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Uttar Pradesh Elections

Is a rebellion brewing in Modi's BJP?

Published : Sunday, 16 January, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 258

NEW DELHI, Jan 15: Is a rebellion brewing in Narendra Modi's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh, India's most politically crucial state?  Ten legislators, including three ministers, have so far jumped ship from the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. Most of them have joined the main rival, the regional Samajwadi Party. One of them is Swami Prasad Maurya, a veteran five-time legislator, who believes his move will cause an "earthquake" in the BJP.
But political defections - especially before regional ballots - are not uncommon in India. Politics has turned increasingly transactional, with leaders routinely crossing over if they are denied a ticket by their party.  And for many years now, states like Uttar Pradesh have had assemblies packed with newcomers. This has happened as the tradition of time-tested candidates has withered away.
The diminishing stature of legislators is in part because of a political culture that favours concentration of power in the hands of state chief ministers, says Giles Verniers, a professor of political science and co-director of Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) at Ashoka University.
Also, parties like BJP work hard on getting feedback from voters to find out whether their candidates have become unpopular. Non-performing candidates are usually denied tickets.  "The BJP does not contest elections only to win but to decimate the opposition. It's not happy to come to power with a slender majority," says Sanjay Kumar, director of CSDS/Lokniti, a Delhi-based think tank. In the 2017 state polls, the BJP swept Uttar Pradesh, winning 312 of the 403 seats and picking up nearly 40% of the popular vote.
Of the 312 winning legislators, only 19 had won a seat twice or more previously, according to data by TCPD. Of these 19, nine had defected from other parties.  The latest defections have caused a kerfuffle because Uttar Pradesh is a bellwether state. Next door to the national capital, Delhi, it has the most number of people (200 million) in India. It also sends the maximum number of MPs - Mr Modi himself is one of the state's 80 MPs - and legislators to the parliament and state assembly.
To be sure, defections from a dominant ruling party like the BJP to the main rival can create an impression - largely among swing voters - that the former is facing headwinds. These electors might begin to believe that the main opposition - in this case, the Samajwadi Party - is locked in a close contest with the BJP. "But perceptions and reality could be completely different," Dr Kumar says.    -BBC

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