BJP flagged off the party’s Jan Vishwas Yatra at six places in UP

The BJP’s well-oiled electoral machinery has begun moving at a breakneck speed to reach out to people in all 403 Assembly constituencies

New Delhi: “Chahe jitna zor laga lo, chahe jitna shor macha lo… jitenge BJP hi, ayenge phir Yogi ji” …. The song blares in almost all the BJP rallies in Uttar Pradesh. On Sunday, top state leaders of the BJP simultaneously flagged off the party’s “Jan Vishwas Yatra” from six places in UP. The BJP’s well-oiled electoral machinery has begun moving at a breakneck speed to reach out to people in all 403 Assembly constituencies. Even as a divided Opposition is trying to cash in on the Centre’s U-turn on the controversial farm laws and Covid-19 deaths during the second wave, defeating the BJP, which has nearly 50 per cent of the voteshare, could possibly be a formidable task.

With the Mayawati-led BSP yet to pick up pace and the Congress so far not able to make any impact through its campaigns, the Akhilesh Yadav- led Samajwadi Party is the main challenger to the ruling BJP, which is targeting 350-plus seats this time to retain power. While the saffron poll managers are concerned over the “anti-BJP” votes going entirely to the SP, if it is not divided among the BSP, Congress and SP, the BJP’s latest survey suggests that the EBC (extremely backward caste) and upper caste votes are still intact. The SP’s efforts to woo the upper caste votebank have been marred by Mr Yadav’s “Jinnah” statements and also the SP’s persistent demand for OBC census and its stand on the entire reservation issue. The survey suggests that each EBC and “Mahadalit” (non-Jatav) family in the state has benefited with at least three Central schemes. The Yogi Adityanath government has also been making extra efforts to promote state government schemes in areas having significant EBC, Mahadalit and OBC populations. The state has nearly 35 per cent OBC (non-Yadav) and around 21 per cent dalits and the BJP has been strategically reaching out to all of them.

If the BJP and its leadership has been focusing on the development plank, with the Ram Mandir construction on in full swing and the recently-inaugurated Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor, the party is also honing its Hindutva edge. In his rallies, Union home minister Amit Shah continues to target the Opposition over minority appeasement. He branded the Samajwadi Party as a supporter of “JAM” -- J for Jinnah, A for jailed Rampur MP Azam Khan and M for jailed Mau MLA Mukhtar Ansari. Yogi Adityanath had claimed that people who said “Abba Jaan” had got all the rations under previous governments. The decision by Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM to contest 100 seats is also being seen as to the BJP’s advantage as it will divide Muslim votes, which otherwise will strengthen the SP, whose core votebank is Yadav-Muslim. The state’s population has around 19 per cent Muslims and 20 per cent Yadavs.

Some feel that the BJP’s over-dependence on religious polarisation “might not be enough” to return to power. High unemployment, lack of all-round development, a devastating second wave of Covid-19 have somewhat shaken the saffron roots in the state. In a bid to gloss over the apparent failures, the BJP has come with a slogan “soch imandar, kam damdar”. Speculation is rife that the BJP top brass will replace at least 30-40 per cent of its MLAs, including sitting ministers, to ward off any “anti-incumbency”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is already zipping across the state, laying foundation stones for upcoming projects ranging from the Jewar airport to the ambitious 594-km-long Ganga Expressway. Heaping praise on the chief minister, the Prime Minister had said: “UP + Yogi = Bahut UPyogi” (Uttar Pradesh plus Yogi have great utility). Many in the BJP feel that Mr Modi’s praising the CM on many occasions is also an attempt to counter the “anti-incumbency” sentiments against the CM and also a message to the saffron cadre who were concerned over reports of dissidence against Yogi Adityanath within the BJP state unit.

Regardless of the hurdles, a fragmented Opposition provides the BJP with a distinct advantage. The Akhilesh Yadav-led SP, which has tied up with smaller parties, has ruled out any form of alliance with the Congress and the BSP. In this four-cornered election, the BJP, that has the largest voteshare, is expected to benefit.

However, the BJP, which now has a brute majority (312 of 403 Assembly seats) is “expected to come down by at least 100 seats”, said a senior BJP leader. “Even then we are far ahead in the race,” he pointed out.

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