Over the past few days, BJP general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah, has been going around announcing before that his party will win 18 of the 21 seats that went to polls in the first two rounds of election in the state.
The claim may sound a tad puffed-up, but considering the severe polarization of the electorate in west UP (where elections have been held) on communal lines due to last year's Muzaffarnagar riots, he may not be much off the mark.
However, the saffron brigade's electoral joyride might run into hurdles in the remaining phases of the election as central or east UP have not experienced the same communal divide, or in as much intensity; East UP accounts for the maximum, 32 seats. Intense infighting and sulking leaders here can aggravate the BJP's worries in the coming electoral rounds.
Political analysts say the Etah-Etawah-Mainpuri-Kannauj belt (voting on April 24) is virtually the fiefdom of Yadav chieftain Mulayam Singh. Similarly, in central UP (voting on April 30), the presence of the Gandhis will not only prove to be decisive in the family boroughs of Amethi and Rae Bareli, but influence the voting pattern in the entire region, which accounts for 16 seats.
In east UP (voting on May 7 and 12), the situation is no better. The caste combination in these regions could also prove tricky for the BJP as Dalits, Muslims, Brahmins and OBCs are the decisive votebanks in this region, and none are committed to the saffron brigade. While Muslims are decisively voting against the BJP for obvious reasons, Brahmins are largely reported to be disenchanted with party chief Rajnath Singh's Thakur-dominated brand of politics. Dalits and OBCs are spread in several layers of sub-castes that align differently and are thus a divided lot.
The situation is such that even Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi are facing hurdles in their "safe" constituencies. Rajnath is finding it difficult to plug the leak in his electoral battleship due to disgruntled former Lucknow MP Lalji Tandon, whom the Thakur leader elbowed out rather brutally.
The situation is similar in Varanasi from where Modi is contesting. The sacred city was considered the best bet for the BJP's prime ministerial nominee, but supporters of outgoing MP Murli Manohar Joshi, who has been shunted to Kanpur this time despite protests, are proving to be the proverbial chink in the armor. BJP insiders say Modi strategists are worried that Brahmins might not vote for him due to Joshi's unceremonious exit.
In fact, Joshi put up posters in Kanpur with the slogan "Is baar Bhajapa sarkar" instead of the official "Is baar Modi sarkar". His public statement that there was a BJP wave, and not a Modi wave also created a stir. Later, the BJP put up hoardings in Kanpur showing Modi and Joshi hugging each other to control the damage.
The story is equally fractured in several other areas. BJP MLA Jay Pratap Singh has fielded his wife in Basti (east UP) as a Congress candidate. In Allahabad, veteran BJP leader and former Vidhan Sabha speaker Kesri Nath Tripathi has refused to campaign in protest against former SP MP Shyama Charan Gupta being named the BJP candidate there.
Former UP BJP president and influential backward Kurmi leader of east UP Om Prakash Singh is also missing from action as his son was denied the party ticket. Supporters of another former state BJP chief, Surya Pratap Shahi, have virtually revolted over Shahi being denied the party ticket from Deoria (east UP).
Former Bajrang Dal chief, Kurmi leader and once the party's firebrand Hindutva spearhead Vinay Katiyar is sulking over the choice of candidate from his hometown Faizabad. With such dissidence becoming routine, the writing on the wall isn't too encouraging for the BJP in UP.