Hathras rape: BJP worries mount, social gathering treads fastidiously

Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, October 2

As Opposition parties escalate offensive against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, worries of the ruling BJP at the Centre are mounting. Chief Minister Adityanath may have promised strict action but political observers believe the Hathras incident has the potential to affect saffron party’s prospects not just in Uttar Pradesh but upcoming elections in neighbouring Bihar and also by-polls to 56 crucial Assembly seats across the country, including Madhya Pradesh. 

“It is difficult to quantify the damage but Hathras has exposed the fault lines in Hindu consolidation which helped BJP garner more than 50 percent votes in several States in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Assemblies are contested on local issues but its fallout in other States cannot be ruled out,” says political analyst Prof Sudhir Panwar from the Lucknow University. 

Sources in the BJP say the leadership is “keeping a close watch” and that the election results in November may decide their future course of action, including in UP where Chief Minister Adityanath is currently battling strong perceptions of being a “pro-thakur/upper caste” government.  Though senior BJP leaders like Ravi Shankar Prasad have accused the Congress of “double standards on rape incidents and playing the caste card etc”, observers point towards “this rather low-key support” for Adityanath from the top leadership.

Caste is the main driver of polls in most States, including Bihar where a smart mix of SC/ST and Upper Castes votes earned 53.3 percent vote share  for the BJP-JD(U)-LJP combination in 2019 General elections. It is also a State where a statement by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on the reservation issue turned the situation in favour of BJP’s rivals in the 2015 Assembly elections. This is enough reason for observers to believe that perceptions about “law and order and atrocities against dalits in UP can go against the NDA alliance in Bihar”. It will be interesting to see what the LJP, a party that goes with the tag name of ‘dalits’, decides tomorrow regarding alliance with the NDA    

Besides, a significant number of 56 by-poll seats (as many as 28) are in Madhya Pradesh, primarily the Chambal- Gwalior ‘sambhag’ where atrocities by upper castes are seen as the main reason for the rise of ‘baaghis’ (dacoits) in the region. The era may have ended but if Harthras manages to dent, Shivraj Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan may find himself in trouble. Apart from 28 in MP, eight constituencies are in Gujarat, seven UP, two each in Jharkhand, Nagaland, Karnataka, Manipur, Nagaland, and Odisha and one each in Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Haryana. 

The result for by-polls will be announced along with Bihar on November 10.


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