Despite fears of a third wave, the Uttar Pradesh government seems reluctant to cancel the Kanwar Yatra in the state. The ruling party BJP does not want to hurt the sentiments of Hindus due to the people’s attachment to religious beliefs and traditions as there are a large number of Shiva devotees in the state, who are strong supporters of the BJP.
Religious survey data conducted in 2017 shows that Lord Shiva is the most worshiped God among Hindus in India. About 12% of Hindus worship Lord Shiva, but in UP their number is much higher and about 21% of Hindus worship Lord Shiva. A large number of Kanwariyas are young and therefore there is a fear that the cancellation of Kanwar Yatra may not anger the Hindu community, who had voted in large numbers for the BJP. The success of the BJP in UP is heavily dependent on its ability to garner the Hindu vote.
BJP’s victory in the 2022 assembly elections in UP depends on how it brings the votes of the Hindu community with it. About 20 per cent voters in UP are from the Muslim community, who hardly vote for the BJP. It is important for the BJP to please Hindus, especially non-Dalit Hindus, as a large number of Dalits are loyal supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party.
In the last few elections, the BJP has kept the sole objective of garnering the votes of the majority community (Hindus) and in the upcoming assembly elections also the same strategy needs to be followed so that it remains ahead in the electoral race. For the time being, it may seem that the BJP is ahead in the electoral race as the opposition is divided, but it is necessary for the party to retain the Hindu community in its favor. It is not that BJP is not dependent on Hindu vote in Uttarakhand, but it is less in Uttarakhand as compared to UP.
In fact, a survey conducted in 2019 on the scale of adherence to various religious traditions shows that most of the Hindus in UP are either very religious or a little religious. A large number of these voted for the BJP in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha and 2017 assembly elections. Survey figures show that more than 65% of middle or upper religious Hindus voted for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. At the same time, the support of religious Hindus to the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 assembly elections also remained around this. The support of religious Hindus was instrumental in the victory of BJP in the 2017 assembly elections in UP.
The reluctance to cancel the Kanwar Yatra will certainly be part of the election mobilization strategy. The Supreme Court had asked to reconsider even the symbolic yatra in the state, after which the Kanwar Sangh itself has canceled the Kanwar Yatra on the appeal of the UP government. In such a situation, now it has to be seen how much damage this causes to the vote bank of BJP, which is largely dependent on Hindu votes. For now, it can only be guessed and a better picture will emerge as the Election Day approaches.