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    Uttar Pradesh's wilting lotus of new millennium

    Synopsis

    BJP, which lorded over Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s, riding on a Hindutva wave generated by the Ayodhya temple movement.

    NEW DELHI: BJP, which lorded over Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s, riding on a Hindutva wave generated by the Ayodhya temple movement, has been on a downward spiral since it lost power in the state in 2002.

    BJP won 51 seats in a 403-member House, in 2007, securing 16.97% votes. Its fortunes were marginally better in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, securing 17.50% votes. Nevertheless, with Congress winning more seats, BJP was pushed to the fourth spot. BJP is not confident enough to believe that it will be able to arrest its slide in this election.

    In the assembly elections of 1991, BJP was pitchforked to power with a thumping majority. In the 425-member assembly, the party captured 221 seats, with a poll percentage of 31.45%. BJP's tally took a hit in the assembly elections held post-Babri demolition in 1993, and again in 1996, but it held on to its vote-share (33.30% and 32.52%).

    Its downfall, however, started in 2002. The party's strength in UP dipped below 100 seats, and its vote-share came down to 25.37%. The slide coincided with Kalyan Singh's skirmishes with BJP's central leadership, culminating in his resignation from the party in December, 1999.

    The tussle with Kalyan Singh caste a shadow on the umbrella social coalition crafted carefully by the Sangh Parivar. After Atal Bihari Vajpayee retired from the political scene, the upper castes too started showing signs of disillusionment with the party.

    With its core gone, the party put up an abysmal performance in the 2007 assembly polls. Even Kalyan Singh's return to the partyfold could not stem the slide.

    "Ever since the collapse of the big alliance forged by Kalyan Singh between non-Yadav OBCs and upper castes, BJP has been struggling,'' says political columnist Swapan Dasgupta, adding, "the biggest problem before the party is that it has ceased to be a contender for government in UP. As a result, it is looking for sectional issues to revive its fortunes.''

    The BJP leadership has been striving hard to woo back non-Yadav OBCs, and those sections of the upper castes that deserted them, them back. Keeping with this strategy, it handed over reins of the party's campaign in UP to Uma Bharati, a Lodh, and former state unit chief Kalraj Mishra, a Brahmin.

    The decision to induct the NRHM scam-tainted Babu Singh Kushwaha was also a part of this strategy. "BJP is basically concentrating on winning MBCs because of Congress' decision to extend the OBC quota benefit to Muslims,'' Dasgupta added.

    However, it hasbeen hamstrung with the absence of a credible leader in the state. "It suffers from the absence of a single leader. In a state election, this is more damaging than in a general election,'' he contended.
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