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UP Polls 2022- Results have sent tremors among naysayers

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Yes, you have read the article’s ‘title’ right. At the end of a gruelling campaign by the naysayers prophesying about an imminent anti-Yogi verdict, the results of Uttar Pradesh elections were out on 10th March. They are visibly shocked and common men are celebrating!

Who are these ‘naysayers’? They constitute a strange spectrum starting from opposition parties, to media and sadly some forces within BJP who wanted the party to return but not Yogi to head the government.

Why tremors? Because the poll results present existential challenge to them – their interests, ideologies, and narratives. Out of the three mentioned above, the opposition parties are benumbed by the shock. It will take some time for them to regroup and respond. The others are in distress too.   

Now, to understand why the poll verdict should be sending tremors, it is necessary to comprehend its implications in depth. Briefly speaking, the return of Yogi [2.0] indicates the herald of a ‘new India’ that militates against their world view. As for the media, it is facing a serious loss of credibility after having stuck its neck out in support of Akhilesh and his party with great conviction and punditry. Post result it is desperately trying to salvage its image by misinterpreting the import of the verdict. What are their explanation and how do these differ from the reality? Let us examine.

The success of Mod-Yogi led BJP’s performance is being downplayed on three grounds: first, the number of seats of the BJP &NDA  came down from 312 (NDA 325) in 2017 to 255 (NDA 273) in 2022; second, in several seats BJP managed to scrape through with a very narrow margin and the result could go either way (read, therefore the credit for these seats should not go to the party); third, the BJP won many seats due to the AIMIM factor, as Asaduddin’s party had divided Muslim votes at the cost of Samajwadi Party.

What is the truth?

BJP won a total of 7 seats (Baravat, Bilaspur, Dhampur, Kursi, Moradabad Nagar, Nakur and Nentaur) with a margin of less than 1000 votes, which included 3 seats where AIMIM made a difference by dividing Muslim votes. Besides, AIMIM [also] made some difference in only two more constituencies viz., Bijnor and Sultanpur, where its [BJP’s] victory margins were 2290 and 5251 respectively.  On the other hand, BJP lost 5 seats ( Chandpur, Dibiyapur, Domriyaganj, Isauli and Jasrana) with a margin of less than 1000 votes, which could as well be its, had there been a small swing in its favour. Thus these marginal seats, whether for or against BJP, are insignificant when the contest is for as big a number of 403.

On the other hand, the media is tight lipped about a much more important factor. BJP’s seat tally could have been at par with 2017 or even more if only it did not commit a blunder in candidate selection. If numerous media, particularly social media, reports are indications, the central leadership of the party erred in this matter in three big ways: (a) they overrode Yogi Adityanath’s views on the matter in several cases; (b) they repeated tickets to many candidates who were not acceptable to voters in their constituencies; and (c) they took into the party fold several defectors from other parties which antagonised the voters.

As regards mistakes in ‘candidate selection’ a quick glance into the ECI website shows that at least 42 of the candidates who won in 2017 (sitting MLAs) and were given tickets in this election too, lost the poll. Another 4 candidates who joined BJP on poll eve from BSP, RLD & SP)) and were given tickets also lost. The impact was most telling in Purvanchal area (Phase 5,6,7 elections) of the province. Considering the fact that these candidates lost when the whole state under Yogi government was achieving unprecedented heights in terms of development, law and order and welfare schemes suggest their individual inadequacies as well as voters’ lack of confidence in them.

It is very significant to mention that notwithstanding the reduction in the seat tally the party’s vote percentage went up from 39.67% in 2017 to 41.29 % in 2022. Such an increase of nearly 2%  signals rising support for it cutting across social divides. This in turn implies  in turn the emergence of a new aspirational India that wants to jettison the chain of caste factors from the election calculus and move ahead.  This following data gives insight.

BJP’s incremental gain coming in the backdrop of reduction in the vote share of BSP from 22.23 % in 2017 to 12.88% in 2022 suggests that the weaker sections of the society who were BSP’s traditional voters trusted BJP and voted in a caste-neutral way. Similarly, drastic reduction in Congress vote share (from 6.25% in 2017 to 2.33% in 2022) suggest shift in other social groups too in its favour. On the whole various media reports indicate votes for BJP have risen across caste divides in this election.

It is a matter of interest to examine how even theYadav (the mainstay of Samajwadi Party) as a community voted. Consider this. BJP won 18 of the 29 seats in the Yadav dominated 8 districts of Etah, Mainpuri, Etwah, Kasganj, Firozabad, Auriya, Kannauj, and Farrukhabad. Hindustan Times quoted a veteran journalist Subhas Tripathi saying that vote percentage in the state and the region (Yadav land) indicated that barring Muslims no caste or community group voted for the SP en bloc.

What about Muslim voters? From media reports there are reasons to believe that the community (accounting for nearly 20% of the electorate) turned up in large numbers to vote and most of them voted in favour of SP. The rise in SP’s vote share from  21.82 % in 2017 to  32.08 % in 2022 can probably be attributed to Muslim votes than Yadav votes per se. The community seemed to vote tactically in favour of one single party whom they considered as prime challenger to BJP. The unprecedented Muslim mobilisation in favour of SP can be comprehended by the fact that even a communally driven party like AIMIM managed to secure only  0.49 % votes in the entire state.

According to a CSDS-Lokniti survey, a very small section of Muslim voters voted for BJP. Considering the large quantum of benefits that reached poor Muslim voters under Yogi government, this probably was disappointing. However, as said already, on the positive side there were evidences of the influence of ‘caste’ consideration reducing amongst Hindu population in their voting behaviour. Yogi model has demonstrated its determination to work for the people of the state cutting across caste and religion. To be able to retain power and continue to lead the state on its high growth trajectory, the party need to work harder to lift voters’ consciousness from ‘caste’ to ‘development’, while it can hope to garner more votes from Muslim voters going forward. Such optimism is premised on the strength of the Yogi model of governance. What differentiates it from other state governments?  

It is marked by a policy of zero tolerance for corruption and inefficiency, strict enforcement of law and order, commitment to poor and downtrodden, energetic and unbiased implementation of public welfare schemes, hard work, honesty, relentless development of the state, and all of them with no quarter being given to ‘appeasement’ of any community or group. If the poll results are any indicator, this model, by whatever name called, seems to be appealing to voters in general and helping them to transcend the caste stereotypes. It is precisely this positive transition that is causing great disquiet and angst across the ‘spectrum’ referred to in the introduction of this article.

Incidentally, a brief mention of the impact of the poll verdict on media and BJP is necessary. Barring a small section the media has been after Yogi Adityanath like a bull compulsively chasing the piece of red cloth. They never liked him-starting from his dress to his style of governance. They seemed to had been the main Yogi-adversary more than the opposition party over last five years. They repeatedly hyped events, built up false narratives, egged on opposition parties, created large scale unrest and blacked out the prompt actions taken by the government in every case.  These included cases like  Hathras (caste violence), Lakhimpur Kheri (farmers agitation), Covid-19 deaths, to name a few.

This poll has completely exposed the media. BJP secured impressive poll victory in Hathras, Lakhimpur Kheri and all across the state on the issue of Covid-19. As polls came near, the media had gone all out to wake  up the opposition from hibernation and tried to convert a situation of ‘no contest’ to one of ‘fierce contest’ between BJP & SP in public perception. As part of this endeavour the media propagated dubious opinion surveys and tried its utmost, often in very ugly way, to incite caste feelings in voters during the entire course of poll coverage. Narratives like  ‘Yogi is a Thakur’, ‘Brahmins are angry with Yogi’, ‘OBCs are deprived’, “Dalits are unhappy’ were dished out to the public at regular intervals. The poll results have made them stumble on their face and left them with much lesser credibility than they had before.

Finally, the poll results must serve as lesson for BJP. The central leadership of the party need to learn to draw the fine lines of distinctions between ‘central control’ and ‘delegation to state leadership’ with regards to various organisational and governance matters. Uttar Pradesh has been the ultimate testimony of the success of Modi’s vast range of welfare schemes and development programmes. It needed a Yogi model of governance to make that happen. Uttar Pradesh daring and dream journey into the centre stage of national life must not be impeded by any interference, whether organisationally or administratively. The steady rise of the province is the best guarantor of Modi’s return in 2024.

Meanwhile, UP poll results are also useful guide for strategy making in states due to face elections before the finale in 2024. For example, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh polls are due in Dec 2022, MP in January 2023, Tripura in March 2023 Karnataka in May 2023,

Too much of central intervention and the ‘suspect’ policy of taking defectors from other parties and errors in candidates selection were made in Bengal and repeated in UP. These have clearly worked counter to the party’s interest and reduced the number of seats in both the states.

It will make lot of sense not only not repeat mistakes done in Uttar Pradesh but encourage these states to replicate the Yogi model of governance without any further delay. That is the surest prescription for electoral success in them  and of course in the Lok Sabha election coming up in 2024.

Left to itself, UP poll verdicts must surely be viewed as an important milestone for both BJP and the country.

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