UTTAR PRADESH: 403 seats, BJP majority
The BJP’s social inclusiveness project has worked. It appointed Keshav Maurya, a leader of the Other Backward Classes, as state president and gave 135 tickets to OBCs, including 15 to Jat candidates. The strategy has given even better dividends than it did in 1991, when it was tried under Kalyan Singh’s leadership, and delivered 221 out of 425 seats to the BJP. Several castes who have been traditionally poorly represented in the political system have voted for the BJP wholeheartedly this time — it has clearly broken out of its Brahmin-Bania- and urban-centric party image.
Two, Muslim votes have stayed with the Samajwadi Party-Congress — 17 of the SP’s 47 winners, and 2 of the Congress’s 7, are Muslim. Five of the BSP’s 19 MLAs are Muslim; however, Mayawati had fielded as many as 105 Muslim candidates.
Three, on the evidence of this verdict, it can be said that caste arithmetic and social engineering work better than development. Going against the wishes of local and RSS leaders, BJP president Amit Shah fielded more than 160 candidates who had switched from other parties over the years. If he wagered that these candidates’ caste votes would add to the BJP’s core votes, he has been proven right.
Four, the results hold a message for the BJP’s ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The distribution of tickets annoyed several senior leaders of the Sangh in UP, and leaders like Krishna Gopal, Dattatreya Hosabale and Ramlal faced resistance from RSS cadres, which manifested in a lack of enthusiasm in the campaign at several places. The results have shown that Amit Shah probably understands winnability better than the Sangh and state BJP old guard.
Five, the results show that even in UP, Assembly elections can be won without a local face in front. The BJP had failed to get a majority under Kalyan Singh, Rajnath Singh and Kalraj Mishra — in 2017, a “faceless” BJP has got one of the most emphatic mandates in Indian electoral history.
The big loser
BSP: It is clear that the BSP has been reduced again to being only a Dalit party. The BSP has got 22.2% votes, against a Dalit population of around 21% in the state. Despite all Mayawati’s efforts, Muslims do not appear to have voted for it. The party’s 19 wins include only 2 SC seats. The Dalit movement started by the late Kanshi Ram seems to be at a crossroads in UP.
SP-Congress: While SP’s 46 wins and one lead include 12 Yadavs, the party has lost in several Yadav strongholds, showing that very few communities other than Yadavs and Muslims voted for it. At a majority of seats that the Congress contested, the Yadav vote was not transferred to it. That would seem logical — Yadavs (and Jats) have traditionally been anti-Congress, first under the leadership of Chaudhary Charan Singh and then under Mulayam Singh Yadav. The BJP seems to have got Yadav support in many districts — clearly, the association with the Congress has cost the SP heavily. Over the last two years, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was trying to project himself as a leader with an appeal beyond just Yadavs; it would appear from these results that he ended up losing even his own constituency that his father had built up. Akhilesh has clearly missed the opportunity to take his party to several OBCs whose conditions are sometimes worse than that of even Dalits.
The SP and BSP being largely confined to the state, the biggest message from the election in the national context is for the Congress. Facing one defeat after another since 1989, it is now almost irrelevant in UP. It has no workers, no leaders. All its leaders from the state who were in the central government during the 10 years of the UPA government — Salman Khurshid, Sriprakash Jaiswal, RPN Singh, Rajiv Shukla — have neither credibility nor impact left. For UP as well as the Centre, the Congress’s old-style politics under Rahul Gandhi has virtually no hope against the relentless political machine of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s BJP. It must find credible leaders and a credible agenda before it can hope for any kind of revival — for Lok Sabha 2019 or later.