Three Cs - complacency, controversy and communal campaign - and the lack of another C - charisma - undid a resurgent but over-confident Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the bypolls for 11 assembly seats held last week.As the electronic voting machines churned out "disheartening" results Tuesday, mandarins in the state unit of the party conceded in private that though the results had come as a shocker, they had braced early up for a poor show.While maintaining a brave front on television channels and public platforms, senior leaders candidly admit now that deviating from the 'sabka saath, sabka vikas' (With all, for all) and embracing the communally laced tempo of a Yogi, Mahant Adityanath, proved to be their waterloo! The credo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaped huge electoral pidends for the BJP not long ago in the Lok Sabha elections, garnering 71 of the 80 seats from the state.
Pointing out that the national leadership had by and large shown no interest in the state's bypolls as it was busy with ground work for Haryana and Maharashtra where assembly polls are scheduled for October, the leaders point out that big names, be it the national party president Amit Shah or ministers like Uma Bharti, Santosh Gangwar, Gen V.K. Singh, Maneka Gandhi, were conspicuous by their absence in the UP campaign. This, they said, made an impression that after romping home to power in the central government, they were no longer interested in Uttar Pradesh."While this was not the reality, the perception carried through and was lapped up by the Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders who picked on absence of big BJP leaders as a show of disrespect to the mandate people gave to Modi," pointed out a leader.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav launched a frontal attack on the saffron party, accusing its leaders of selling pipedreams and raising false hopes. This clicked with the people, who decided to punish the BJP, first for deviating from its basic agenda of development and secondly for romancing the likes of Yogi Adityanath.
The absence of major faces in the campaign and state BJP president Laxmikant Bajpayi merrily playing along issues like "love jihad" and "shuddikaran" (purification) of those embracing Islam, left the party cadre confused and irked at the complacency of its top brass. Insiders in hushed tones also point out that the BJP top brass "deliberately overlooked" attempts by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and hardliners within the party to run amuck with their hate speeches and communal agenda.This, the senior BJP leader told IANS, was largely because the Sangh wanted to "test waters" on the party's winnability in Uttar Pradesh that hinged on communal and Hindutva agenda. A senior MP said the prime minister looked the other way as he wanted to settle "once and for all" the issue of whether development politics or the communal agenda was more acceptable to the people. "The landslide in the Lok Sabha polls was due to the charisma of Narendra Modi, there is no doubt about it now," said another senior party functionary.
The BJP bagged 71 of the 80 seats and its ally Apna Dal won another two - Mirzapur and Azamgarh seats - taking their combined tally to a whopping 73. Vijay Bahadur Pathak, state spokesman for the BJP and an outspoken critic of the Akhilesh Yadav government, while admitting that the results were a "blow to party's plans of expanding further", said that they took the poll results "very seriously" and that a course correction will follow. That seems to be the only sensible and workable way, party leaders feel.The humiliation of the BJP is magnified by the fact that the SP snatched eight of its incumbent seats despite both the chief minister and his party not being well received by the people. Crumbling law and order, poor drought management, spiralling communal riots and a snail-paced bureaucracy have been the bane of the 30-month-old SP government and its victory in the bypolls is likely to boost the party's sagging morale.