With troubles in West, BJP shifts focus to eastern Uttar Pradesh

The saffron caste cauldron, however, got somewhat shaken with a host of OBC leaders, switching over to the Samajwadi Party

New Delhi: Facing an uphill task in Jat-Muslim dominated Western Uttar Pradesh, BJP is going all out to try repeat its performance in the eastern region. Riding high on the Hindutva agenda, the BJP in the 2017 Assembly elections demolished the Opposition by winning 115 of the 164 seats in eastern UP. Besides Hindutva, the party also benefitted following its alliance with Apna Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP).

The saffron caste cauldron, however, got somewhat shaken with a host of OBC leaders, including Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chouhan (Nonia) and Dharam Singh Saini, switching over to the Samajwadi Party. Besides gaining the heavyweight OBC leaders from BJP, the SP has also stitched up alliances with smaller backward outfits like SBSP, Janvadi Party (Socialist) and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) led by Krishna Patel. The SBSP, being viewed as the emerging Dalit brigade, holds sway over nearly 18% of the Rajbhar community in eastern UP. With Janvadi Party in its pocket, the SP could also benefit from the support of the sizable Nonia community in the region. With the Apna Dal (Kamerawadi) faction in its kitty, the SP was also trying to split the Kurmi vote bank. Along with this, the SP carries the powerful combination of the Muslim-Yadav vote bank.

The Anupriya Patel-led Apna Dal (Sonelal), which apparently holds a considerable influence over the Kurmi vote bank, is a BJP ally. Following the cracks in its caste calculation, the BJP has also joined hands with the Nishad Party. Considered having influence in almost 60 Assembly segments, Nishad is a backward riverine community, which include sub-castes like Manjhi, Mallah, Bind Kevat. The majority of them are in eastern UP. The BJP has also formed committees to woo back the Brahmins, who comprise nearly 11.5-14% of the state’s population. Several BJP Brahmin leaders in eastern UP have switched over to SP.

With the caste equation delicately poised, the BJP have launched a two-pronged strategy to retain its grip in eastern UP. The first, is its tried and tested Hindutva plank.

The BJP heavyweights have now been aggressively raising issues related to Hindutva and nationalism. The polarisation had worked for the BJP both in 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly polls in the state. The BJP leaders and spokespersons have now been busy branding SP and Congress as "anti-Hindu."

The party has also combined development with its Hindutva stance. The BJP has launched a mega — “Purvanchal Vikas” plan. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party has unfurled mega projects including Purvanchal Expressway, AIIMS at Gorakhpur, Kashi Vishwanath corridor, International Airport at Siddharthnagar among others as part of this development blitzkrieg.

The BJP also hopes that fielding chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, from Gorakhpur would benefit the party in eastern UP. This is the first time, Yogi Adityanath would be contesting an Assembly election. With Gorakhpur being a "safe seat", the chief minister would be able to focus on other areas, a BJP leader said.

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