The drama continues with the countdown to the assembly elections in UP and Uttarakhand. Nervous legislators of the ruling BJP are unsure of whether the party will retain them for the contest. This is bringing the latent factionalism to the fore. The graph on this will continue to rise. There will be a more than usual swapping of loyalties, particularly in Uttarakhand where the defection of Congress leaders had led to an unprecedented BJP victory in the previous election. Some of these MLAs, such as Umesh Sharma ‘Kau’ and Harak Singh Rawat, have not been able to entirely reconcile with the BJP culture, mostly because of their confidence in the personal hold over the constituencies they represent. This is why the State Congress President, Pritam Singh, has laid out the welcome mat for their homecoming. And, indeed, the Congress is truly in need of some winners with its present talent deficit.
The traditional equations in UP are being upended by not just the growing farmers’ unrest but also the entry of AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi. The non-BJP parties depend heavily on the Muslim vote. If these are diverted elsewhere, it would entirely undo their prospects. In constituencies where there is a clear rival against the BJP, the Muslims can be expected to vote en bloc. However, if there is confusion, they may well choose the AIMIM just to make a statement. In West Bengal, the TMC was the obvious anti-BJP option for the community, which is why the AIMIM could not make an impact, but this would not be the case in UP. It will be interesting to see if Owaisi turns his attention to Uttarakhand, where the community has a considerable say in several constituencies.
The situation is still fluid and it will take a lot of work to select the final line-up. As the incumbent in both states, the stakes are particularly high for the BJP. Any miscalculation would not only prove expensive at the state level but also in the general elections slated for 2024. It will also have to reconsider its previous policy of inducting ‘winning’ candidates irrespective of how they fit its ideology, after having experienced their ‘idiosyncrasies’. These have not been so damaging because of the large number of MLAs it has at the present, but could become a serious problem should the numbers be less. So, it may be a risk but perhaps it is time to cull this inconvenient lot rather than suffer embarrassment in the future. Going by the buzz these days, the process has probably already begun.