BJP fears Hathras might dent its prospects in Bihar, MP

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 2

As Opposition parties continue to up the ante against CM Yogi Adityanath over the Hathras incident, worries of the ruling BJP at the Centre appear to be far from over despite PM Modi telling the UP Government to take strict action against the culprits.

Political observers believe the incident — a Dalit woman died following gangrape — has the potential to affect the saffron party’s prospects not only in UP, but also in poll-bound Bihar and the bypolls to 56 crucial Assembly seats across the country, including in Madhya Pradesh.

“It is difficult to gauge the damage, but Hathras has exposed the fault lines in Hindu unity, which helped the BJP garner over 50 per cent votes in several states in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Though Assembly polls are contested on local issues, the incident’s fallout cannot be ruled out in other states too,” says analyst Prof Sudhir Panwar from the Lucknow University.

Sources in the BJP maintain the leadership is “keeping a close watch” and the Bihar and bypoll results in November may decide their future course of action, including in UP where CM Adityanath is battling strong perceptions of running a “pro-Thakur or pro-upper caste” government.

Though senior BJP leaders, including Ravi Shankar Prasad, have accused the Congress of “double standards” on rape incidents and “playing caste card”, observers point towards “low-key support” for Adityanath from the top leadership.

The caste factor plays a decisive role in most states, including Bihar where a mix of SC/ST and upper caste votes had earned the BJP-JD(U)-LJP combine 53.3 per cent vote share in the 2019 General Election. In the 2015 Assembly poll, a statement by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on the reservation issue had turned the tide in favour of the BJP’s rivals in the state.

That’s reason enough for observers to believe that perceptions about “law and order and atrocities against Dalits in UP can go against the NDA alliance in Bihar”.

Besides, 28 of the 56 bypoll are being held in Madhya Pradesh, primarily Chambal-Gwalior belt, where atrocities by upper castes are seen as the main reason for the rise of ‘baaghis’ (dacoits). The era may have ended but if Hathras manages to dent, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan may find himself in trouble. 

Yogi Adityanath in the firing line

  • UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been accused of being pro-Thakur and upper caste
  • The charge may split BJP’s Hindu votes and wean away lower castes
  • Not many top BJP leaders have openly supported Yogi Adityanath

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