The Uttar Pradesh election results are out, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has returned to power with a thumping majority. Though the Samajwadi Party (SP), led by Akhilesh Yadav, has fared better in comparison to the previous election, it was not enough to touch the magic mark. While the BSP's performance was the worst in the party's history, Priyanka Gandhi failed to give a new lease of life to the grand old party – the Congress.
There are many messages and questions that emerge from the trends of the election results in Uttar Pradesh. Let's try to zero in on the major pointers and political hints for the future of Indian politics.
BJP Got Record Vote Share, the Best Performance in Last 42 Years
The BJP has secured 41 percent of votes in 2022, which is one percent higher than 2017 when it rode the Modi wave to power in Lucknow.
From 1980 to 2017, the BJP had never managed to secure more than 40 percent of the vote share in UP. This is a new record for the party. Though the number of seats for the party has fallen, its vote share has increased. This shows that there has been a subtle change in the election dynamics.
Interestingly, the vote share of the SP has also increased. The bipolar election between the BJP and the SP has completely marginalised the BSP and the Congress in UP.
BSP and Congress Sidelined by Voters
It was predicted and turned out to be on the expected line that the vote share of the BSP had reduced drastically in UP. The 12 percent vote share of the BSP is something political pundits are not able to fathom.
Never before has the vote share of the BSP ebbed this much. In 2007, it had secured 30.4 percent vote share, 25 percent in 2012, 22 percent in 2017, and 19 percent in the 2019 general elections despite a surging Modi wave.
The "Ladki hu, lad sakti hu" (I am a girl and I can fight) slogan and high-pitched campaign by Priyanka Gandhi was lauded and had grabbed headlines during the UP election campaign. But the results turned out to be shocking for the Congress party. It managed to get only a 2.38 percent vote share, which is the lowest ever in the history of the grand old party.
The bottom line is that both the BSP and the Congress were sidelined by the voters in the pitched battle between the BJP and the SP.
Why Did BSP-Congress Vanish From the Scene?
Mayawati, during the election campaign, never looked as though she was fighting to win. Though during the Agra rally she claimed to showcase a repetition of the BSP's performance in 2007, the voters did not believe her words. Even the deflection of her core Jatav voters is being reflected in the results.
The Congress was never in the fight.
It chose to raise issues like an NGO and fielded Asha Singh, mother of the Unnao rape survivor, and Khushi Dubey – sister of Aman Dubey who was killed in the Bikaru encounter.
The Congress raised the issue of Khushi being jailed and tried to give a positive message, but could gather only headlines and not the votes. The party, which was looking to find its feet back in UP before the crucial 2024 general election, failed miserably when it came to electoral performance.
Akhilesh Got Caught in the Chasm of Jayant Chaudhary
By how many seats would the BJP get hit in western UP was the most important question being asked in the run-up to the election.
Akhilesh and Jayant Chaudhary shook hands, did big rallies, showing Jat-Muslim unity, and people turned up in large numbers too. Everyone thought that Jat voters were angry with the BJP, and Akhilesh Yadav somehow got caught in the chasm of Jayant Chaudhary.
It looked as though the Muslim-Jat unity could deliver dividends to the SP, but the results have made them bite the dust.
BJP Won 63 Percent in Western UP
The BJP managed to secure around 63 percent of the seats in western UP. The party won or was leading in 88 seats till late Thursday evening, while the SP was leading in 57 seats. The RJD, meanwhile, was leading in eight seats. The SP made gains in the western UP but could not cross the BJP tally.
Where Did Akhilesh Falter?
Akhilesh Yadav was leading the perception battle throughout the election campaign but he could not turn it into actual votes. This is where he faltered.
He gambled with leaders like Swami Prasad Maurya, in the hope that the party would get the support of non-Yadav OBCs. But Maurya himself lost the election from the Fazilnagar seat. Dara Singh Chauhan also struggled in this bastion.
Akhilesh relied on Jayant Chaudhary in western UP but he failed miserably. He missed the ground realities and did the same tactical mistake that the Congress had made in 2017 and Mayawati in 2019. He managed to load up the leaders, but ground workers, and voters eluded him.
Akhilesh Could Not Perceive the Polarisation
Amit Shah started his campaign from Kairana where Yogi Adityanath talked about turning 'hot' Kairana and Muzaffarnagar into Shimla even in May.
Result: 75 percent of votes were polled in Kairana. Nahid Hassan of the SP managed to win, but only after a tough fight put up by Mriganka Singh. The other seats in western UP also saw a similar contest.
Muzaffarnagar is another example where Kapil Dev Agrawal of the BJP got 50.02 percent votes and Saurabh of RLD got a 41.36 percent vote share. The seat had 1.25 lakh Muslim, 70 lakh Vaishya, 28,000 Pal, 25,000 Sikh, 25,000 Jat, 22,000 Dalit, and around 24,000 Tyagi Brahmin voters.
BJP Won Lakhimpur, Hathras, and Unnao
The son of a union minister crushed a farmer under his jeep in Nighasan in Lakhimpur, the Hathras incident took place, and the Muzaffarnagar riots were recalled. Though the BJP was on the back foot on these issues, none of these could dent its poll prospects.
All three seats saw bumper voting in favor of the BJP, ensuring a win by a big margin. It is being said that voter was convinced by the strict law and order regime and the tough image of CM Yogi Adityanath.
Yogi has returned to power and Akhilesh Yadav has improved his tally. But this election would be remembered for the Congress and the BSP. These parties, which once held the reins of power in the state, vanished from the scene within a 10-year frame.
Trump Card of BJP: Beneficiary of Govt Schemes, Modi-Yogi Factor & Tractor
Beneficiaries: Free ration, pension, free domestic cooking gas, house built under PM Awas Yojana, and honorarium to farmers were a few schemes that resonated with voters in the UP election. Despite issues like unemployment, increasing crime, and mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, the beneficiary voters voted for the BJP en masse.
Modi-Yogi Factor: The impact of Modi continues to be felt in the minds of the electorate while the graph of popularity for Yogi also rose. Though BJP may have got lesser seats, its vote share has increased by two percent.
Tractor: Farmers' agitation was being touted as a major reason for the dent to the BJP and incidents of Lakhimpur did not help the party in any way. But the withdrawal of the three farm laws has doused the anger of the farmer enough that they turned up to vote for the BJP on Election Day.
Maya's Shadow on BJP
The BSP in 2017 had won 19 seats but could secure only two seats in 2022. The vote share of the party has also decreased by seven percent.
The question is, who benefitted from the loss of the BSP? The vote share of the BJP has increased and the silence of Mayawati deepens the suspicion that the BJP had benefitted from her silence.
(Translated from Quint Hindi by Arvind Singh.)