The term of the current assembly in Uttar Pradesh expires on 14 March 2022, just six months from now. This has created a buzz around the prestigious and important elections in the state. C-Voter survey which predicts a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) victory has added to the buzz.
Many analysts view these elections as a semi-final to the grand finale general elections in 2024. A win here for the BJP would provide a fillip to the party’s prospects in the next Lok Sabha polls.
It would also cement Yogi Adityanath's position in the BJP as the undisputed number 3 leader after Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, giving wings to his prime ministerial ambitions.
The Samajwadi Party emerged as the single largest party in panchayat elections held in April this year. This has raised the party's hopes that voter dissatisfaction due to alleged mishandling of COVID-19 crisis and resultant economic devastation would help it dislodge BJP in 2022.
The BJP enjoys a big lead over the SP in the current legislature, 250+ seats and 18% vote share. A triangular contest with the BSP still retaining 15%-20% vote share makes the task all the more daunting. However, impossible is possible in politics.
The BJP bagged 40%, SP and BSP 22% each while Congress 6% vote share in 2017 assembly elections.
A scenario analysis shows that even if the BJP loses 5% vote share compared to 2017 and all of this shifts to the SP, the saffron party could still emerge victorious. The seat position would be somewhat similar to the ABP C-Voter survey; 254 seats for BJP and 120 for SP.
The SP needs a big swing of 20% to defeat the BJP in UP. It means a 10% decline in BJP vote share and all of it going to SP would ensure that Akhilesh makes a comeback with 219 seats. This is easier said than done. BJP has not witnessed such a swing in recent years in states it has governed.
How Can SP Achieve This Humongous Feat?
The SP will need to make a serious dent in the BJP vote bank. The weak blocks are Non-Yadav OBC (NYOBC), Jat and Brahmin voters. SBSP which represents the Rajbhar community (4%) has left the NDA on charges of deceiving backward classes. SBSP has formed a front with Owaisi and Chandrasekhar Azad could damage BJP in some seats.
Other NYOBC voters can be wooed through the promise of caste based census and giving maximum tickets to caste groups representing this block. A section of Brahmin community (10%) is disillusioned with BJP as per reports. The Brahmin support for BJP peaked in 2017 and it can only go down from here.
The Jat community (2%) is leading the farmer protests against the BJP and holds significant influence in Western UP where it accounts for 15%-20% of population. Here, SP’s ally, late Ajit Singh’s party holds clout.
80% Brahmins backed the BJP in 2017, 61% NYOBCs and 37% Jats as per CSDS. A 10%-15% loss of support from these three communities could result in a 8%-12% swing for the SP.
The second approach would be to ensure the contest turns bipolar. For this SP would need to make BSP and Congress irrelevant in the eyes of voters.
Akhilesh will need to emerge as the top contender and create an environment / perception that votes for Mayawati and Priyanka is a vote for the BJP. He would need to rally all the anti-BJP voters to prevent division of opposition votes.
BSP still commands 62% support of Dalits (21% of population). Jatavs (community which Mayawati hails from) are its loyal backers. On the other hand, Congress has no loyal vote base left. However at 6% vote share it has more or less bottomed out.
The SP will need to snatch the Jatav vote from the BSP to win. Akhilesh needs to convince Jatavs that their votes have been wasted for the past 4 elections and because of that they are not getting their due share / representation in power.
With the BJP at 40%, the SP would need another 20% votes to reach 42% and have an edge. The BSP and Congress together received 28% votes in 2017. This means a significant share (almost three-fourth) needs to move from these parties towards the SP.
The BSP and other smaller parties bagged 30% of Muslim community votes. SP should aim at consolidating 20%-25% of this support, adding 4%-5% to its vote share.
A mix of the above two approaches could also work. SP making a dent in votes of BJP, BSP, Congress and smaller parties. A 10% swing would bring down BJP to35% level and push SP to 27% levels. SP would then need to add another 10% vote share from BSP and Congress propelling it to 37% vote share and thus end up winning a simple majority.
All of this shows how the SP has a real challenge up its sleeve and why Yogi is the favourite to win. The SP would need to put in a lot of effort, target Yogi as well as Maya / Priyanka and propagate its positive vision for the state. Time is running out and he needs to hit the road to achieve this uphill task.