mar 19, 2018, 12:46 am IST
Updated : Mar 19, 2018, 12:46 am IST

Had they lost, the BJP and its saffron brigade would have gone overboard about their rival parties having no political base left in UP.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Photo: PTI)
 Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Photo: PTI)

Would it be fair to assume that BJP’s “stunning” defeat in the three Lok Sabha constituencies, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, is equivalent to the saffron wave having been snubbed in this Hindi belt? There is no secret about the manner in which UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, from the day he took charge, has been going overboard in promoting saffron version of Hindutva-drive. The BJP’s defeat from the very constituency, viewed as his bastion — Gorakhpur — strongly suggests that his extremist moves and those of his associates have failed to create any favourable impression upon the common people. Yes, the common people, whose numerical turnout during election period tends to exceed that of upper class voters.

The hard reality that has apparently hit the BJP most severely is that these election results have proved to be an eye-opener to limited, rather adverse impact of extremist, communal leanings to display which saffron brigade, including Yogi chose to go overboard. And this sends a strong message about the hype raised regarding saffron wave. It may be viewed as a hype and nothing else. Howsoever strong attempts may be made by Yogi and his associates to paint UP saffron, their importance is confined to their own circle. And their circle does not represent the majority in UP.

 

Clearly, if the BJP had won from Gorakhpur and/or Phulpur, it may have been reasonable to accept saffron brigade’s claims about their Hindutva-drive having some impact on the people. It is important to keep track of the votes actually won by the BJP. When there are too many parties in fray, it is not impossible for a party to win by securing even just 10 per cent votes. Please take note, even though victory by this percentage of votes secures the party a seat in the legislature contested for, it does not symbolise support of the majority for the winner. Yes, when hype is raised about waves, it also implies popular appeal of these among people at large.

 

Undeniably, the loss suffered by the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party in 2014 parliamentary polls had cautioned them about what defeat in these bypolls could spell for them. Had they lost, the BJP and its saffron brigade would have gone overboard about their rival parties having no political base left in UP. It may be recalled during 2014 parliamentary polls, in several constituencies of UP, votes gained by both the SP and BSP exceeded those won by the BJP by more than 20,000 votes. Overall, together they got more votes in 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly polls than the BJP. This reality has apparently been given great importance by the SP and BSP.

 

The BJP erred by ignoring this reality. In essence, the party has been giving greater importance to promoting its image and that of its leaders along lines they consider significant but minimal to voters’ stand as well as their grievances. It is not simply the case of it having taken only around a year for voters in Gorakhpur and Phulpur to reject the saffron drive promoted and propagated by Yogi and his associates. Elementarily speaking, they have come to terms with such agenda being nothing but a political ploy to entrap the voters’ support. Rather than be taken for a ride in the name of extremist religious issues with communal bias, voters have displayed greater preference for their and the state’s development.

 

However, had the SP and BSP chosen not to align to contest these bypolls, the BJP may have emerged as victorious, that too without winning even 50 per cent votes. It may be noted in Tripura, the BJP has won 35 seats against 16 won by the CPI(M) in the 60-member Assembly. Yet, the CPI(M) has won just 0.3 per cent less votes than the BJP. The latter has won 43 per cent votes and former 42.7 per cent. This only suggests that it would be wrong to assume that the BJP’s Tripura victory signals an end of CPI(M)’s base here. The same can be said about votes won by the SP and BSP in UP during 2014 parliamentary elections. Having learned from their defeat in 2014 parliamentary elections, the two parties decided to try their hand at this strategy — coming together to fight the BJP. The strong fight given by the Congress to the BJP in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat probably set the stage for this alliance. Interestingly, the SP and BSP gave little importance to several religious issues, particularly that of Ayodhya, strongly promoted by Yogi. In their understanding, these can be viewed as nothing else but a part of saffron brigade’s campaign to enhance the BJP’s political strength.

 

With their political roots based in UP, the SP and BSP leaders were apparently well aware of the limited importance the so-called saffron wave actually has for the people at large. So from this angle, the BJP’s defeat does not suggest that the saffron wave has been snubbed in UP. Rather, it clearly indicates that such a wave does not exist here. Its importance is confined to saffronisation drama indulged in frequently by Yogi and his associates. Certainly, the UP byelection results send a strong message. The BJP leaders need to reconsider the importance they give to the so-called saffron wave. Hopefully, the BJP’s rival parties don’t miss the strong political reality — united they stand, divided they fall!

 

The writer is a senior journalist. She has come out with two books Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp and Image and Substance: Modi’s First Year in Office

Tags: lok sabha, yogi adityanath, gorakhpur, samajwadi party