SEEMA MUSTAFA | 14 MARCH, 2018

2019: Opposition Beats Back BJP in UP, Holds Bihar For Broader ‘One Front’ Unity

Victory shouts of ‘bua bhateeja’ zindabad.


NEW DELHI: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath camped in Gorakhpur for the Lok Sabha bye elections, asked the voters whether they wanted to vote for Aurangzeb in his usual bid to communalise the polls, attacked the Samajwadi candidate Praveen Kumar Nishad, and insisted that the Opposition would be decimated. The trends currently show the opposite with the BJP, despite the might of money and machinery trailing in not just Gorakhpur, but also Phulpur.

So much so that the District Magistrate of Gorakhpur, looking at a bleak future perhaps, swung into action by throwing the media out of the counting booths after the trends established a Samajwadi-supported by Bhaujana Samaj Party lead. This was to prevent them from reporting the trends, but the outrage and protest by the scribes worked and they are now back in the booths.

The sarcastic references by Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav about ‘bua’ that is BSP leader Mayawati changed to cries of “Bua Bhatija zindabad’ as Samajwadi workers poured out into the streets celebrating the victory even before it was formally declared.

What has worked? The combined strength of the Samajwadi party and BSP clearly has, with the vote percentage in earlier polls making it clear that an united Opposition could make it to the hustings. In Gorakhpur, Akhilesh Yadav made an intelligent choice in fielding Nishad party president’s son Praveen Nishad as its candidate (as The Citizen had reported). Nishad had told The Citizen that victory was certain, with all the backwards, Dalits, minorities moving towards the SP-BSP combine. The Congress party fielded a candidate in both by polls for reasons best known to its president Rahul Gandhi, but clearly the party was not even in the fight.

But what has really worked is an anti-BJP sentiment amongst the backwards and the minorities of UP, with both the bypolls reflecting a disillusionment. The promises were many, the expectations high, but the growing unemployment coupled with sheer intolerance and in districts terror has tipped the balance against Adityanath in his own home town. This is a major defeat for him and for the BJP, more so as Gorakhpur resembed what many opposition workers described as a saffron fortress in the days leading to the polls.

Adityanath has used communalism to stem the tide of resentment, but clearly this has not worked. As the Nishad party leaders told The Citizen, “we have a long list of non-achievements despite the CMs promises. Nothing has been done, in fact the situation has worsened.”

Interestingly, just a couple of days ago a cab driver from the New Delhi Railway Station had a long political discussion with this writer. From the same community as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, he said that the latter would lose heavily. And a beginning would be with the current byelection, that he would lose to Rashtriya Janata Dal. According to the driver from Bihar, “ RJD will come back in the next elections, you will see. I have not voted for Lalu Yadav but Nitish Kumar has betrayed us, he will never get our votes, he is finished.” Perhaps, perhaps not but the by poll in Bihar certainly seems to be a wake up call for both the BJP and Janata Dal (U) with the voters of Araria Lok Sabha seat giving a lead to the RJD. Of the two Assembly bypolls here BJP had retained Bhabua, while RJD has won Jehanabad.

If the trends remain, the results in the two important states of UP and Bihar that together hold 134 Lok Sabha seats could well mean a major shift away from the BJP. More so as usually by polls tend to favour the party that won the last general elections, but the results seem to be indicating a shift that the Opposition is looking at closely. As this will pave the way for a larger unity in UP particularly, with the bypolls being a precursor to a SP-BSP alliance or understanding in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

RJD , despite Lalu Yadav being put in jail, seems to have acquired new verve with the alliance with the Congress party in Bihar holding strong. Nitish Kumar in fact, seems to have lost ground with the JD(U) being swamped by the BJP in the state,

The results come the morning after an Opposition parties dinner hosted by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi. This was attended by all major political parties, except Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK and Telugu Desam. Leaders who attended told this reporter that it was just a dinner with pleasantries, but marked a beginning that “will be followed by a larger meeting soon.” The BSP and SP were represented, as were the Left and the Trinamool Congress. The intention, sources said, is to set up a second Front to counter the NDA in the parliamentary polls.

The sources were categorical that there will be no third front as reported by sections of the media. “This was as per BJP planted stories, as a third front now is necessary for them to break the votes,” the sources said. The effort will thus, remain at forming just one major Opposition front, with some parties in alliance as these have been in the UPA, and others entering into electoral pacts in the broader movement against the BJP.

The dinner registered camaraderie that opposition leaders described as ‘important’ leaving all with the feeling that broader cooperation could be forged before the general elections. Interestingly Adityanath during his campaign had claimed that the SP-BSP had come together as they were facing certain defeat in Gorakhpur, although he has fallen silent now. The Opposition leaders said they had no qualms about the broader unity forged into one front as it was imperative to defeat the BJP and what it represents. The Front would not be rigid but a loose alliance, looking at countering the BJP in the parliamentary constituencies with a one to one contest.
 

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