LUCKNOW: The big battle of 2019 ended up springing a surprise on one and all in Uttar Pradesh. If the Modi wave 2.0 swept away rivals in most other states, it was almost as strong in UP. Winning over 60 seats in India's politically most crucial state can be considered a spectacular performance by the BJP given the formidable challenge posed by the SP-BSP alliance which had caste arithmetic on its side.
However, the Modi magic and the BJP's deft plan to break the caste barrier trumped the entire opposition. Result: The saffron party, which -- even at its 2014 strike rate -- looked to lose about 50 seats when the SP and BSP joined hands in January 2019, managed to reverse the perceived damage by taking its vote share to over 50% from 43% in 2014.
Even as the Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is stomaching the Amethi shocker, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav has also been a big loser. Contesting 37 of 80 seats, not only did the vote share of the SP go down by 4%, it also failed to make an impact in terms of seats. Moreover, it also lost its bastions—Kannauj (Dimple Yadav), Firozabad (Akshay Yadav) and Badaun (Dharmendra Yadav).
Similarly, RLD, the junior partner, lost all three seats it contested. Even Chaudhury Ajit Singh failed to save his Jat pride in Muzaffarnagar, losing to sitting BJP MP Sanjiv Balyan.
BSP chief Mayawati, on the other hand, emerged as a gainer through the gathbandhan as her party managed to add over 10 seats to its previous tally of zero. The BSP had contested 38 of 80 seats.
In 2014, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal had bagged 73 seats leaving only two to be won by the Congress and five by the Samajwadi Party, all by members of the first families of the two parties.
While the BJP's tally was just a little lower than the 2014 polls, the major takeaway from the UP results seems to be the fact that the saffron bandwagon, led from the front by CM Yogi Adityanath, succeeded in smashing the traditional caste mould in the state through the narrative of development and nationalism.
“In this election, the BJP not only did away with the fear of SP-BSP caste arithmetic, but also busted the ‘Priyanka talisman’ of the Congress in UP,” said Prof Ashutosh Mishra, a political scientist.
On the contrary, the gathbandhan seems to have gone miserably wrong in gauging the public mood while considering the caste calculus based on the Muslim-Dalit-Yadav combination as its formula to conquer UP. However, the same social engineering had given the alliance the hope of an edge in 60-65 seats with the potential of decimating the BJP to 17-20 seats, but the final picture was flipped.
The synergy among the top alliance leaders failed to percolate to the ground among their respective cadres who had been at loggerheads for the past 24 years. Consequently, there was a failure to transfer votes between the allies.
As for the Congress, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s charisma cut little ice with UP voters. The party ended up losing the Gandhi family bastion of Amethi. This election, which had Priyanka’s prestige as in-charge of eastern UP at stake, spelt doom for the debutant who could spare her party’s blushes only in her mother’s constituency of Rae Bareli.