The polls to the panchayats in Uttar Pradesh have come as a shocker to the BJP. The party which had done well in the election to local bodies in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Ladakh and Port Blair was preparing the ground to propel it to power in the country’s politically crucial state. Even though the local body polls are not contested on party symbols, the results assume significance as they come about a year before the 2017 Assembly election.
The BJP which had won 71 of the 80 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election could only get 536 members elected out of 3112 district panchayats (zila panchayats). The BJP was not the only party which was jolted by the outcome of the polls. The ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) was also in for a shock.
The SP did not officially announce the candidates, but many of them especially the kin of several ministers and seniors leaders were defeated. However, the party seems to have done reasonably well in rural areas of the state.
The ruling party dismissed reports that the candidates backed by it had fared badly. It claimed the victory of its candidates were an approval of SP’s three and half year’s rule in the state.
“The favourable trends for the SP in the panchayat election are an endorsement of the pro-poor policies and programmes of Akhilesh Yadav government. This has resulted in record victory of candidates owing allegiance to SP. The people have defeated communal forces and supported our development agenda,” party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said.
The results were however a shot in the arm for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The BSP seemed to have performed better than all other political parties.
Most of the candidates it supported have won by huge margins. BSP supremo Mayawati said in Lucknow that “vote share of BSP has not declined” despite the defeat in the 2012 Assembly election and last year’s Lok Sabha polls, when it drew an embarrassing blank.
The BJP which had supported candidates in district and block panchayats polls for the first time said it fielded its candidates as a part of a larger political strategy to mark its presence at the village level, like it has been doing in other states.
Laxmikant Bajpai, BJP‘s UP president, said “The party has won 536 seats out of 3112 of district panchayat members from all over Uttar Pradesh. We were in the fray irrespective of its outcome as our plan was to fly our flag high from village to village for increasing our popularity with rural folks too. So we have gained anyways.”
However BJP’s performance was disappointing in many key areas, especially in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency of Varanasi. It lost 40 of the 48 seats to the district panchayat. In Jayapur, the village adopted by Modi, BJP candidate Arun Singh was defeated by BSP’s Ramesh Tiwari.
The party could manage just four seats out of 28 in Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s constituency, Lucknow. Similarly in Deoria, the constituency of Union Minister for Small Scale Industries Kalraj Mishra, the BJP lost 49 of the 56 seats.
The disenchantment of the voters is not confined to the BJP alone. The SP backed candidate was also defeated in Tamausi village, which has been adopted by party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The Congress which got decimated in the polls was in for a rude shock. In Sonia Gandhi’s Raibareli constituency the Congress party could win only a seat from a total of 52.
In the Gandhi family pocket borough of Amethi represented by the party vice president Rahul Gandhi, only eight of the Congress supported candidates were elected. For the grand old party of India the situation is going from bad to worse.
The SP had fared well in the local bodies polls in 2004, but it lost Assembly election in 2007. Similarly, the BSP won 2010 panchayat polls, but was defeated by the SP two years later. Therefore these polls cannot be termed as a semifinal before the Assembly election, but it surely is a wake up call for all political parties in the state.