‘Infighting, public anger, Lallu Singh’s slip of tongue’ — what led to BJP’s poll debacle in UP


A day after Tuesday’s election results, several voices from Ayodhya, including those from within the BJP, have emerged against the sitting BJP candidate from Faizabad, Lallu Singh, alleging that his remarks about the BJP needing a two-thirds majority in Parliament to “make a new Constitution” cost the party dearly.

Some Ayodhya-based politicians have, however, blamed the public’s resentment towards the party over “little compensation” awarded to those who lost their land in development and road widening projects, and movement and traffic-related restrictions imposed on the residents in the wake of the Ram temple’s construction.

Speaking to ThePrint, Shiv Sena’s east UP head and president of the Hindu Dharma Sena, Santosh Dubey, said the BJP lost Ayodhya because of several reasons, including “fake promises” about giving two crore jobs per year, unemployment and anger among farmers, but most significantly, because of the candidate.

“The candidate Lallu Singh is a casteist man with whom the Brahmins were angry. Several Brahmins have been killed in the region in the past and he did not do much to address the community’s concerns. Scores of families staying within 17 km radius of the Ram temple have lost their land in construction and widening projects, like ‘14 Kosi’ and ‘5 Kosi Marg’, and several old temples were destroyed by the government due to which people were unhappy,” he said.

Dubey, who is known for taking four bullets during the Ram temple agitation in 1990, also pointed out that in Faizabad constituency, 7,536 voters had pressed the NOTA (None Of The Above) button.

Even BJP leaders admit that Lallu Singh’s statement about “changing the Constitution” which he later referred to as a “slip of tongue” cost them dearly.

“The ideology and the BJP have not lost in Ayodhya, rather the result is because of an unfavourable situation developing such that OBCs and SCs came together and their votes got consolidated. The slip of tongue that happened to our MP cost us, although he clarified his words later. The constituencies surrounding Ayodhya are dominated by Pasis (a Dalit caste) and the SCs-OBCs did not like the comment. The BJP has not lost in Ayodhya but the candidate has lost,” said Abhishek Mishra, outgoing city president and BJP leader.

Also Read: In ex-UP DGP’s memoir, stories of secret meet with Gogoi before Ayodhya verdict & ‘rattling’ BSP

Amethi & Sultanpur

ThePrint had reported last month how sitting MP Smriti Irani of neighbouring Amethi constituency was facing opposition and Amethi royal Sanjay Sinh had not stepped out to canvass for her. Irani has now lost Amethi to Congress’ Kishori Lal Sharma.

Speaking to ThePrint, a member of the BJP’s Amethi unit said that while the SP’s alliance with the Congress helped the latter in the seat, the public was largely unhappy over unemployment, inflation and the stray cattle menace, as well as resentful against Irani due to her attitude.

“The public was angry because of unemployment and inflation, and the youth were especially unhappy because of lack of jobs. Also, in the villages, farmers were very unhappy with the stray cattle issue. The Dalit vote too got consolidated in favour of the INDIA bloc in the reserved constituency of Salon (an assembly seat within Amethi Lok Sabha) and other places. Raja sahab (Sanjay Sinh) remained absent from the campaign in Amethi which resulted in some lack of votes,” he said.

ThePrint reached Sanjay Sinh’s aide with queries on the subject and a response is awaited.

Talking about the adjoining constituency of Sultanpur, where sitting BJP MP Maneka Gandhi lost to SP’s Rambhual Nishad, Dubey said Brahmins were angry because of the killing of Dr Ghanshyam Tiwari, allegedly orchestrated by local mafia.

Speaking to ThePrint, BJP’s Sultanpur MLA Vinod Singh, however, said that Gandhi’s defeat came about by a “small margin (43,174 votes)” and it was because Nishad voters voted for SP’s Rambhual Nishad.

“The Nishads have always voted for the BJP. If they have now voted for a rival candidate, it means that there was some shift,” he said.

Vinod rejected reports that he and other party members had been seeking a ticket from Sultanpur for their kin. “I never wanted a ticket. I always wanted Manekaji to get the ticket,” he said.

Fatehpur & Salempur — rift out in open

Although rumblings have begun within several of the 41 constituencies lost by the BJP, the rift is out in the open in the party unit in Fatehpur where two-time MP Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti lost to SP’s Naresh Uttam Patel.

Reacting to her defeat, Jyoti told media persons Wednesday that those who had put roadblocks in PM Modi’s muhim (expedition) will be chinhit (marked) and the party will hold discussions about the same.

“I want to thank my workers for the 4.5 lakh votes that we got. I want to thank the BJP leadership. I think according to the circumstances of Fatehpur, I got more votes than (expected). For the past 15 days, I had been feeling that something is fishy. But the ground worker was dedicated to the party due to which we got 4.5 lakh votes. Secondly, I think that the work that we started in Fatehpur has now halted. And, if I talk about Fatehpur Sadar, the maximum work has been done there, whether it is medical college, university, sewer line work, etc. From the development point of view, I feel that there was a break somewhere in the work that was happening in Fatehpur. I hope that the winner takes the work forward. I extend best wishes to him,” she said.

Rejecting speculation that she had distanced herself from the party workers, she asked why she would do so when the workers had remained steadfast with her.

“There will never be any distance, there won’t be any distance from my brothers, sisters, this has never happened, neither will it happen (in the future), whether I fight elections or not. The relations that I have established in Fatehpur will last forever. Yes, those people who have put roadblocks in PM Modi’s expedition, they will definitely be chinhit (marked) and there will be talks on them,” she said.

Asked about Sadhvi’s allegations, BJP’s Fatehpur district panchayat chairperson Abhay Pratap Singh said the outgoing MP may have been referring to two former MLAs and a sitting MLA who had openly opposed her.

Even UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had reportedly rebuked Fatehpur BJP leaders for the alleged infighting in the unit during his visit to the constituency’s Bindki area, but it seems to have had little effect.

Asked about Sadhvi’s remarks and her hints about sabotage, former BJP MLA from Fatehpur Sadar assembly seat Vikram Singh said that there was need for introspection. He added that her statements had gone against her.

“The 4.5 lakh votes that we got is only because of the toil of our workers and the party’s ideals, and not because of her. Her statement about marking people out has gone against her. Even as the election began, she started making statements like ‘dekh loongi (I will see you)’. In election time, people like politeness and not arrogance. I believe, at the time of loss, one has to introspect and one will find answers from within… not if you look for problems with others. We have to introspect at an organisational level too rather than indulging in blame-game,” he said.

In Purvanchal’s Salempur too, two-time MP Ravindar Kushwaha, who lost the seat to SP’s Ramashankar Rajbhar by just 3,573 votes, has come out against party leaders openly. He too said the statements about “changing the Constitution” stopped him from making a hat-trick from the seat.

Asked about the reasons behind his defeat, Kushwaha told ThePrint that several of BJP’s core supporters did not come out to vote due to the scorching heat on 1 June, when the constituency voted.

“Several of our supporters didn’t turn out to vote due to the excruciating heat. The public was in our favour due to the Ayodhya issue and the cadre worked hard, but still the miscampaign of the opposition about the Constitution being changed and reservations being scrapped led to an adverse effect on voters, especially the most backward classes. An even bigger reason is the fact that district president Sanjay Yadav openly opposed me and worked against the BJP by holding meetings with mandal presidents,” he alleged, adding that two sitting MLAs had been “working to defeat” him.

Asked why he felt that leaders of the BJP-led NDA were working to defeat him, Kushwaha said the MLAs were apprehensive that if he became MP for the third time, they might not get poll tickets in the future.

Speaking to ThePrint, BJP’s Bhatpar Rani MLA Sabha Kunwar Kushwaha said that it was the job of the candidate fighting the election to ensure that internal rift was resolved.

“In my assembly constituency, the BJP got a lead of 14,000 votes. It is the job of the candidate fighting the election to ensure that any internal rift is eradicated. I told the party leadership that I will ensure a win from my constituency but can’t say much about the others. I can talk only about my own constituency,” he said.

“This poll result is a result for the entire UP and not only Salempur. Nobody had expected that the SP will win 37 seats. The Dalit vote got consolidated in their favour as they were able to falsely convince the public that the Constitution is in danger. I can’t comment on the MP’s (Ravindar Kushwaha) equation with other MLAs but he can’t utter a word against me,” he added.

ThePrint contacted Sanjay Yadav for a comment via calls and messages, but could not get a response. This report will be updated if and when a response is received.

The case of Ballia

In neighbouring Ballia and Ghosi constituencies too, BJP insiders talked of an internal rift in the former, and the BJP cadre not being comfortable with NDA ally Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party’s nominee in Ghosi.

A BJP leader from Ballia unit told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity that “two Brahmin leaders like Upendra Tiwari and Anand Swarup Shukla and the sitting MP Virendra Mast were also seeking tickets from Ballia, and while they shared the stage when PM Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah arrived in UP, they could not muster enough votes in the party’s favour.”

In Ballia, the BJP this election pitted Neeraj Shekhar against the SP’s Sanatan Pandey.

“As Brahmins too voted for Sanatan Pandey in Ballia, the caste calculus favoured the SP and the PDA (Pichhda, Dalit, Alpsankhyak) pitch too helped the SP mobilise the Dalits and OBCs. Moreover, the PM’s statements against minorities in Azamgarh was particularly disliked by the Muslim community, which voted for the SP,” the BJP leader explained.

Speaking to ThePrint, former UP MoS Upendra Tiwari said that although the caste factor was there, the Ballia constituency’s result was more elaborate and complex.

“There has been some lapse in ensuring political combination but the loss has happened for the BJP in the entire Purvanchal and not just Ballia. Somewhere, the election strategy did not work to full effect and caste was a factor. The workers have worked on the issue of nationalism but vote is always secret. One can’t say whom the Brahmins voted for and where other communities voted. The opposition was able to spin the rumour of the Constitution being in danger, which is why the Dalits voted for the SP,” he added.

“As far as the overall analysis is concerned, if you look at the previous election, the result is more elaborate and we lost the most votes in Zahoorabad and Mohammadabad. As committed BJP workers, we worked for the cause of nationalism and for making Modiji PM for the third time. The government has done exceptional work, whether it is the Ram temple’s construction or removal of Article 370 (in J&K),” he asserted.

When contacted, a source close to Neeraj Shekhar said the BJP lost the election because of an “internal rift” and because the “three contenders” for the ticket worked against him.  

ThePrint had reported on 31 May that a section of Brahmin voters had admitted to the community having sympathy for Pandey, and Neeraj Shekhar being considered a candidate who had little visibility on ground.

Tiwari said that in a democracy, everyone had a right to seek tickets and that there was no opposition to the candidate.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also Read: A dare, local support & a prestige battle — Akhilesh in poll fray to win back SP stronghold Kannauj

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