No wave, no anger: It could work both ways for NDA and INDIA in UP

While the BJP is looking at 60-plus seats in the state to help it in the national tally, the INDI-Alliance claims to have limited the BJP to below 50.
People seen waiting to cast their votes in Uttar Pradesh.
People seen waiting to cast their votes in Uttar Pradesh.(File Photo | 'X'/CEOUP)

As most parts of India, especially northern states, are wilting under a relentless heatwave, Uttar Pradesh stands alongside Bihar and West Bengal as one of the three states where polling occurred in all seven rounds that started on April 19 and stretched over 43 days.

With everyone waiting for the results on June 4, some significant takeaways and trends have emerged that may help in decoding what lies ahead in terms of the number of seats for the major parties.

UP has 80 seats, and in 2019, the BJP had won 62, its ally Apna Dal (S) won 2, Bahujan Samaj Party 10, Samajwadi Party 5, and Congress 1.

In this election, the SP, Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) contested as part of the INDI Alliance, fighting on 62, 17 and 1 of the 80 seats, respectively. The BJP-led NDA has the NISHAD party, Apna Dal (S), Rashtriya Lok Dal and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) as partners, collectively fighting in all 80 seats.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his ministers including Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goel, Anurag Thakur and others, BJP president JP Nadda, and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and many of his ministerial colleagues and state BJP functionaries addressed hundreds of rallies and meetings across the state.

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Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka Vadra and party president Mallikarjun Kharge, meanwhile, were the main campaigners for the Congress while Sonia Gandhi made a single brief appearance in Rae Bareli to seek votes for her son. The burden of the Samajwadi Party's campaigning was borne mainly by Akhilesh Yadav. Leaders like Shivpal Yadav, Ram Gopal Yadav and Dimple Yadav were visible only for short periods in limited areas while Jaya Bachchan stayed away.

For the Bahujan Samaj Party, Mayawati addressed a limited number of rallies (as compared to those by Congress and BJP) and she pressed her nephew Akash Anand into the campaign. However, his overzealous attack on the BJP made a nervous Mayawati hastily withdraw him from electioneering, further impacting the party's campaign.

While the BJP aims at a good performance in UP with 60-plus seats to help it in the national tally, the INDI-Alliance claims to have limited the BJP to below 50. While one has to wait for a few more days for the results, the entire campaign has thrown up some interesting trends as mentioned below:

·         Polarisation among the people along political lines has got deeper and more apparent. Political discussions right from drawing rooms to wayside shops to religious gatherings to academic deliberations inevitably ended in participants taking clear sides and without any consensus. Those with committed views have voted for their favoured party - not the candidate. This may ensure that there is no one-sided result.

·         Those who did not have such clear-cut opinions have voted along caste lines, especially in rural areas. This is unlike the scenario in 2014 and 2019. For this section of voters, if the party and person were not strong enough attractions this time, then they chose a candidate of their own creed regardless of party. This may mean a reduced victory margin in some seats.

·         There is no discernible anger against the present Modi government, but questions have indeed arisen over what the BJP government could do if it gets another term. Allegations by opposition parties that the next BJP government could tamper with the Constitution and the reservation matrix have found resonance with people.

·         Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister continues to enjoy the trust of the people, therefore he will be the main contributor to the BJP's tally at least in Uttar Pradesh. His utterances reflected his approach in dealing with organised crime gangs and the "bulldozer" tactics have earned him a huge fan following.

·         Akhilesh Yadav tried too hard and fervently to display a chemistry with Rahul Gandhi and the effort showed whenever the two shared the stage. However, Rahul overshadowed him throughout. This was not lost on SP supporters.

·         The Dalit community is by and large disappointed with Mayawati, but the sections loyal to her have nonetheless voted for the BSP candidates. The party has carefully chosen its candidates in several constituencies so as to damage the prospects of both the BJP and Samajwadi Party. This might impact the SP's chances in Amroha, Rampur, Sambhal, Moradabad, Pilibhit, Aonla, Saharanpur and Basti, and pose a challenge to BJP in Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Mathura, Aligarh and Ghaziabad.

·         Regardless of the urgency of issues like stray cattle menace, erratic delivery of government services and high-handedness of government functionaries at the district and village level, the farmers and rural workers did not show their anger, and the low turnout also suggests this.

·         Muslim voters may have overwhelmingly voted for the Samajwadi Party since this party positioned itself as the main rival to the BJP. In some places, including Lucknow and Varanasi, women of the community may have voted out of their own volition.

·         The Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is an accepted part of the country's cultural and religious space as much as any other place of pilgrimage; therefore, it is no longer an election issue. It was widely believed by BJP supporters and critics alike that had the election been announced immediately after the temple's consecration, the BJP would have received the benefit of the positive fallout from the issue.

·         The repeated mention of matters related to faith does not appear to have gone down well with the people.

Every election ends with a huge pile of socio-political learning for the people. Uttar Pradesh has been a laboratory of sorts for political experiments especially related to caste, community, faith and religion. This time too, regardless of results, a few takeaways will be remembered for a long time.

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