BJP's Rakesh Kumar Rastogi found murdered on Saturday morning
The gloves have come off in the political rivalry in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Five leaders and workers of the BJP have been murdered or attacked in 9 days. This may well be the fallout of the party’s success in the recent general election, with the BJP winning a staggering 71 out of the 80 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.
That success was unprecedented in the past 30 years in a state where national parties have often struggled to win votes amid fractured caste and religious loyalties. The BJP won a decisive mandate on its own, reducing regional parties like the Samajwadi Party to a mere 5 seats, down from 23 seats in 2009.
With a population of 200 million, Uttar Pradesh sends the most representatives to Parliament and was crucial in the BJP returning to power.
Yet that very success seems to have drawn a violent backlash from its political rivals in Uttar Pradesh, with three BJP state leaders murdered, a BJP member of Parliament attacked, and the mother of a BJP leader shot at.
The party claims that these attacks are an attempt to intimidate it and has accused the Samajwadi Party which rules the state. The Samajwadi Party, perhaps expectedly, dismissed the allegation as “baseless and politically motivated”.
According to Scroll.in, the Uttar Pradesh Police has attributed these attacks to specific causes involving the victims rather than to any political vendetta.
The state has seen a deteriorating law and order problem since the Samajwadi Party came to power in 2010, with a recent surge in rapes and violence against women.
The National Crime Records Bureau has ranked the state as the "worst" in terms of law and order. There were a record 33,824 violent crimes in 2012, including nearly 2,000 rapes and 4,966 murders.
The attacks against BJP members may not have seem out of place in a state that is reportedly awash with illegal weapons. According to a detailed report by the Hindustan Times, politicians, spiritual gurus, college professors and farmers possess guns. Locally-made pistols cost between 5,000 rupees ($83) and 25,000 rupees ($417) on the black market.
The newspaper estimated that almost 20,000 people have licensed weapons in each district with the number of unlicensed weapons being three times higher. With 71 districts in total, that means the state may have a total of 1.4 million licensed weapons and 4.3 million unlicensed weapons.
Nevertheless, the frequency of these attacks against the BJP and the targeting of one political party cannot be mere coincidence, especially coming so soon after its success in the national election.
The state assembly election in Uttar Pradesh is not due till 2017, but a few key by-elections will be held soon for seats that have fallen vacant. The BJP’s political rivals may have been rattled enough by its recent spectacular showing to try any means to slow its juggernaut in the state. Even if that means killing.