The historic mandate in Uttar Pradesh is a watershed moment in India’s electoral history. The poisonous cocktail of caste and communal politics was swept away by the Modi tsunami, with the BJP’s landslide victory stunning political pundits and media commentators alike. Coming within months of the revolutionary decision to ban high-value currency notes, which many sceptics prophesied would lead to an electoral debacle for the BJP, the stupendous victory showed that the people are with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his war against black money and corruption. Demonetisation received a huge thumbs-up, even though it was disruptive in the sense that it caused some temporary inconvenience.
The verdict from Uttarakhand, and more particularly Uttar Pradesh, is a clear negation of the vote bank politics of the BJP’s opponents, and a complete endorsement of the development agenda of the NDA government. By shunting out non-performing governments, the voters sent out a clear message — perform or perish. The BJP’s performance is all the more remarkable in the backdrop of the pronounced caste-ridden politics in Uttar Pradesh, the state’s backwardness and in terms of the sheer number of its constituencies. Because of its geographical and demographic spread, the UP elections were a major test for demonetisation.
The verdict showed that the charisma of Modi, the meticulous political planning and social engineering by BJP president Amit Shah and the slew of pro-poor, pro-farmer and pro-women schemes like Jan Dhan Yojana and Ujjwala Yojana have endeared the BJP to the electorate. People want good governance and development and believe that Modi alone can deliver, especially in the wake of a scam-free, corruption-free administration since the NDA assumed office in 2014.
The mindless opposition to demonetisation by various political parties, the attempts to openly appease minorities by depicting the BJP as a bogeyman, the lack of development, rampant corruption, absence of law and order, discrimination against a section of the people by the administration, the sidelining of SP patriarch, Mulayam Singh, the distasteful personal attacks on the prime minister, the inexperience of leaders of the SP-Congress alliance in contrast to the credibility and experience of PM Modi, are among the major factors that contributed to the BJP’s landslide win in UP.
The attempts by the BJP’s political rivals to create social tensions on university campuses, provoke some groups to launch agitations for reservations or strike fear in the minds of traders in the wake of demonetisation have all boomeranged. This is borne out by the fact that the youth, Jats and the business community clearly voted for the BJP.
The election verdict was a severe indictment of the opportunistic alliance of the SP and Congress, and a total rejection of the unscrupulous tactics of the BSP. The SP was handed one of its worst humiliations and was reduced from 224 seats in 2012 to 44 seats this time. The BSP and Congress are on the verge of extinction with the former securing 19 seats and the latter not able to touch double digits with only seven seats.
After having castigated the SP’s misrule and announcing Sheila Dikshit as its chief ministerial candidate, the Congress party’s unprincipled embrace of the SP and the claim that “UP ko yeh saath pasand hai” (UP favours this alliance) to checkmate the BJP proved to be a disaster for both parties. People also sent out the message that they want governments that deliver, not governments that work for family dynasties. The opportunistic stand adopted by the Congress, SP and BSP on major issues like triple talaq, surgical strikes and the open support by some of these parties to separatists and ultra-left Maoists seeking the disintegration of India have also contributed to the BJP’s victory. The perception that the SP was indulging in obstructionist politics by not fully cooperating with the NDA government at the Centre was also a factor that led people to support the BJP.
With the negative tactics adopted by the Congress, SP and BSP in blocking progressive legislation, like the GST Bill in Parliament, also not going down well with the people, the verdict will now pave the way for ensuring a smooth passage of PM Modi’s development agenda in the Rajya Sabha in the future. The BJP’s political rivals, rather than gracefully accepting the historic verdict, are stooping to a new low by making baseless allegations that the EVMs were tampered with. The Election Commission, of course, has rebutted these charges. The defeat of the SAD-BJP in Punjab due to anti-incumbency showed how meritless the charge is.
Another remarkable achievement of the BJP in this round of elections was the expansion of its footprint in the Northeast. After making huge inroads in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, the vote share of the BJP has increased from 2.12 per cent to 36 per cent in Manipur. In Goa, though the BJP secured less seats than the Congress, the party secured 31.6 per cent votes as against 26 per cent for the Congress. It should be noted that the BJP’s former partner, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, polled 11.6 per cent votes. The vote share went up from 15 per cent to 39.7 per cent in UP and from 33 per cent to 46.5 per cent in Uttarakhand. In all, the BJP secured a higher percentage of votes than its opponents in four states, while the vote share was reduced in Punjab due to anti-incumbency.
The results of these “semi-final” polls show that people want to go with Modi for faster development and corruption-free governance. It is evident that there is a new hunger among the people for development. The BJP has emerged as a common man’s pan-India party, with a nationalist outlook. My final conclusions are that development has emerged as the new religion and real social identity of the people. With this new religion, Prime Minister Modi has unified the country. Dynasty-based politics will soon become passé. The reforms process will receive a huge fillip and the obstructionist tactics of our opponents in the Rajya Sabha will lose steam. The NDA will definitely have a smoother process for the presidential elections. The ultimate message here is that people clearly want Modi for one more term.