Skip to main content

Last year's UP panchayat polls broke BJP's invincibility myth, 'not money, muscle power'

Bharat Dogra* 

While elections in all States are important, state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh (UP) always have a special importance from a national perspective. So it is this time around too as the election scene in Uttar Pradesh is being followed very eagerly.
Generally BJP is depicted to be strong in this State, but let us check this against the results of the panchayat elections held last year in UP. While nobody is saying that similar results will be repeated in assembly elections as these are after all a different game, but surely some indication of grassroots support can be gathered from there.
Panchayat election systems can differ somewhat from State to State but generally these involve elections for rural decentralization institutions at three tiers -- village ( or cluster of smaller villages), block, district. For some posts at these level people vote directly to elect representatives. The real grassroot support is reflected in this component of direct elections.
For other senior posts it is these directly elected representatives who vote in a system of indirect election, with high possibility of manipulations. These panchayat elections are not officially fought on party lines, but party affiliations and support are clearly known and widely reported.
In the UP panchayat elections in 2021, spread over April-July, first the results of direct elections, more clearly reflecting the real inclinations of people, came in. These reflected a clear trend of the BJP trailing at a rather distant second position.
The BJP tried to hide its discomfort at these results by claiming several winning independents as its supporters, but this did not get much credibility. In particular several reports emphasized the very poor showing of the BJP in its strongholds like Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura.
In a report updated in the “Hindustan Times” on May 6, for instance, it was stated that in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of PM Narendra Modi, out of 40 seats of zila (district) panchayat members, the BJP was at a rather distant second place and could win only 7.
In Mathura, the Lok Sabha constituency of a BJP star campaigner, the BJP was pushed to sharing even the second spot. In Ayodhya, another supposed big stronghold of the BJP, the BJP could win only 8 out of 40 seats, again getting only a distant second spot.
The BJP was pushed to the second spot in the directly contested elections despite the BJP candidates being generally much better placed in terms of resources and massive funds having been been poured in recent times into BJP strongholds like Varanasi, apart from the more general advantages of the BJP being the the ruling party .
A widely discussed analysis of these election results by a senior MP and political leader of the BJP found the BJP leading in only 67 out of 357 rural Assembly constituencies (urban constituencies were not covered in this analysis as these are not relevant in the context of rural panchayat elections).
This first phase of panchayat elections reflected the trends obtained by direct voting and hence are more relevant for knowing the public mood.
However, indirect voting was still to be held for the posts of block pramukhs ( second tier head-persons ) and zila panchayat adhyakshas or district panchayat presidents ( third- tier headpersons) in July. Due to the much smaller number of voters involved in these indirect elections, these were more prone to use of money power and muscle power, and these were won by the BJP. There were many news reports and videos of violence, intimidation, beatings and firing.
So the lessons of panchayat elections in UP last year appear to be that the ground-level support for the BJP has dwindled, but at the same time the BJP has greatly increased its capacity for post election manipulation, and this has to be guarded against.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save the Earth Now; recent books: “Protecting Earth for Children” and “Planet in Peril”

Comments

TRENDING

New Odia CM's tribal heritage 'sets him apart' from Hindutva Brahminical norms

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Mohan Charan Majhi took the oath as the new Chief Minister of Odisha following the electoral defeat of the BJD led by Naveen Patnaik, who served as Chief Minister for twenty-four years. The new Chief Minister is the son of a security guard and a four-time MLA who hails from the remote village of Raikala in the Keonjhar district. He belongs to the Santali tribe and comes from a working-class family. Such achievements and political mobilities are possible only in a democratic society. Majhi’s leadership even in the form of symbolic representation in a democracy deserves celebration.

Pellet gun fire severely injures Dalit worker off Bangladesh border

By Kirity Roy*  This is regarding an incident of firing pellets by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel attached with Panchadoji Border Outpost of ‘E’ Company of 90 BSF Battalion on a Schedule Caste youth of village Parmananda under Dinhata Police Station of Cooch Behar district of West Bengal. The victim was severely injured and one portion of his face became disfigured due to pellet firing by the BSF.

Sanction to persecute Arundhati Roy under UAPA politically motivated: PUCL

Counterview Network  Top human rights group, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, has demanded that the authorities should immediately withdraw the prosecution against top author Arundhati Roy and Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a Kashmir academic, under the " unconstitutional"  Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act  (UAPA), calling the Delhi  Lieutenant-Governor nod for the Delhi police move "politically motivated".

What stops Kavach? Why no time to focus on common trains meant for common people?

By Atanu Roy  A goods train rammed into Kanchenjunga Express on 17th June morning in North Bengal. This could have been averted if the time tested anti-collision system (Kavach) was in place. 

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Lip-service on World Environment Day vs 'watered-down' eco-safeguards

By Shankar Sharma*  Just a few days ago, the world remembered the routinely forgotten global environment on the occasion of World Environment Day, briefly though, maybe just for the day. There were reports of a few high profile ceremonies in different parts of the country, including a few in New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the people of our country to plant one tree per each person as a mark of respect/ gratitude for our mothers.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.