Lucknow : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces an uphill task in Kairna Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh which will go to the polls on Monday because of joining of hands by three major rivals, the SP, the BSP and the Congress. Only the first two were together during the previous Lok Sabha by-elections. The Congress had fought separately in Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls held last March.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is scheduled to address a meeting a day earlier ( on Sunday) may turn the tide in favour of the party as he has done in the past in Gujarat. The opposition has tried to hard to get this meeting postponed or cancelled but there is no indication of either of the two so far ( till the time of writing). The party has learnt a few lessons from the drubbing in the previous two by-polls and is unlikely to commit old mistakes.
It had become so overconfident that it had left the booth management to chance. As a result the voting percentage was much lower in these constituencies. It has worked out a new strategy for Monday”s voting which may also work to the advantage of the party. Equally concerned, the opposition,too, has not left anything to chance and chalked out a new plan to achieve a success. The decision by SP leader Akhilesh Yadav not to campaign in the constituency this time is said to be a part of the new thinking.
It was feared that his campaigning might anger some Jats and turn them against the opposition. The caste used to back the RLD but went against it after the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. It overwhelmingly voted for the BJP in 2014 and 2017 elections which was not a ruling party during the riots. The caste arithmetic also goes against the BJP. Out of the total 16 lakh voters in Kairana, about 2.5 lakh are Dalits. Majority of them are Jatavs who are largely with Mayawati, the BSP leader. Muslims who have a large presence in the area are party”s additional worry. What can help the party, besides Modi and chief minister Yogi Adiyanath, is the government”s assurance to clear sugarcane farmers” dues as early as possible.
The area has six sugar mills and most of them have not made full payments. Sugarcane is one of the main crops grown in the region. If Jats support the BJP the way they had done in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2017 Assembly elections, that can also serve the party”s interest. This caste has 1.5 lakh voters in Kairana. The three opposition parties have overworked in this constituency because a defeat here after Gorakhpur and Phulpur will embolden their workers and make them believe that the BJP is not invincible.
It may lead to a greater unity during the next year”s Lok Sabha polls. The BJP in that case may face a tougher challenge in the general elections, particularly in states like UP where caste matters more than anything else. Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, two leaders in the opposition, have large committed voters. Most of the Yadavs are with Akhilesh and Jatavs with Mayawati. They may not , however, change the outcome of the by-poll for the simple reason that neither a Yadav nor a Jatav is in the fray in Kairana. Votes of these castes may not be transferred.
Clash of interest between these castes and the Jats may keep them largely apart. While the BJP has fielded daughter of Hukum Singh whose death has necessitated the by-election to get sympathy votes, the RLD has selected a Muslim woman, Tabassum Hasan, who is being backed by three major opposition parties. Contradictions among opposition parties have helped the ruling party in the past and broken unity. This may happen again. If it does not, the whole narrative has to be changed. As it appears, not one or two but many things will be tested in this by-election.