The election results are coming in and leads show that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is all set to break the trend and come back to power in Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath is making a comeback despite a strong pitch by Akhilesh Yadav to unseat ‘Baba Bulldozer’.
The early opinion polls predicted a comfortable BJP victory. As the phases of elections progressed, the media and ground reports suggested that the contest is closer than expected due to disillusionment on the ground with respect to unemployment, price rise, farmers’ agitation and the economic crisis.
As per trends at 7 pm, the BJP was leading in 270 assembly segments with a vote share of 41.6%. The SP was leading in 128 seats with 32% vote share. The BSP has been decimated as it is leading in only one seat with 12.7% vote share, and the Congress is set to record its worst performance, leading in two seats with a vote share of 2.4%.
With the tiring and month-long election ending, we look at what has worked and what has not for the main players in Uttar Pradesh.
Why the BJP Fared Better
The ‘Modi-Yogi’ jodi (pair) is working for the party in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains fairly popular in the state. Yogi, too, has his fan following. Both are seen as strong administrators. As many as 15% voters of the BJP have voted due to their leadership, as per the Axis exit poll.
The free ration distribution is a big hit among the poor. No party has alleged irregularities in the scheme. This has acted as a balm and smoothened the anger brewing after the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
The improved law and order situation has created a buzz among the state, especially amongst female voters. A sense of safety and security now engulfs the state. Almost 16% more female voters backed the BJP compared to the SP, as per the Axis survey.
The implementation of central schemes (Uttar Pradesh is at the top in 44 such schemes) like PM Ujjwala, PM Awas, PM Kisan, etc., has been good in the state and this has created a laabhaarthi (beneficiary) vote bank cutting across caste and religious lines.
A disjointed opposition, with both the BSP and the Congress campaigning aggressively, led to a division of opposition votes. The BSP and the Congress still got 15% votes, which could have moved to the SP had they formed an alliance or were not in the picture. The gap between the BJP and the SP is 9.6% as of now.
How BSP Acted as a Cushion
The higher turnout of women has also negated the impact of the SP’s caste-based alliances with OP Rajbhar’s party SBSP and Apna Dal (K) in Purvanchal.
The farmers’ agitation led by Jats in western UP threatened the prospects of the BJP, as the SP tied up with Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). However, the repeal of the farm laws and more females among Jats voting for the BJP (+11% compared to men) neutralised this alliance.
The party is managing to increase its vote share by roping in a higher number of Jatavs (+12%) and non-Jatavs (+20%) from the BSP, which acted as a cushion against the onslaught of the SP.
There is anti-incumbency against MLAs, which is the cause of the loss of around 60 seats for the BJP. The party was not able to change sitting MLAs as desired due to the exit of leaders led by Swami Prasad Maurya. In a state election, one-third of people cast their votes keeping local candidates in mind, and this proved tricky for the BJP.
Why SP's Smaller Caste-Based Alliances Failed
The smaller caste-based alliances formed by Akhilesh Yadav have somewhat failed on the ground. Taking a lesson from the failure of earlier tie-ups with bigger parties like the BSP (2019) and the Congress (2017), it has partnered with niche parties who have influence in one community, such as the SBSP (Rajbhar), the Apna Dal (K) – Kurmis, the RLD (Jat). They have influence in specific regions.
While the SBSP is winning in four constituencies, the RLD has a strike rate of only 25%; the Apna Dal faction is not winning even a single seat.
The party lacked the muscle to take on the BJP. The SP was not able to make a dent in the BJP’s vote bank, which was the necessary condition for Akhilesh to win.
Further, the SP is not a cadre-based party – it is leader-based. Hence, it lacks the resources to convert disillusionment to votes.
A low voter turnout also seems to be not working for the party as it generally shows pro-incumbency behaviour.
The minority population votes, which normally get split in the state between the SP, the BSP and the Congress, have this time consolidated behind Akhilesh (85%) as he has emerged as the main contender in the state polls. However, this also seems to have resulted in a counter-consolidation among Hindus.
The party has failed to make it a localised contest, which is important to dislodge any BJP government. Akhilesh approached it as a personality contest with Yogi, a presidential election. This has somewhat distracted attention from issues on the ground.
The SP’s ‘Samajwadi+Ambedkarite’ strategy to win over Dalits is also not working.
The party’s media management did work and helped make the contest in Uttar Pradesh a bipolar fight. This helped the SP woo non-Dalit voters of the BSP (-10%). This shift is primarily responsible for a better show by the SP.
However, the SP did not approach it as an election focussed on issues but drifted to electoral rhetoric more often than not, thus failing to win the trust of the people.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)