The general election verdict from Uttar Pradesh is beyond stunning. Indeed, no superlative would seem to fit the performance of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party which, together with its ally, the Apna Dal, mopped up 73 out of the 80 seats on offer in the State. The Samajwadi Party took five of the remaining seven seats, leaving the Congress clutching at the VIP seats of Rae Bareli and Amethi. The Bahujan Samaj Party’s rout was as epic as the BJP’s victory; Mayawati’s party, which she built brick by brick, taking it to great heights over the past 25 years, scored a duck — the BSP’s worst showing since 1984 when the Congress’s sweep of the State, and the country, made short work of the Opposition. The BJP’s 2014 victory in U.P. is not the biggest in history but it would certainly qualify as the most note-worthy, for it reverses the vote fragmentation that coincided with the rise of the regional parties. There have been only a few occasions when any party has achieved success on such a magnificent scale. India’s first election, in 1952, saw the Congress under Jawaharlal Nehru win 81 of 86 seats from U.P. In 1971, the Indira Gandhi-led Congress stopped short of replicating the feat with 73 of 85 seats. The best performance ever in U.P. was by the Janata Party, which won all 85 seats during the 1977 anti-Congress wave. In 1984, U.P. delivered 83 of 85 seats to Rajiv Gandhi.
The BJP tasted its first real success in 1989 when it won eight seats as an ally of the V.P. Singh-led Janata Dal. Through the 1990s it held sway over the State, thanks to the religious polarisation it achieved through the Ram mandir movement. But the party’s biggest haul of 57 seats in 1998 must pale in comparison to the 2014 bounty. Two things stand out in the current election. The first is the huge swing in the BJP’s favour — from 10 seats and a vote share of 17.5 per cent to 71 seats and a vote share of 42.3 per cent. The swing helped take the BJP’s tally well past the half-way mark in the Lok Sabha. And the second is the sheer power of the BJP campaign and the momentum it gained after an early start. Mr. Modi left nothing to chance. He spoke with the young in an aspirational idiom; he took on an OBC-tea boy avatar to woo the backward castes; and he went full throttle on Hindutva to bring back the upper castes and consolidate the Hindu vote. The SP and the BSP were simply unable to match this all-in-one, war-like effort. Mr. Modi, and the presumed architect of his U.P. strategy, Amit Shah, will undoubtedly revel in their moment of glory. But any triumphalism can only further alienate one important population segment — Muslims, who will want to be reassured that they too will matter to the new regime at the Centre.