With 80 seats out of the 543 in Lok Sabha, 403 in the Assembly, and 31 of the 245 in Rajya Sabha, besides a 100-member Legislative Council, Uttar Pradesh with its over 15 crore voters carries more weight than any other state in the country’s politics. Yogi Adityanath, who took oath as Chief Minister on March 19, 2017, will be the third (after Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati) to complete their five-year tenure.
Of the 403 Assembly seats, 9 are currently vacant; out of the effective membership of 394, the BJP has 303, the SP 49, the BSP 15 and the Congress 7. As UP heads for elections across seven phases between February 10 and March 7, a look at its political history.
The 2017 elections marked the return of the BJP — which swept the state with 312 seats, not counting its allies’ tallies — and the emergence of Yogi Adityanath. The head of Goraksh Peeth in Gorakhpur, Adityanath was a Lok Sabha MP when the BJP decided to install him as Chief Minister. The BJP had fought the election without projecting a CM candidate. Then MP Keshav Prasad Maurya, who had come to BJP from Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), was the state party president. Adityanath’s nomination surprised many in the party.
While the RSS and state BJP general secretary (organisation) Sunil Bansal are known to have influenced his government’s decisions, Adityanath has managed to create a perception that his potential challengers within the party in UP are now on the back foot. Today, his supporters see a bigger role for him at the Centre in coming years.
Under Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party (SP) had earned the reputation of being a party of musclemen. Akhilesh, his engineer son, prevented the entry of some criminals in the SP. That, and his promises of free laptops and dole for unemployed youth, worked in his favour. In an election in which the BJP brought Uma Bharti to contest the Charkhari seat, word emerged that Mulayam would make his son the CM. The SP won 224 seats, and Akhilesh was sworn in as the youngest CM of the state at age 38.
Akhilesh’s regime was marked by internal problems. Akhilesh was also seen as reducing himself to a leader of Yadavs, and a large section of Muslims. He hesitated to speak on reservation and other issues that are key to his party’s support base, and the BJP spread the message that a number of candidates of only his caste were being selected through the state Public Service Commission. He seized leadership of his party, sidelining his uncles, but lost the 2017 elections he once thought would be a cakewalk.
Mayawati’s fourth stint as Chief Minister was historic because she won the first single-party majority since 1991. Her social engineering included Brahmins, whom her mentor Kanshi Ram had opposed, and the Dalit-Brahmin combination brought her 206 seats. Mayawati became the first CM of UP to complete a full five-year tenure (2007-12). She and her aide Satish Mishra are trying the same caste-based formula in 2022.
Following a spell of President’s Rule from March to May 2002, Mayawati became Chief Minister for the third time after the BJP extended support to the BSP. But some BJP leaders started campaigning against the alliance, and Mayawati resigned in August 2003. Mulayam was sworn in with the support of BSP dissidents, and ran the government until 2007. While the NDA lost power in 2004 at the Centre, the SP got 39 Lok Sabha seats. Mulayam was known to be under constant pressure from successive governments at the Centre on account of a CBI preliminary enquiry on a complaint against his family.
Under CM Kalyan Singh’s watch, the BJP in 1998 won 58 out of UP’s then 85 Lok Sabha seats. But in 1999, the tally fell to 29. Amid lobbying against him, Kalyan Singh refused to resign to make way for Rajnath Singh. The BJP elevated octogenarian Ram Prakash Gupta to the CM’s chair; his government granted OBC status to Jats in UP. As the Kalyan Singh-Kalraj Mishra leadership lost its hold, Kalyan left the BJP, while Gupta too fell out of favour. Rajnath became CM in October 2000. In his 18 months as CM, he appointed the Samajik Nyay Samiti, headed by the late Hukum Singh, which held that Jats were more backward than Yadavs in the state. Those efforts were quashed by the Supreme Court. In 2002, the BJP finished in third place with just 88 seats, and Rajnath Singh returned to Delhi.
In the 1996 elections, the BJP won 174 seats, short of a majority, and President’s Rule was imposed. In April 1997, the BJP and the BSP (67 MLAs) agreed to rotate CMs every six months. Mayawati had the first six months, and made way for Kalyan Singh, but soon withdrew support. The BJP responded by breaking the BSP and the Congress. New groups called Janatantrik BSP (headed by Chaudhary Narendra Singh) and Loktantrik Congress (led by Naresh Agrawal) lent support to the BJP and joined the government. On February 21, 1998, Governor Romesh Bhandari dismissed the government, and swore in Jagdambika Pal of the Congress. Kalyan Singh challenged it in Allahabad High Court, on whose directions he was sworn in as CM on February 23.
Mulayam, who had formed his earlier government (1989-91) with the help of BJP and then taken Congress’s support when the BJP had withdrawn support, entered into a partnership with the BSP in 1993. The SP and BSP won 109 and 67 seats respectively. But the BSP walked out of the government in May 1995, reducing it to a minority. That resulted in the so-called “guesthouse incident”, in which several BSP legislators including Mayawati were reportedly assaulted by SP musclemen. The BJP pledged to support BSP if Mayawati staked claim, and she took oath as UP’s first Dalit CM.
To counter ‘Mandal’ forces, the BJP in 1991 projected Kalyan Singh, an OBC Lodh, as its CM face. The party won 221 seats in the 425-member house. But his government was sacked along with three other BJP governments after the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. Kalyan became CM again in 1997, but had to resign due to differences with then PM A B Vajpayee.
The 1989 polls established Mulayam as a strong leader, with the Janata Dal choosing him as CM over Ajit Singh. He formed his government with outside support from BJP, which withdrew support to both the V P Singh-led central government and Mulayam’s UP government after Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav stopped L K Advani’s Ram Rath Yatra in October 1990 and arrested him. Mulayam saved his government with the help of the Congress. His government, along with that of PM Chandra Shekhar at the Centre, fell after the Congress withdrew support, but Mulayam has since emerged the UP’s most dominant non-Congress, non-BJP leader.
The Congress came to power in 1980, and V P Singh became CM. His regime was marked by allegations of fake police encounters and major law and order incidents, including the Behmai massacre of 1981. After dacoits in 1982 killed his brother, Justice Chandrashekhar Pratap Singh of Allahabad High Court, Singh resigned, and was replaced with Shripati Mishra, who was replaced with N D Tiwari in August 1984. Tiwari led the Congress to victory in the next elections, but Rajiv Gandhi replaced him with Vir Bahadur Singh in 1985, only to replace him with Tiwari again in 1988.
The Janata Party, formed with the merger of several parties to fight the Congress, won the 1977 Lok Sabha elections. PM Morarji Desai’s government sacked Congress state governments, including N D Tiwari’s in UP. In June 1977, Janata Party won 352 of the 425 seats, but a fight for the chief ministership broke out. In the absence of a consensus, the MLAs voted for Ram Naresh Yadav, who became CM.
On February 15, 1979 Ram Naresh Yadav resigned (even though he continued as interim Chief Minister until his successor took oath on February 28, 1979). He had to quit after Janata Party members who were with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the BJP’s predecessor) before the formation of the Janata Party, left his cabinet on February 11, 1979 following the controversy over “dual-membership” (their association with the RSS).
On February 14, 1979, Yadav’s government ordered that RSS shakhas should not be held at public places without permission. The following day, at a meeting of the Janata Legislature party, Yadav failed to obtain the backing of the majority of MLAs, and was forced to stand down.
In the 1967 elections, the Congress won 199 seats, short of a majority, while the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) won 98. Jat leader Chaudhary Charan Singh broke with the Congress to form the Bhartiya Kranti Dal (BKD). With the help of socialist leaders Ram Manohar Lohia and Raj Narain, and BJS’s Nanaji Deshmukh, Charan Singh in April 1967 was sworn in as CM as the head of the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal (SVD), a coalition of different parties ranging from CPI(M) on the left to BJS on the right. He faced many problems. as some parties withdrew from the coalition. In February 1968, he had to resign. After a year of President’s Rule, the Congress returned to power in 1969, and Chandra Bhanu Gupta was back as as CM. Within a year, the Congress split, and Gupta had to resign. Charan Singh returned in February 1970 as CM, this time with the help of Indira Gandhi’s Congress (R).
Within months, the CM faced problems. Charan Singh asked for the resignation of 14 ministers of the Congress (R) who, led by Kamlapati Tripathi, refused. When Charan Singh recommended their dismissal, Governor B Gopala Reddy instead asked him to resign. After President’s Rule, elections were held, and Tribhuvan Narain Singh was sworn in at the head of a SVD government put together by Congress (O) leaders. But months later, he lost his Assembly by-election and had to resign. Kamlapati Tripathi took over and remained CM until June 1973, when a revolt by the Provincial Armed Constabulary forced him out.
After a brief phase of President’s Rule, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna became CM in November 1973. He resigned in November 1975 following differences with Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency, and was replaced with N D Tiwari.
In the first Assembly elections in 1951, there were 346 seats, including 83 double-member seats. The Congress won 388, and Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, already serving as Chief Minister, continued. In December 1954, he was succeeded by Varanasi-based Sanskrit scholar Doctor Sampurnanand, who remained CM after the Congress won again in 1957. In 1960, following issues with Kamalapati Tripathi, Sampurnanand had to make way for Chandra Bhanu Gupta. Sucheta Kripalani replaced Gupta in 1963, becoming UP’s first woman CM.
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