North Indian State civic polls indicate BJP’s waning appeal at grassroots

North Indian State civic polls indicate BJP’s waning appeal at grassroots

Colombo, December 5: India’s mainstream newspapers flashed a front page story declaring that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had swept the urban local bodies’ elections in the populous North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Pictures of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath offering sweets to one of his deputies were flashed. .

But the song and dance hid a bitter truth. BJP had actually been routed in these elections having managed to win a mere 18.7% of all seats whereas the opposition, especially independent candidates, had come out with flying colors. In fact, if Independents were a party they would have got a thumping majority in these elections.

“The only category in which the BJP has done better is the Mayors’ positions. Out of 16 Mayoral positions they have captured 14. But that is the end of their success story. As there is nothing unusual about this win. Big cities have been BJP strongholds for a long time now. It would have been surprising if they had not won at least these seats,” says Sandeep Pandey, a commentator.  .

“In every other category of elected positions, (other than Mayors)’ the combined opposition has decimated the BJP,” he added.

The results also indicated the possibility of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) returning to its original form, namely, a party of the urban and upwardly mobile middle class quintessentially.

According to figures put out by the UP Elections Department, out of the total  of 12,644, 7704 were won by Independents. The BJP came a poor second with 2366 seats. The Non-BJP political parties together got a higher number, 2383.

The party-wise beak up of seats in the Municipal Corporations are as follows: Out of the total of 1299 seats; 596 went to the BJP, 147 to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), 202 to the Samajwadi Pzrty (SP), 110 to Congress, and Independents got 22. The Non-BJP category has 683 members as against the BJP’s 596. And this is in the most urbanized category – the Municipal Corporations – where there is a great of support for the BJP’s ideology.

In the Municipal Councils, which are in smaller towns, BJP  bagged 70 out of 198 chairpersonships. The BSP got 29, SP 45, Congress 9, and Independents got 43.

Among the Municipal Councilors, out of the total 5260 seats, BJP got 992, BSP 262, SP 477, Congress 158 and Independents bagged 3380. Thus Independents walked away with the lions’ share of the seats or 64% as against BJP’s 18%.

Going down to the next level, the Municipal Panchayats, out of a total of 438 Chairpersonships, 100 went to the BJP, 45 to BSP, 83 to SP, 17 to Congress and 182 to Independents. Here again Independents scored significantly over the BJP and non-BJP parties put together have more seats than the BJP.

Among the 5433 Municipal Panchayat Councilors, 664 are BJP, 218 are BSP, 453 are SP, 126 are Congress and 3875 are Independents.

This presents a dismal picture especially because the BJP is a ruling party both in UP and the Center, and both governments are led by “strongmen”.

Ayodhya Results An Eye Opener

The BJP won the Ayodhya Municipal Corporation Mayor’s seat, but suffered heavy losses in rural and semi urban seats. Out of 33 Municipal board seats in rural and semi-urban areas of Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Basti, Gonda, Balrampur,  Bahraich and Sultanpur districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh, the BJP bagged only 6. The SP won 12 seats, the BSP 5, the Congress 3 and Independents won 7.

It wasn’t so long ago that the BJP (and its allies) had won 73 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats and 325 out of 403 assembly seats in the State.

Commenting on the results, Indian human rights activist and political commentator Sukumar Muralidharan said:

“It seems that the BJP preempted a critical public dialogue on the U.P. civic polls by proclaiming victory and then moving on to seemingly bigger battles like the Gujarat assembly election. The fact is that the BJP did resoundingly well at the top tier of the hierarchy of civic administration, winning 14 of 16 mayoral posts. Since these were the first results to be declared, the BJP managed to run away with the ball, without waiting for the finer details to emerge. The fact is that as the counting of votes — cast both electronically and through paper ballots — at the second and third tiers progressed, a substantial loss of vote share became apparent in relation to the BJP’s performance in the assembly election earlier this year. To say that U.P. chief minister Yogi Adityanath has emerged in flying colors from his first electoral test since then, would be premature.”

Opposition Blames Electronic Voting Machines

The opposition parties say that they could have won more seats in the Municipal Corporations if Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) had not been used. Where the traditional ballot papers were used ,the opposition did well. It is believed that EVM could be tampered with. The opposition has called for holding the 2019 parliamentary elections with ballot papers rather than EVMs.

SP spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary alleged that the BJP again misused EVMs to win 14 mayoral contests and reiterated the demand that ballot paper be used in the future elections. And SP leader Akhilesh Yadav tweeted: “BJP has only won 15 percent seats in ballot paper areas and 46 percent in EVM areas.”

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati declared that if the 2019 parliamentary elections are held with ballot papers and not EVMs, the BJP will be defeated.

But the head of the BJP in UP, Mahendra Nath Pandey, pointed out that the opposition has no right to blame the EVMs because the BSP won in 2008 and the SP won in 2012 with EVMs in use.

BJP’s Claims Great Success Prematurely

Commenting on the results and the BJP’s claims of great success, Indian political commentator Sukumar Muralidharan says: “It seems that the BJP preempted a critical public dialogue on the U.P. civic polls by proclaiming victory and then moving on to seemingly bigger battles like the Gujarat assembly election. The fact is that the BJP did resoundingly well at the top tier of the hierarchy of civic administration, winning 14 of 16 mayoral posts. Since these were the first results to be declared, the BJP managed to run away with the ball, without waiting for the finer details to emerge. The fact is that as the counting of votes — cast both electronically and through paper ballots — at the second and third tiers progressed, a substantial loss of vote share became apparent in relation to the BJP’s performance in the assembly election earlier this year. To say that U.P. chief minister Yogi Adityanath has emerged in flying colors from his first electoral test since then, would be premature.”

 

 

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