UP by-polls: In defeat, the BJP has a message from the non-Yadav OBCs
The loss at Gorakhpur, Phulpur and Araria is a blow for the BJP, considering that it is ruling in both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, who was the indisputable king of Gorakhpur said that it was over-confidence that led to the defeat.
In 2017, when the BJP won big in UP, it had fielded over third candidates from the non-Yadav OBC communities. There was a clear political mobilisation of these votes and in turn, it went on to help the BJP.
In the case of Bihar, the BJP was beaten in 2015 by a Nitish-Lalu alliance. Last year the BJP and Nitish came together and reached out to the non-Yadav community.
However, in the by-elections for which the results were announced on Wednesday, these combinations did not seem to work out for the BJP. Praveen Nishad and Nagendra Pratap Patel who won from Gorakhpur and Phulpur respectively are from the non-Yadav OBC communities.
Another interesting fact is that the both the SP and BJP candidate from Phulpur are Kurmis. The voter, however, chose the SP's candidate despite both belonging to the same group.
In Gorakhpur, the members of the Nishad community backed the SP candidate who also is from the same community. The Nishads have always backed the BJP in the past. Analysts would say that this is for the first time in Gorakhpur a representative of the Gorakhnath Mutt was not a BJP candidate. Nishads, the OBC community have been the traditional supporters of Adityanath. The fact that he was not the candidate could have also swung the votes in favour of the SP.
The other key factor is that the SP had the help of the BSP. The Dalit support base of the BSP also played a major role in the elections. This could be a bigger worry for the BJP in the 2019 elections. If this factor has played a role in Yogi's background, then it could have a bigger bearing on the other candidates who are not as strong.
With the opposition set to play the same game as fielding non-Yadav candidates, the BJP would look for course correction to consolidate these votes. This is clearly an indicator for the BJP that these votes cannot be taken for granted and ahead of 2019, the party would have a lot of work to do.