With a divided opposition in UP and AAP eyeing to contest from all 403 seats, the division of Muslim votes is only going to aid the BJP's election campaign strategy.
By Adarsh Sharma
With ambitions of securing some political ground in Uttar Pradesh, Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM has declared that it’ll contest 100 seats in the upcoming 2022 UP elections. With the likes of BSP, SP and AAP denying any possibility of a pre-poll alliance with AIMIM, their chances of grabbing the UP Rajbhog lie allied with Om Prakash Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (BSBY) and the Bhagidari Sankalp Morcha, an amalgamation of nine small regional parties.
Even if we were to believe, hypothetically, that AIMIM will secure and win all the 100 seats which it intends to contest in the upcoming polls, will it be in a position to form the government in the 403-member UP legislative assembly? So, what does it stand to gain? Is Owaisi merely eyeing the kingmaker posse? Or is he purposely trying to dissect UP’s 20% Muslim voter base?
Sample the AIMIM’s earlier performances – the party had lost all the 38 seats it had contested in the 2017 assembly elections. With only a 0.2% vote share, almost all its candidates had failed to secure their election deposits in 2017. So, what exactly is running through Owaisi’s mind? Is he thus not indirectly helping the BJP by dissecting the Muslim voter base? That he is not looking to form a majority government in UP is clear from his tactics of contesting only the 100 odd seats. He has neither confirmed going into a pre-poll alliance with any other regional party nor has he shown any intentions of doing the same. So, is he only trying to eat into the Muslim vote share, which otherwise has been a traditional BSP/SP (Bahujan Samaj Party/Samajwadi Party) support base? Is he then not further amplifying his vote katua image and doing more harm than good to the overall opposition faction?
The opposition, as it is, stands divided in UP and with AAP eyeing to contest from all 403 seats, the division of votes (majorly Muslim vote base) is only going to aid BJP’s election campaign strategy. The only way to pose a “serious” threat to BJP’s plans in UP is to curb and, if possible, curtail this split and devise a strategy to instead eat into its savarn vote share. Going by the official statements of all the regional and national parties, this looks highly unlikely, though. Congress has already denied any possibility of an alliance with SP in these elections and vice versa. BSP hasn’t shown any inclination towards the same either. And with Arvind Kejriwal and Owaisi trying to establish their credentials in UP, the coalition clout and cloud gets even murkier.
Given the permutations and zero possibility of any combinations, it’s not hard to decipher the possible outcomes of the upcoming elections. With Owaisi openly declaring SP as its principal competitor and looking to make inroads into its Muslim vote bank and BSP all set to revive its Dalit voter base, this split will do more good than harm to BJP’s equation.
AIMIM is often “termed” as BJP’s B-team, while no one can ever estimate and come closer to “behind the scenes” politics in politics, but numbers don’t ever lie. Let’s take a look at the 2017 figures, for instance.
In 2017, AIMIM had contested 38 seats and lost its deposit on 34 but on the remaining 4 seats, it jeopardized SP’s calculations totally, which eventually helped BJP gain those seats.
Kanth in Moradabad, the hotbed of communal polarization, post the temple loudspeaker row, went to BJP by a victory margin of just 2,348 votes, with AIMIM getting approximately 23000 votes here.
In Tanda in Ambedkar Nagar, BJP’s victory margin was again just 1,725 votes while the AIMIM got approximately 2,000 votes.
Gainsari in Balrampur district, BJP here was victorious by only 2,300 votes, with 3,160 votes going into AIMIM’s kitty.
And thanks to the AIMIM’s candidate in Shravasti, BJP won this seat by a margin of just 445 votes with approximately 2900 votes going into AIMIM’s favour!
That was 2017, only 38 seats and now that the AIMIM chieftain is looking to score a century, things look pretty good and sorted for the BJP! The skipper it seems is better prepared and so is his team. His fan following amongst the Muslim youth (thanks to his aggressive oratory skills) has only gone up since 2017. And if he manages to get into the double figures, the BJP is certainly going to applaud his skills from the stands! On the contrary, the Muslim voter base might just understand the nuances of the upcoming T-22 game in time and cheer for SP. And in this, the role of the media cannot be ignored either, which till then will continue to make them aware of the counterproductive effects of voting for AIMIM (take this article, for instance!)
But is the deviation or division of the Muslim voter base going to be enough for the BJP to repeat its 2017 performance? Are the Muslims and Yadavs going to be the only deciding factor? Is it going to be a cakewalk for the BJP and its Hindutva poster boy Yogi Adityanath to retain their Upper Caste and Non-Yadav OBC voter base? Is UP going to write off corona’s second wave persecution completely in the name of Ram Mandir? Will Hindu and Hindutva narratives supersede every and all other issues?
Amidst a plethora of possibilities, there is no denying the fact that the BJP is banking heavily on Yogi and its Hindutva narrative. In doing so, they might just help Owaisi in underlining his narrative of “minority abomination” within his followers and beyond. Which, in turn, will again prove to be beneficial and help AIMIM capture some votes? Which, in turn, will only help BJP? A perfect example of chit-bhi-meri-pat-bhi-meri in a catch 22 situation!
That Ram Mandir and the other issues of Hindu interest are going to rule the election campaigns and speeches is pretty evident already. The only hindrance or threat to the overall BJP plans though might just be the expected (God forbid!) third wave right before the elections. In the absence of a strong and united opposition, the chances of them retaining UP, look good otherwise.
From Prashant Kishor to Sharad Yadav, everyone knows and understands the dynamics involved and the need for a cohesive opposition but no one probably has been able to find an answer to the million-dollar question yet, viz., “kaun banega mukhyamantri”! They understand politics much better than any of us but the problem of too many cooks spoils any chances of a perfect recipe every time. When everyone is eyeing the kingmaker posse, the possibility of a post-poll alliance might not arise at all. Supporting each other in case of a hung verdict may not go the distance or yield the desired results for the state and its electorate. The Vikas is still an amateur baby and too many parents might just hinder his overall development and progress.
All the non-BJP political parties should therefore start counting their chickens before they hatch and AIM for a constructive election campaign before it’s too late!
(The author is an advertising and marketing professional with over 15+ years of experience in offering customized media solutions to brands and political parties. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)