LUCKNOW: No Chief Minister candidate, no matter, all everyone voted for in Uttar Pradesh was the shining face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi exuding prosperity for the state. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a historic mandate with over three-fourth majority bagging 325 of 403 seats in the UP Assembly election 2017 leaving major rivals SP-Congress and BSP completely decimated at 57 and 19 respectively.
Seen as a referendum on the two-and-a-half-year Modi governance at the Centre and his divisive demonetisation move, and thus a precursor to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the UP Assembly election was a fiercely fought triangular contest between the BJP, the SP-Congress alliance and the BSP.
While the alliance shrunk to 57 seats against 224 in 2012, the BSP had its poorest-ever showing, winding up at 19 against its 2012 tally of 80.
While UP-2017 was a matter of political survival for Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, it was also a test of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s acceptance as the new Samajwadi Party chief, and a retrial of Mayawati’s tried and tested social engineering formula. All three failed, and the combine could not impress voters with its forced “UP ko yeh saath pasand hai’ (UP likes this combine) slogan.
On the other, the BJP cashed in on the mass appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has emerged much stronger — the only dominating figure on the political horizon of the country — after the UP victory. Modi, as the BJP’s one-and-only superstar campaigner, led the state’s political discourse from the front, leaving the rivals to pick up after him.
The deftly handled caste dynamics of master strategist and party chief Amit Shah also helped the BJP a great deal in turning the tide entirely in its favour.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi congratulated Modi on Twitter, but said his own party’s fight to win the “hearts and minds” of the people would continue. The PM replied to him within minutes saying: “Thank you… Long live democracy.”
Examining the BJP’s grand victory threadbare, it emerges that the party has secured a humongous 42 per cent vote share. The SP-Congress combine still managed a 28 per cent vote share despite bagging only 57 seats, while the BSP’s 23 per cent vote share belied its dismal tally of 19 seats. The other parties made up the rest 7 per cent along with 0.9% going to NOTA (None of the Above).
This time around, the saffron party had put together an invincible caste matrix to trump BSP’s Muslim- Dalit formula and SP-Congress’s Muslim-Yadav-upper caste equation. While the other two stakeholders were busy wooing the minorities, the BJP easily captured the floating non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav MBC vote bank with the traditional upper caste consolidation standing firm behind it. This helped the party win all the 19 seats in the Dalit-dominated Bundelkhand region and 51 seats in eastern UP.
Taking on regional monarchs like Mulayam and Mayawati, who between themselves had held on to power for 15 years, the BJP had anointed Keshav Maurya as state president a year ahead of the polls, apart from which it also distributed over 40 per cent of tickets to OBCs out of the possible 403 seats.
This time, the BJP made good use of its rivals’ Muslim appeasement policy, which backfired on them, and went on to win over 100 of 136 seats in Muslim-dominated western UP. The foundation for the BJP’s unexpected gains here had actually been laid by rival Mayawati when she gave about 100 of 403 tickets to Muslims, triggering a race with SP, which was also counting on consolidating what it considers its traditional vote bank.
This resulted in reverse polarisation of the majority vote in favour of BJP bolstering its prospects in the entire state.
The BJP’s victory was as much the loss of SP, whose drubbing can be attributed to its prolonged fierce family feud which resulted in Mulayam’s upstaging and an alliance with Congress, which never really took off in the state.