Just a day after the assembly poll results for five states were declared on 10 March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a Vijay Yatra in Ahmedabad, Gujarat—the next political battleground of 2022.
The BJP has been in power Gujarat since 1995 and the party hopes to hold on to the state banking on Modi’s Gujarati chora image and capitalise on Gujarati asmita of having a prime minister from their state.
Bhartiya Janata Party—riding on Hindutva, innovative social engineering, and welfarism has won a record mandate in Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath’s upcoming swearing-in on 25 March has given rise to a debate whether UP can become another Gujarat for the party. After all, the land of Ram lalla is one of the first states where the BJP formed a government.
UP was one of the first three states where party formed the government in 1991. While party has grown in other Hindi heartland states like Bihar, MP and Chhattisgarh, its success has been chequered in UP.
Samajwadi Party Unable to Check the Rise of BJP
The Samajwadi Party—despite a spirited performance—doesn’t have the stamina to meet the necessary condition of 40% vote share to beat the BJP. The party has failed to add any significant vote block even in this election outside of its core vote bank (MY).
The BJP+ vote share in UP in this election is around 44% and SP+ stands around 36.5%—a lead of 7.5% for the BJP. The BSP vote share is at 13%. Any further bipolarisation of the contest, which is likely, as Mayawati faces extinction risk in the state, could make the BJP stronger.
It is in Akhilesh Yadav’s interest that Mayawati is not fully decimated and her party doesn’t not weaken further from here. This is contrary to popular perception.
Let’s see how and why.
Of the 9.5% decline in the BSP vote share from 22.4% in 2017 to 12.9% in 2017, 6.3% has been lapped up by the SP while 3.2% by the BJP. Muslims, Yadavs, OBCs (non-core voters) of the BSP shifted to the SP while some non-Jatav/Jatav core Dalit voter gravitated towards the BJP.
The BSP has still maintained its hold over Mayawati’s core Jatav vote bank (62% support for the party).
Of the 13% vote share remaining of the BSP, the bulk—around 70 per cent—comprises of Dalit voters (8.8%) and balance upper caste, NYOBC, Jats etc. Less than 1% of this vote share comprises of MY as majority have already moved to SP.
Why the Leftover BSP Voters May Choose BJP Over SP
What this means is that the catchment area of the SP in the BSP's leftover vote-share is minimal now. In event of any further weakening of the BSP, first the so-called 'upper' caste and then Dalit votes could shift to the BJP unlike this election where majority went to the SP.
The non-Jatavs are now firmly with the BJP (51% support in 2022). It means that more voters from the community can move towards the BJP in coming days due to higher representation and share in the power pie.
Jatavs (Mayawati's subcaste) also have started veering towards the BJP (21% support in 2022) as Hindutva and welfarism make it a more natural ally than the SP which has the support of antagonistic vote blocks like MY in its fold.
Any further weakening of the BSP from here can provide BJP with a big edge of around 5% to 10% thus taking its vote share to unassailable 50% to 55%.
Uttar Pradesh As the Next Gujarat
We have also seen that the BJP does well in bipolar contests against the Congress and other regional parties as both pro and anti-BJP votes get consolidated and counter consolidated.
Bhartiya Janata Party’s Hindutva plus social engineering plus welfarism cocktail provides it with an unparalleled edge in UP.
The SP is now more or less capped at current vote share and with the stigma of lawlessness it can’t attract more women voters which hinders its potential to grow. So, it does not have any upside beyond its core vote.
Yogi Adityanath has announced extension of free ration scheme in the state which benefits 15 crore people (as per claims by the BJP). 11% voters backed the BJP due to the success of this scheme alone. It is likely to further strengthen and broaden the party’s presence among the poor and the downtrodden.
Conditions in UP are ripe for another Gujarat in the making for the BJP. Nevertheless, UP’s success is likely to be built on the back of the UP model and not the Gujarat model.
(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.)