As Western UP Votes for 10 Feb , What is BJP’s Fear Factor

Uttar Pradesh, according to Amit Shah, will determine the country’s fate. The initial phase of development in Uttar Pradesh’s wealthiest and most developed area, which lies between the two rivers Ganga and Yamuna, may determine the state’s fate. The BJP swept this so-called Jat belt of UP in 2017, gaining 91 percent of the 58 seats, several with landslides. The issue is that western Uttar Pradesh was the region of the state most hit by the farmers’ movement. In October 2021, here is where Ajay Mishra, the son of Minister of State for Home, reportedly drove over farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri. Without acknowledging it, the BJP realised at that moment that the political impact from the farmers’ revolt may jeopardise its electoral prospects, particularly in Uttar Pradesh. The three agriculture “reform” legislation were withdrawn by Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally. The BJP believed that as a result, farmers, particularly the Jats, would continue to support the party.

Many believe that the BJP’s big majority was due to the party’s persistent communalization of politics up till the 2017 assembly election. Rakesh Tikait, a leader of the Bhartiya Kisan Union and a member of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the farmers’ umbrella organisation that launched the protest, blasted the BJP last week for continuing to play the communal card and dividing Jats and Muslims.

The Jat community was intimately associated with the farmers’ revolt, thus the BJP is concerned that the Jats may abandon the party. Jats account for 15% of the population in the area and have power in 35 seats (see map above). Last week, worries of a farmer backlash gathered traction.

In a scathing letter to farmers, the SKM said that the BJP is an anti-farmer party that “manipulated farmers in 2017 and after getting to power moved away from all their promises. Let us punish them and kick them out” since it is the only language the BJP understands. SKM has vowed to spread this message throughout the region’s communities. Farmers have a variety of concerns, ranging from late sugarcane payments to rising inflation, particularly in diesel prices, but the BJP continues to tout its law and order governance, mandir, development, and “social transfer” of up to 6,000 dollars per farm family to housing as reasons to vote for it. 

In the last election, the BJP received a mind-boggling 47 percent of the vote, and it will take a lot of people turning away for the party to lose large in Phase 1. The BJP can probably bank on the support of the urban middle class in urban regions and should retain those seats. This offers them an advantage. Surprisingly, while the BJP’s support in the first round of the 2019 general election increased, it won many fewer assembly districts than in 2017. Because of the SP-BSP cooperation, the opposition was more united, resulting in a tighter election. If that occurs, and the BJP and the SP+ have a direct battle, the farmers’ rage and incumbency might make this a lot closer contest. However, it is a huge if.

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