'Infighting, overconfidence and complacency': What led to BJP’s defeat in Uttar Pradesh

Nearly all defeated candidates lamented the lack of support from sitting BJP MLAs, with some citing the state leadership's overreliance on the appeal of 'Brand Modi' to carry them through elections.
BJP flag used for representational purpose only.
BJP flag used for representational purpose only.Photo| PTI

LUCKNOW: An initial fact-finding effort by the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit has identified several key issues behind the party's poor performance in the recent Lok Sabha elections in the state.

Among the prominent reasons cited are an element of overconfidence, a lack of coordination among different party wings, including candidates and sitting MLAs, and complacency within the BJP cadre.

The state leadership of the ruling party had set up 40 ‘two-member’ teams, which are visiting two Lok Sabha constituencies each to ascertain the reasons for the BJP's dismal performance.

Notably, the BJP and its allies performed much below expectations, winning just 36 of 80 LS seats in UP, while the main opposition Samajwadi Party took a formidable jump of 32 seats, increasing its tally from five in 2019 to 37 in 2024.

At the same time, Congress, the other partner of the INDIA bloc, improved its tally from one in 2019 to six in 2024, reclaiming its bastion of Amethi and retaining Rae Bareli.

However, during the fact-finding exercise, the feedback collected so far by the BJP teams has come as an eye-opener for the leadership.

In fact, in places such as Faizabad and Saharanpur, heated exchanges among party workers, candidates, and sitting MLAs unfolded before the fact-finding team, shedding light on the underlying realities that contributed to the party's resounding defeat in Uttar Pradesh.

This infighting led the BJP to fall short of its “Mission 80” and led to around 8 percent of the non-Yadav OBC vote share drifting away from the party, which they had been supporting since 2014.

State BJP chief Bhupendra Chaudhury led a fact-finding team to determine the reasons behind the party's loss in Faizabad, which includes Ayodhya.

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In Saharanpur, BJP candidate Raghav Lakhanpal accused one state minister and some party workers of acting against party interests, which led to his defeat by Imran Masood of Congress by a margin of 64,000 votes.

The spat between Lakhanpal and Yogi cabinet’s junior minister and Deoband MLA Brijesh Singh during the meeting revealed the lack of coordination in various wings of the BJP as an organisation.

BJP General Secretary GL Shukla and Hardoi MLA Ashish Singh had been sent to Saharanpur to take feedback on the possible reasons for Lakhanpal’s defeat.

Even when Shukla and others were waiting for everyone to settle down, supporters of Lakhanpal and Brijesh Singh started shouting slogans against each other. However, the senior party leaders present in the meeting pacified both groups, following which the meeting began.

Despite his loss, Lakhanpal had taken the lead from the Deoband Assembly segment represented by Brijesh Singh.

Similar scenes unfolded across various constituencies, with fact-finding teams receiving consistent feedback. The common complaint among nearly all defeated candidates was the lack of support from sitting MLAs.

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Another piece of feedback says that the party workers across the state lacked the zeal to work on the ground due to various reasons, such as a lack of communication between the state leadership and the ground workers. This led the workers to feel left out, as despite giving their blood and sweat for the party for years, they have not been able to get their genuine work done at the tehsil and the thana levels.

Another common refrain was "overconfidence" and "pervasive sense of complacency" among candidates and state leadership, who believed they would sail through as it was an election for the Prime Minister and ‘Brand Modi’ would give a third term to Narendra Modi.

This notion led the candidates and senior leadership to ignore the feedback from ground workers.

Meanwhile, the BJP has also cited allegations of irregularities in the voter list, which reportedly had many missing names, and the opposition's campaign focused on 'protecting' the constitution and reservation as reasons for its poor performance in the state.

The observers have been tasked with meeting district-level office-bearers, MLAs, and sector-level office-bearers to collect their feedback. They have also been tasked with ascertaining whether the Lok Sabha 'sanchalan samitis' formed in each constituency worked as per plan or not.

Even though the last date to submit the reports was June 20, sources said the date will have to be extended as many observers have not been able to complete the process and prepare a report so far.

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