When the voters of Uttar Pradesh were asked to state what the single-most important voting issue had been for them while voting, close to two-fifths of the respondents said it was development (Table 1).
Data further indicates that for 12%, removing the present government was what determined their vote. Almost a similar proportion stated functioning of the government to be an important issue.
The BJP was banking on the beneficiaries of government schemes and the data too highlights that many households had benefited from these schemes but these schemes were not top priority for voters. The Ram Mandir issue, which was believed to set the poll narrative in the State, found no resonance, with a mere 2% stating this as a voting issue.
We must highlight here, barring development, other issues were important as well but did not find place when asked in an open-ended question as the single most important voting issue. However, when prompted with options many of these issues were stated as significant affecting the vote choice.
When offered specific options, from all the issue options that were read out to voters one by one, inflation and development (74% each) followed by unemployment (71%) emerged to be important issues (Table 2).
The issue of stray cattle, which became a key talking point during the campaign, was important for 60%.
The Ram temple construction in Ayodhya was reported as an important issue by four in 10 voters, when specifically read out.
Populist promises like free power to farmers, jobs, smart phones and laptops if voted to power found no attraction with half the voters considering these promises not at all significant in affecting their vote choice. The impact of the farmers’ movement, and the Lakhimpur Kheri incident were not stated to be important voting issues to the extent as one would have expected.
‘Development’ did make a huge difference: BJP secured 57% of votes of those for whom development was the single largest voting issue, SP+ was able to attract a quarter (26%) of such voters. Clearly, voters were hopeful that BJP was the party that could bring development to the State. BJP also secured seven in 10 votes of those for whom functioning of the government was an election issue.
The Opposition, which focused on specific issues such as unemployment failed to attract voters whereas the abstract promise of development won votes more handsomely for the BJP.
Vibha Attri is Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi & Sudhir Khare taught Political Science at D. A. V. College, Azamgarh, U.P.