Can the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh help the Opposition?

Can the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh help the Opposition?

Politics
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Around 14 members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), including three ministers of Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet, quit the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh. While many are considering the optics of MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh as a serious jolt to the incumbent Yogi regime, many are considering this as a blessing in disguise for the BJP.

The most prominent ministers who have quit the BJP in Uttar Pradesh are former minister for labour and employment Swami Prasad Maurya, the MLA from Padrauna constituency in the eastern district of Kushinagar, former environment minister Dara Singh Chauhan, MLA from the Madhuban constituency and former food security and drug administration Dharam Singh Saini, who represented the Nakur constituency of the western district of Saharanpur.

Maurya took away three of his loyalist MLAs— Bhagwati Prasad Sagar (Bilhaur constituency), Roshan Lal Verma (Tilhar constituency) and Brajesh Prajapati (Tindwari constituency)—along with him.

Chauhan took MLA Avtar Singh Bhadana (Meerapur constituency in Muzaffarnagar) along with him, while Saini took away MLAs Vinay Shakya (Bidhuna constituency), Mukesh Verma (Shikohabad constituency) and Bala Prasad Awasthi (Dhaurahra constituency) along with him.

The other MLAs who have quit the BJP are Madhuri Verma (Nanpara constituency), Radha Krishna Sharma (Bilsi constituency), Digvijaya Narayan Chaubey (Khalilabad constituency) and Rakesh Kumar Rathore (Sitapur constituency).

Former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party has benefitted due to this spree in MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. As most of these turncoat MLAs and ministers have been inducted into the Samajwadi Party, the BJP poached Aparna Yadav, the wife of Akhilesh’s brother, to avenge the humiliation.

Maurya, Chauhan and Saini, all bothered by the tides turning against Yogi and the BJP in rural Uttar Pradesh due to the farmers’ movement against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s farm reforms, the exodus of unorganised workers during the 2020 lockdown and the overall economic crisis, are going to strengthen the Samajwadi Party’s bandwagon before the crucial elections.

However, the big question is whether the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh will benefit the Opposition or will it boomerang?

Who are the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh?

Out of the ten MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, nine had joined the BJP from the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) before the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. One came from the Congress party. These MLAs wanted to be in the BJP only because they saw green pastures in 2017 and they have quit the party, after enjoying the perks for five years, when they felt a massive anti-incumbency wave may jeopardise their political career as well.

There is a visible pattern in the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh right before the elections. All of them have been with the BJP and showed it utmost loyalty until a month before the elections. But in January 2022, they suddenly felt that the BJP has been detrimental to the interests of the ostracised Dalits, the backward classes (OBCs), the tribal people and other marginalised people.

What stopped them from realising this fact in the last five years? And why couldn’t these ministers and MLAs quit the party and the government when repeated assaults on Dalits and OBCs had taken place under Yogi’s watch? What happened to their conscience when the gory atrocities were committed against the Dalits by the upper-caste Thakurs—the clan to which Yogi also belongs—in the Hathras gangrape and murder case, in the Saharanpur anti-Dalit violence, etc?

None of the MLAs who have quit the BJP has any roots in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)—the ideological powerhouse of the global Hindutva fascist movement and the parent body of the BJP—and are bereft of any ideological commitment towards Hindutva fascism. The BJP MLAs and ministers, who either have their roots in the RSS or who share the common ideology with it, like Yogi, will not choose to switch allegiance during adverse situations.

Therefore, these 14 MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and calling for a consolidation of Bahujan votes—the collective votes of the Dalits, tribal masses, the OBCs and the minority communities like Muslims, Sikhs and Christians—against the communal juggernaut of Yogi and Modi won’t benefit Yadav’s Samajwadi Party. The moment these leaders will get a better and lucrative deal from the BJP, they will return to its fold.

Bereft of any ideological inclination, the political acrobatic stunts by these MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh won’t benefit any anti-fascist struggle in the state. Moreover, their political vacillation won’t benefit any other political camp for a long time, as these people will never indulge in any sort of ideological struggle against the BJP and the RSS. Hence, they will simply remain as ornaments in the non-BJP camp.

How has the poaching strategy worked for and against the BJP in the past?

The BJP managed to seize control of Karnataka in 2019 using poached MLAs, after losing the state to a coalition of Congress party and the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)] in the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections. Both the Congress party and the JD(S) had bled profusely in Karnataka due to this poaching drive.

Similarly, the BJP managed to use the poached MLAs to gain an absolute majority in the Goa Assembly. The way the BJP dumped its ally in the state after poaching most of its MLAs, haunts anyone who thinks of stitching an alliance with the saffron outfit.

In Madhya Pradesh, when former Congress party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia succumbed to the BJP’s luring in 2020, the grand old party’s government, led by the infamous Kamal Nath, was toppled overnight. The rise of the BJP in the northeast has been possible due to its poaching drive that imported several local leaders from tribal communities.

Before the West Bengal Assembly elections in 2021, the BJP resorted to such an import spree and poached several high-ranking leaders from Mamata Bandopadhyay’s Trinamool Congress (TMC). However, the BJP faced an ignominious poll drubbing in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections despite a vigorous and vitriolic campaign by its top leaders, including Modi, Amit Shah, Yogi, etc.

The inclusion of the TMC’s turncoats created outrage within the BJP’s ranks in West Bengal. Several top BJP leaders with RSS roots criticised the Party’s leadership for their reliance on TMC turncoats and for making Suvendu Adhikari, a former protégé of Bandopadhyay, the leader of the Opposition in West Bengal Assembly. Learning from the West Bengal Assembly elections, the BJP has gone slow on the poaching drive, but it has not stopped it altogether.

Until the 2021 West Bengal Assembly elections, the BJP’s poaching strategy was hailed and Shah, the man behind the entire exercise, was eulogised as a master strategist by Modi’s servile mainstream media outlets. However, the poll drubbing in West Bengal not only put the strategy to question, but the BJP’s opponents like the TMC resorted to a similar strategy and poached several TMC turncoats who had joined the BJP earlier, like Mukul Roy.

Even a riot-monger like former member of the Parliament (MP) from Asansol, Babul Supriyo, who lost his ministry in Modi’s cabinet reshuffle in July, joined the TMC, despite hurling abuses at the party for a long period.

Now, in Uttar Pradesh, where Yadav is replicating Bandopadhyay’s famous tagline “Khela Hobe” (there shall be a game) by saying “Mela Hobe” (a fair shall take place), the same reverse migration is engineered, albeit only for those who had earlier switched to the BJP and have no RSS roots. It’s to be seen whether it’s Yadav’s turn to suffer or whether the BJP suffers a major blow in the polls.

How the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh can be a boon and a bane for Yogi?

As the BJP is the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh and as the state is crucial for expanding the RSS’s Hindutva fascist agenda as well as for Modi’s political ambitions, it has become important for Yogi to retain hegemony. This is a reason that all BJP stalwarts, including Modi and Shah, are vigorously campaigning in Uttar Pradesh and peddling lies and spewing venom incessantly to polarise the Hindu voters.

At this point, when the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh are joining the Samajwadi Party, Yogi can very well utilise the situation to consolidate the BJP’s ranks by providing more tickets to those with RSS roots, which will motivate the cadre to work hard during the elections. Yogi can also project those who have switched camps as “traitors” and push a narrative to create an adverse public opinion regarding these former colleagues of his.

The Samajwadi Party will have to respond to each of such allegations and thereby expose its vulnerabilities more prominently. The BJP will also benefit as the Samajwadi Party will have severe internal contradictions over providing tickets to these turncoats, which means several party loyalists will be left out. This will push several disgruntled Samajwadi Party leaders to join the BJP.

However, this exodus has piled up a new set of troubles for the Yogi regime. As the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh have been a part of the ruling clique, they can expose a lot of wrongdoings of the BJP and the Yogi regime. Moreover, Maurya has given a call to unite the state’s Dalits, tribal, OBC and minority votes to defeat the BJP.

Maurya’s emphasis on 85% (Bahujans) vs 15% (upper-caste Hindu elites and urban middle-class) is a direct challenge to Yogi, who said the election will be a “battle” between the 80% (Hindus) vs 20% (Muslims). Such a united Bahujan vote bank is a serious threat to the RSS’s communal polarisation agenda.

According to the Census 2011 data, Uttar Pradesh’s caste and religious break out is as given in the table below:

Community/CasteTotal population% of the state population
Dalits41.36m20.70
Tribal1.13m0.57
Muslims38.48m19.26
Christians356,4480.17
Sikhs643,5000.32
Buddhists206,2850.10
As per 2011 Census

There is no credible information on the actual proportion of the OBCs and upper-caste Hindus in Uttar Pradesh. However, it’s estimated that an overwhelming 44% of the population belongs to the OBCs while only 19% of the population is upper-caste Hindus, the BJP’s core voter base.

In case the overwhelming majority of 44% OBCs, especially the non-Yadav OBCs, Jats, Gurjars, and other communities forge an alliance with the Dalits who are nearly 21% of the population and the Muslims who are nearly 20%, then the BJP must fight an election against 85% of the population, which Maurya has quoted as a struggle between 85% and the 15% of the population.

This is an eerily alarming situation for the BJP and the RSS. To prevent such a catastrophe, the RSS can go to any extent, including triggering large-scale communal violence to pit the Dalits and OBCs against the Muslims.

Can the MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh impact the election results?

The most important question is whether the political volte-face by these politicians, mostly of non-RSS origin, can influence the voters before the elections. This is important for both the BJP and the Samajwadi Party to comprehend.

Firstly, Maurya, Chauhan and Saini are veteran politicians and have also fought elections under the BSP. Most of the 11 other MLAs who have joined them also have a record of fighting elections before switching to the BJP. Therefore, they have a loyal support base, except those who have been hopping constituencies.

The following table will show how these MLAs have gained immensely from joining the BJP in 2017 as they bagged the highest number of votes in their career. It’s evident that apart from the BJP’s additional votes, they also managed to secure votes on caste lines as well as due to personal popularity.

UP MLAs votes in 2007-2012-2017
Data source: ECI

Eight of these 14 didn’t contest in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, while seven didn’t contest the 2012 elections. While the majority of them contested in 2007 and 2012 as BSP candidates, there had been a huge increase in the total number of votes of seven MLAs who contested both 2012 and 2017 polls.

Now, as the voters are aware of these MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh before the elections, will they still vote for them or choose the symbol that they voted for in 2017? Can Maurya, Saini, Chauhan, etc, retain their lead under the Samajwadi Party’s banner after creating communal ruckus and aiding the BJP’s vitriolic communal polarisation drive for more than five years?

Whether the saga of MLAs and ministers quitting the BJP in Uttar Pradesh will come to a halt soon or whether more of such turncoats will switch camps is yet to be seen. However, one thing is evident from this exodus that the Yogi regime isn’t in a very comfortable position as the BJP has been trying to portray. If more BJP MLAs and ministers quit, then Yogi’s frustration will lead him to take such disastrous steps that will prove fatal for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh.

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