Despite having suffered severe reverses in the panchayat elections, the mood in the BJP in Uttar Pradesh is upbeat.
The party, which lacks the numbers, is now confident of getting its members elected as zila panchayat chairpersons with the help of independents who have won in large numbers this time.
Of the 3,050 zila panchayat seats in the state, results have been declared on 3,047 seats and the BJP has won 768 while SP-RLD alliance has won 828 seats. On its own SP has bagged 760 seats.
Independent candidates have won on 944 seats and it is these candidates who hold the key to the posts of zila panchayat chairmen.
BJP state president Swatantra Dev Singh said, “With these elections, BJP has got its footprints into the rural interiors of the state. We will continue our efforts to reach out to the poor and deprived sections of society and ensure that they get the benefits of government welfare schemes.”
The Samajwadi Party, which has positioned itself as the main challenger to the ruling party in the panchayat elections, is cautiously optimistic about the future.
“These elections have given a clear indication that people have lost faith in the ruling BJP. The lack of governance, ongoing farmers’ agitation and the shoddy Covid management has brought the graph down for the BJP. If the state government had not used coercive means, our tally would have been higher,” said party spokesperson Juhie Singh.
The panchayat poll results also indicate that the BJP’s Hindu card did not yield desired results. The party has lost in Ayodhya, Varanasi and Mathura – the key centres of its Hindutva plank – and it is SP which has gained ground here.
BJP district president in Mathura, Madhu Sharma, said, “We accept the public mandate. We will find out the reasons for not getting a majority and work on it.”
She further said that due to Corona, many of their workers and leaders could not campaign in the elections effectively.
The BJP also fared poorly in western UP that has been the epicentre of the farmers’ agitation and BJP’s loss had led to the resurgence of the Rashtriya Lok Dal that had been relegated to the wings after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots.
What has left most political pundits baffled is the victory of independent candidates who have won over 100 seats.
State BJP secretary Vijay Shivhare claimed that most of the independent candidates who won, are from BJP, so the party had “gained significantly” in the panchayat elections which are a semi-final for the assembly elections.
BJP leaders have already started reaching out to winning candidates in an attempt to capture zila panchayat chairperson posts.
Political observers say that the BJP has the power to leverage support of independent candidates and will manage to get their people elected. However, they cannot ignore the results, particularly since the assembly elections are less than a year away.
“This should be a wakeup call for Yogi Adityanath,” said a senior journalist, pointing out that generally in such elections the ruling party enjoys a huge advantage but BJP failed to gain from it.