UP Civic Polls: Without Mahagathbandhan, There’s No Stopping BJP
How did the BJP manage to register such a thumping majority in UP? 
How did the BJP manage to register such a thumping majority in UP? (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/The Quint)

UP Civic Polls: Without Mahagathbandhan, There’s No Stopping BJP

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has maintained its winning streak in Uttar Pradesh. It completed its hat-trick by bagging 14 out of 16 mayoral positions in the civic polls, after sweeping 312 Assembly seats out of 403 earlier this year and 71 out of 80 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) managed to sneak in two mayoral posts in minority-dominated Aligarh and Meerut due to tactical voting by minorities. Samajwadi Party (SP) continues to be the principal challenger to the BJP in the state in terms of vote share, despite failing to open account in mayor elections.

The Congress has been wiped out after losing in Rahul Gandhi’s bastion Amethi. While Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath toured the state extensively, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav were absent from the campaign trail.

Elections were held for 652 urban local bodies covering all the 75 districts of the state. The civic polls are usually contested on very local issues. The level of localisation increases as we go from nagar nigam to nagar palika to nagar panchayat. Usually, these elections are personality driven and that’s why independents have historically performed well.

It’s for the first time that the BSP contested these elections on the party symbol. Both the SP and the BSP didn’t contest previous elections in 2012 and had backed independents. Parties have also backed independents in some seats this time, which makes the calculations complex.

Here’s the seats tally:

Here are the five key themes that emanate from the results of municipal polls in Uttar Pradesh

1. BJP Leads in Nagar Nigam Polls, but Can't Keep up With Independents in Nagar Palika and Nagar Panchayat Polls

The BJP continued its good form in Uttar Pradesh banking on innovative social engineering, as it has managed to unify the various Hindu caste groups. Its candidates will now be mayors in 14 urban municipal bodies. The party has historically done well in urban areas, and even during the 2012 municipal elections, despite faring poorly in state elections, the party had won 10 out of 12 mayoral posts.

Out of 198 nagar palika parishad adhyakhs positions, it has emerged as the leader, winning 70 such posts.

As the level of localisation increases, its performance deteriorates. It has won 87.5 percent of nagar nigam mahapaur posts, 35 percent nagar palika parishad adhyaksh, and only 23 percent of nagar panchayat adhyaksh posts. Similarly it won 46 percent of nagar nigam parshad seats, but only 18 percent and 12 percent of nagar palika parishad sadasya and nagar panchayat sadasya seats, respectively.

While it marginally increased its vote share in nagar nigam parshad and mayoral elections vis-à-vis state elections, it lost massive vote share in nagar pallika and nagar panchayat polls where independents rule the roost.

Source: Uttar Pradesh State Election Commission
Source: Uttar Pradesh State Election Commission

It received some setbacks after losing all six nagar panchayat seats in Kaushambi, the home town of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad. It also lost from Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s home ward, Ward 61, in Gorakhpur, where a minority independent candidate won.

2. Mayawati Regains Some Lost Ground

Mayawati’s BSP, which finished a poor third in state elections – winning only 19 out of 403 seats – has made a comeback by winning two mayoral posts. One independent backed by the BSP had successfully become a mayor in 2012.

The results show that Mayawati has regained some of the confidence of Dalits. Minorities are now flexible to vote for the BSP if it is seen as the principal challenger to the BJP in the state, exhibited in the results of Meerut and Aligarh. However, it continues to lag behind the SP in the overall seats.

3. SP Remains Principal Challenger to BJP, Congress Was Never a Force Anyway

The SP failed to open its account in mayoral posts, losing the post which an independent backed by the party had won in 2012. Its competitor, the BSP, won two mayor posts. Despite this, the SP has won the second highest number of seats after the BJP.

The numbers speaks volumes of Akhilesh Yadav’s leadership, who, despite not campaigning, gained vote share.

Source: UP Election Commission
Source: UP Election Commission

The Congress’ poor run in UP continues.

Its candidate finished fourth in Rahul Gandhi's bastion Amethi, indicating a tough fight in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections against Smriti Irani. This performance couldn’t have come at a worse time for Rahul, as he will be elevated to the party president post soon.

Had the Congress and the SP continued its alliance, they would have equaled BJP’s performance in terms of vote share in nagar panchayat elections. Food for thought for the two parties.

4. Yogi Adityanath Emerges as Undisputed Leader of Party in UP, Hindu Face of BJP in 2019

Adityanath's name as Chief Minister was finalised at the last minute for UP. As per buzz, Manoj Sinha was Narendra Modi’s and Amit Shah’s choice for the coveted post. The RSS dug its heels and thrust Adityanath’s name, highlighting that the mandate was for Hindutava. He is now the Hindutava face of the party.

The UP CM has been campaigning in Kerala and Gujarat. In municipal elections, he campaigned fiercely holding many rallies and road shows. While credit for the Lok Sabha and Assembly win is rightly given to Modi, this win is due to the Yogi factor. He is steadily positioning himself as Modi’s heir post 2024.

His claim for the top post has gotten a boost from these results.

5. Without Mahagathbandhan, There's No Chance for Opposition Parties in UP

After the drubbing in the Assembly elections, the SP, BSP, and Congress talked of a grand alliance on the lines of Bihar. Showing maturity, both Akhilesh and Mayawati declared that they were ready to shake hands to keep at bay the so-called communal forces.

However, no breakthrough was achieved and they all contested independently.

The only ray of hope for Opposition parties is to contest together and put up a united candidate against the BJP in 2019.

On a combined basis, SP+BSP+INC received 49.8 percent votes in the 16 mayoral contests versus BJP’s 41.4 percent. If SP+BSP+INC had contested together, the BJP would have been able to win just three of the 16 mayor posts.

I am not saying that these votes are easily transferable, there will be some leakage and translation losses. But, the broad social alliance of Dalits, Muslims and Yadavs – which comprise 50 percent of population – can put up a spirited fight against the BJP’s core support of upper castes and OBCs.

To conclude, the municipal results will provide a momentum to BJP’s claim to retain power in Gujarat. However, this doesn’t guarantee that the BJP will also do well in Lok Sabha polls in the state in 2019. One-and-a-half-years is a long time in politics.

Good show in Uttar Pradesh is key to Prime Minister Modi’s fortunes in next central elections, as state accounts for one-fourth of BJP’s tally in Parliament. To prevent the split of votes, Opposition parties need to take lessons from this defeat and negotiate to put up a broad anti-BJP alliance in the state.

(Amitabh Tiwari is an ex-corporate and investment banker turned political consultant and commentator. He can be reached @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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