From 64 to 33: What went wrong for BJP, allies in UP?

The focus of political pundits is now on the shortfalls of the saffron brigade that led to its setback in the most crucial heartland state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a roadshow ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in Ayodhya
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a roadshow ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in AyodhyaPhoto | EPS

LUCKNOW: It may be a nationwide win for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, but the major reverses suffered by the party and its allies in Uttar Pradesh have come as a rude surprise as it introspects on what went wrong, because of which the NDA fell short of even the 300-mark.

The focus of political pundits is now on the shortfalls of the saffron brigade that led to its setback in the most crucial heartland state.

A number of factors may have caused the slump in seats for the BJP and its allies in UP.

'Do Ladkon ki Jodi' works

The ‘Do Ladkon ki Jodi’ in SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi worked this time unlike in 2017 when they were seen campaigning together in the run-up to the UP Assembly polls. On that occasion, the BJP got a whopping 302 seats and the Congress-SP alliance managed just 47.

Seven years later, the two leaders presented a more convincing picture of their alliance for the big Lok Sabha fight, winning over 40 seats leaving the NDA behind in the 30s.

Failure to counter narrative over Constitution

The ruling alliance failed to counter the narrative woven by the opposition around the threat to the Constitution. The opposition alleged that the NDA would do away with the reservation benefits to the OBCs and SC/STs if it touched the 400 mark. The narrative kept ringing at the ground in the political landscape despite the concerted efforts of the BJP leadership to counter it with its discourse on ‘distribution of wealth and benefits of reservation among minority’ but it apparently failed to move the voters.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath during a roadshow ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in Ayodhya
UP results a setback not just for the BJP, but for Yogi Adityanath too

Anti-incumbency against candidates

Despite strong anti-incumbency against multiple sitting MPs, BJP strategists repeated them though surveys by the party indicated the public anger against them. Ignoring the organisational feedback, candidates who had won the previous election by as slender a margin as 181 votes were repeated leading to their crushing defeat this time.

The BJP had initially decided to deny the ticket to at least 30-35 per cent of its sitting MPs given the anti-incumbency factor but ended up replacing only 14 of them.

Local issues

Farmers' distress, economic anxiety, unemployment and the opposition's narrative against the Agniveer scheme accentuated the anger among young voters against the BJP in a majority of pockets.

Consolidation of minority votes

The BJP failed to convince the minority and stop its consolidation behind the opposition which got at least over 85 per cent of the Muslim vote whereas the BJP got just 6 per cent.

On the other hand, the ruling alliance failed to effect reverse polarisation of Hindu voters who voted more on caste lines.

No effect of Ram temple

Among the biggest talking points in this election was the construction of the grand Ram temple in Ayodhya, a BJP poll promise since the 1980s, which BJP supporters claimed would be the decisive factor in the Lok Sabha election results.

The BJP strategized the consecration of Ram Lalla in new Ram temple in Ayodhya in January this year eyeing its benefit in the Lok Sabha polls but Ayodhya failed to assert itself as the key factor even in Faizabad, the constituency it is part of. The BJP lost the Faizabad seat to the SP’s nine-time MLA Awadhesh Prasad despite its loud religio-cultural narrative around the Ram Temple, renovation of Kashi Vishwanath Dham and the aggressive pursuit of the Krishna Janmabhoomi case.

No Mayawati factor

The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party, once a force to reckon with in UP, failed to open its account in these polls. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls also, the BSP had drawn a blank in Uttar Pradesh, but came back strongly with 10 seats in the 2019 elections fought in alliance with the Samajwadi Party. This time it went solo resulting in a rout. Moreover, the BSP failed to retain its 19.43 per cent vote share of 2019 and slipped considerably to single digits. However, the BSP's loss seems to be the INDIA bloc's gain as it increased its vote share to over 40 per cent.

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