The leak of recruitment exam question papers, the free hand allegedly given to state administration officials, and a division in OBC and Dalit votes because of the Opposition’s campaign on the issues of the Constitution and reservation. These are the reasons the BJP has identified for its poor performance in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections in which its seat tally fell from 62 to 33 while its vote share declined from 49.98% to 41.37%.

Between June 19 and 25, the BJP conducted a review of its performance in 78 constituencies, barring Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi seat and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s constituency Lucknow. Armed with a checklist of 24 questions, teams of senior BJP leaders met the party’s local leaders and public representatives to find out why it lost the seats that it did and why its victory margin came down in several of the constituencies that it retained.

Sources said meetings between the UP BJP’s office-bearers and RSS functionaries on the election results were held and the Singh’s inputs were taken into account. The state unit has compiled its report and it is expected to be submitted to the central leadership this week.

A senior BJP functionary associated with the review said, “The Opposition’s campaign on Constitution and reservation, the distress caused by paper leaks and unemployment, and disappointment among BJP workers because of neglect and insult by local administrations caused the maximum damage.”

“Ultimately the onus is on the organization because elections are contested by a political party and not the government. But the voter votes according to the performance of the government and not the political party,” said the leader.

Festive offer

Asked what the review found about why several BJP workers lost enthusiasm during the campaign, the leader said, “The cadre were discouraged. For long, they had been insulted by officers at local police stations and tehsil offices. As a result, this time, they did not show enthusiasm to ensure the BJP’s win in their polling booths. The state government’s decision to crack down on ‘VIP culture’ allowed police personnel to harass BJP workers. Party flags were removed from the vehicles of BJP workers, their vehicles were checked, and challans were imposed for the alleged violation of traffic rules.”

The review also found that the leak of question papers for recruitment exams not only created a huge upswell of anger among the youth but their family members as well.

The Yogi Adityanath government last month passed a proposal for the promulgation of an Ordinance that provides jail terms ranging from two years to life imprisonment, and fines of up to Rs 1 crore, for those guilty of leaking question papers. “Had such a step been taken before the elections were announced, the party would not have lost the votes of the youth,” said a leader.

The party’s former Kannauj MP, Subrat Pathak, who lost his seat to Samajwadi Party (SP) president Akhilesh Yadav, on Monday came out in the open to blame paper leaks for the party’s poor performance. “There are many reasons for the defeat of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections 2024, but one of the major reasons is paper leak,” he posted in Hindi on X on Sunday. Pathak said corruption had “ruined the education system completely” and highlighted the efforts of the BJP governments in UP and the Center to end it.

Caste arithmetic and infighting

The BJP review found that the party got its caste and community arithmetic wrong, especially when it came to Dalits and OBCs, with the Opposition’s “Save the Constitution” campaign striking a chord with voters. “Around 8% of votes from Dalits and OBCs got cut off due to the Opposition’s campaign on reservation and the Constitution,” said a BJP leader.

According to the party, a sizeable section of the BSP’s Jatav Dalit vote base shifted to the SP and the Congress, strengthening the hand of the INDIA alliance. “Around 6% of the Jatav Dalit votes shifted to the SP-Congress on the issue of reservation and the Constitution because they believed that the BSP was not contesting to defeat the BJP. The BJP was hopeful that the BSP would cut into Muslim votes, but that did not happen,” said a BJP leader.

A senior BJP functionary said around 70% of the OBC Kurmi votes shifted towards the SP-Congress alliance despite the efforts of the party’s leaders from the community. “Voters were not convinced by the assurance that the BJP was not going to end reservation. We were helpless,” said the leader, adding that not giving enough tickets to Kurmis damaged the BJP’s prospects in several constituencies in central and eastern UP. According to the review, voters from the OBC Shakya community in central UP and the Bundelkhand region did not support the party and it also lost a major chunk of the OBC Maurya and Saini votes.

As per the review, the anger among Thakurs in west UP that was apparent during the first phase of polling also dented the party in the region. “Measures were taken for damage control but failed and the damage continued till the fourth phase of elections,” said a leader.

BJP insiders said the review report had also blamed former Sardhana MLA Sangeet Singh Som for provoking Thakurs, thereby hurting the party’s candidate and former MP Sanjeev Kumar Balyan in Muzaffarnagar. “Due to that anti-BJP sentiment created among Thakurs, the BJP not only lost Muzaffarnagar but also Saharanpur and Kairana and its margins declined in Meerut and Mathura. The Thakur issue damaged the BJP in all seven phases. The central leadership will decide what action to take in the matter,” said a leader.

Som earlier dismissed these allegations, saying he was not behind the Thakur community’s anger, reflected in several panchayats held before the elections where anti-BJP sentiments came to the fore. “I did not attend any of these panchayats. I did the damage-control exercise, convinced people and got votes polled for the party. The BJP did not lose in Rajput (Thakur) villages,” he had said.

According to the review, infighting also damaged the party in Amethi, where former Union Minister Smriti Irani lost to Gandhi family loyalist KL Sharma. “In Amethi, one party MLA and another influential leader worked against the BJP candidate. The central leadership will be told about them,” said a functionary.

As first reported by The Indian Express last month, during the review process the state BJP leadership received feedback from mandal unit leaders, district office-bearers, the party’s elected public representatives, and candidates on a set of 24 questions, including how connected candidates were. with the public, why certain communities drifted away from the party, and how booths were managed.