The Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) splendid win in Uttar Pradesh (UP) raised many questions and opposition was involved in arguments because of this. Most of the political pundits had projected 160-210 seats for BJP in the state, which sends 403 lawmakers to the Assembly. But the party, by winning 312 seats, surprised many, including some of the BJP leaders itself. On the other side, those who collectively stood against Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to face humiliating defeat in the assembly polls. Akhilesh Yadav advocated that the BJP had won by “misleading” the voters and supported BSP chief Mayawati who raised questions over EVMs.
The vital victory in UP and Uttarakhand(UK), reinforces Modi’s standing as country’s tallest leader. Having led the party back to office in UP, he could well claim the mantle of the “saffron helmsman”, the most popular leader from the Sangh corral since Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Some would argue that he has edged ahead of Vajpayee in popular reach, aided by technological advances like social media and the incessant TV coverage of his campaigns. Whatsoever, but Narendra Modi ensures his party’s near-domination of Indian politics.
Because of Modi, BJP now heads the government in states where more than half of Indians live, while the Congress party, which has ruled India for most of the 70 years since independence, leads in regions covering less than 8% of the population. At stake in these polls was the survival of the Congress and relevance for a clutch of regional parties, especially the Aam Aadmi Party which was seeking to expand its influence beyond the national capital where it came to power in 2015. Aam Aadmi Party lost due to its over confidence, and moreover Arvind Kejriwal is in a hurry to expand his party’s base before setting Delhi in order where he is the chief minister. After poor governance in Delhi, his insolence cost him in Punjab and Goa polls. Congress played it well by giving all the control to Capt Amarinder Singh’s hand and not pushing Rahul Gandhi in Punjab for political campaigning.
Modi’s campaign began with pro-development credentials but weeks before the close of the polls played Hindutva card that appeared to have helped BJP consolidate votes on religious lines. The entire UP election was polarized in two religions, and this time caste, community and creed remained way away. Modi’s stand on Triple Talaq fetched Muslim votes, this is first time a prime minister of the country who stood for the justice and rights of Muslim women, many Muslim votes (especially women) were pulled for BJP. Dalits too stood as Hindus in polarization, and Mayawati allotting many seats to Muslim candidates was not accepted or approved by her own voters. In a nutshell, this time Modi’s BJP was favoured by the people of Uttar Pradesh at large. In a state where people tend to vote along traditional caste and religious lines, and successive governments exploited communal divisions to fire up their base, Modi expanded his appeal among a cross section of castes and sub-castes that traditionally voted for the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.
To leverage Modi’s social status as a member of the Other Backward Classes (OBC), the BJP started a special unit in Uttar Pradesh to mobilise OBC support in 2015. Additionally, Shah’s decision to appoint Keshav Prasad Maurya as the party state president ensured a new social combination — consolidating roughly 40 per cent non-Yadav Other Backward Caste votes. This time, it was Prashant Kishor versus Amit Shah in strategy making. A seasoned politician versus a news declared election strategist who once assisted Amit Shah, and later on shown doors by Shah himself. Bihar was accidental win, but still Prashant Kishor took lots of credit, in Uttar Pradesh, his strategies failed and he got exposed by his failure. Though, the Congress admitted that the loss in Uttar Pradesh — its campaign was led by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi — was hurtful. Finally, the angry Mulayam Singh of Samajwadi Party confessed that they would have come to power if there was no alliance with Congress. No one likes Congress. He was the one who publicly opposed Congress, and Modi took good jibe at it. His party came to power in 2012 with full majority.
If we look at other states, Congress has performed better in Punjab, Goa and Manipur. In Manipur, BJP and Congress was neck-and-neck, Goa where smaller parties hold the balance of power. Riding on Modi’s charismatic campaign, the BJP registered the biggest-ever victory by any political party in Uttar Pradesh since Indira Gandhi led the Congress to 309 seats in 1980 before the state was divided. In doing so, the saffron outfit replicated its landslide victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The results routed the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance, as well as the Bahujan Samaj Party, once a dominant power in a state where the BJP last ruled in 2002.
The 2017 state assembly elections were very much interesting and it ended on very good note, there was no place for any regional party. The entire contest was between two national parties. And winners too are BJP and Congress. That concludes saying the fight would be always between Congress and BJP while the rest are irrelevant.
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