Mar 12: The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) registered a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand, capturing significant space in Manipur where it had no presence while Goa remains close. But, as expected, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance lost Punjab where it had already served two terms and faced anti-incumbency owing to drug menace, arms traffic and arbitrary police and general administration.
In UP, the BJP’s resounding win of 325 seats with 41% votes with allies, Apna Dal (AD) and Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), came as a surprise to all. It far surpassed the party’s Mission-265 target and was really Herculean as compared to 2012 Assembly polls when it secured 47 seats and 15% votes. Thus, it won 278 more seats and 26% more votes as compared to 2012. How could the BJP do this?
Constituency transformation: The BJP fundamentally transformed its constituency. The party had been touted as upper caste-urban-middle class-traders party, a constituency that comprises of just 19-20% of electorate. It tried to go for ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas,’ a catchphrase for inclusive politics. The party included more backward, most backward and Ati-Dalit sections hitherto excluded from party constituency.
According to the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) data, a massive 32% more backwards, 37% most-backwards and 21% Ati-Dalits have shifted to the BJP since 2012. There appeared to be a democratic upsurge in UP that gave a massive win to the BJP.
Rural connect: Prime Minister Narendra Modi established a rapport with the rural people. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi used to mock him as heading a ‘suit-boot ki sarkaar’ and playing to the rich. But Modi bounced back with a massive rural push as he went for neem-coating of urea making it unfit for industrial use, introduced soil health card, provided farmers security by implementing the Fasal Bima Yojna (crop insurance), launched village toilets scheme and provided free LPG to village women under the Ujjwala scheme.
Further, during campaign speeches, he assured villagers that he would personally guarantee that the new BJP government in UP waived agricultural loans of small and marginal farmers in its first meeting and purchase their agricultural produce at minimum support price. What else could the farmers desire? That is the reason why 32% rural people voted BJP as against 14% in 2012.
Robust social engineering: To capture the largest social segment in UP — the OBCs — the BJP roped them into the leadership structure and offered them a large number of tickets in this Assembly polls. The non-Yadav OBCs in UP, called more-backwards and most-backwards, were not aligned to any particular party.
The BJP appointed Keshav Prasad Maurya from the most-backward as its state president and Anupriya Patel of Apna Dal, representing more-backwards, in the Modi cabinet. It also gave them 50% share in party tickets. This marginalised community was excited at getting a political space greater than their share in population. That positively impacted the BJP’s victory in all constituencies.
Many failed to pay attention to the two marginal parties with which the BJP had alliance in UP – AD and SBSP — and calculate their electoral impact. Because of AD alliance, more-backwards, especially the Kurmis, massively shifted to the BJP. The SBSP is a party of Rajbhars, the people of tribal origin and wrongly placed in the most-backward category. They had polled five lakh votes in the contested constituencies in 2012 Assembly polls and their average comes to about 9,000 votes per contested constituency. That also made substantial difference to the BJP as add-on votes.
Policy initiatives: The BJP has also taken several policy initiatives in the domain of social security, economy and foreign policy. Modi’s growing international stature, tough and fearless stand against Pakistan, and several bilateral and multilateral international collaborations beneficial for the country have not gone unnoticed by the people. His several schemes like Atal Pension Yojna, Jan Dhan Yojna, direct transfer of subsidy to the bank accounts of poor, Pradhaan Mantri Grameen Awas Yojna etc have greatly excited the people.
He also initiated schemes to tackle unemployment among youth through youth entrepreneurship in the form of Make in India, startup schemes, skill development etc. The youth of UP was unhappy because of the casteism in appointments and greatly expected the BJP government to undo that aberration.
Mayawati’s Muslim outreach: There was much hype about BSP supremo Mayawati’s Dalit-Muslim social engineering replacing her earlier Dalit-Brahmin social engineering of the 2007 fame. But, the BSP’s poor performance demonstrates its complete failure. Mayawati did not understand that such social coalitions are not mechanical processes that you terminate at will and go for another. These experiments take time and should be not only a matter of political convenience but must also reflect in the coming together of the two communities at grassroots.
Secondly, Maya¬wati lost her upper caste votes after the infamous Dayashankar Singh (BJP) episode (he called Mayawati a prostitute), following which Naseemuddin (BSP) made vulgar remarks about the wife and daughter of Dayashankar. It not only pushed Thakurs but the entire upper caste, including Brahmins, away from Mayawati and that is clearly reflected in the CSDS data. Thirdly, Maya¬wati also lost Dalit votes, especially non-Jatavs Pasi, Valmiki, Kori, Khatik etc as she had been unfair to them.
SP-Cong alliance: The SP-Congress alliance was a disaster for both parties. It was formed on the premise of transferability of votes to each other on the Bihar model but did not materialise on ground. It may have been just a political experiment for a Congress revival as the party had no stakes in UP. For Akhilesh, however, it turned out to be a very unwise decision because he might have managed near majority on his own owing to his clean and development-centric image.
The alliance was suicidal for the Congress because it took a big risk not worthy of a national party. One, by ceding 298 seats to the SP, it literally offered its Muslim vote share on a platter in those constituencies, a mistake the party committed in 1996 when it went for an alliance with the BSP and offered its Dalit votes to the party. Secondly, the Congress did not think big for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This Assembly poll was a chance to galvanise its party apparatus and cadre for the coming LS poll. By not contesting in 298 constituencies, the Congress’ organisational apparatus might disintegrate beyond repair.