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The Hindu-CSDS-Lokniti post-poll survey 2022: Welfare, regional factors provided ballast to BJP in Uttar Pradesh

Fighting the anti-incumbency sentiment
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Though voters were disillusioned, the divided opposition space helped the BJP win

March 12, 2022 12:15 am | Updated 12:32 am IST

BJP candidate Shrikant Sharma at the Bankey Bihari Temple in Vrindavan after his victory in the U.P. Assembly elections, in Mathura.

BJP candidate Shrikant Sharma at the Bankey Bihari Temple in Vrindavan after his victory in the U.P. Assembly elections, in Mathura. | Photo Credit: PTI

It is after over three decades that a party has been returned to power in U.P. Before the elections, there were ample signs of a fair amount of disillusionment with the BJP government on matters such as the farmers’ agitation, unemployment, inflation, the stray cattle problem, and the handling of COVID-19. Yet the BJP did not end up losing power. One reason for this appears to be the SP’s inability to consolidate the anti-incumbency sentiment in the same measure as the BJP consolidated the pro-incumbency sentiment. This happened due to the divided opposition space.

The post-poll survey found that the desire for changing the State government was quite high. It was only five points lower than the desire to see the government return. However only two-thirds of these change-seekers voted for the SP alliance. The rest voted for opposition parties outside the SP alliance. While two-thirds is undoubtedly a high figure, it wasn’t enough in this context.

The SP could not sufficiently convince many fence-sitters either. A sizeable chunk (17%) was unsure or silent on whether the government should return. Only two-fifths of them voted for the SP alliance whereas around a quarter voted for the BJP. The rest voted for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and other parties. Over half of these fence-sitters were dissatisfied with the Chief Minister, the Prime Minister, or both. The SP secured only half of their support.

Before the elections, there was discussion about some dissatisfied upper caste voters thinking about migrating to the Congress. But our survey found that this did not happen. Merely 1% of previous BJP voters shifted to the Congress (Table 2). On the contrary, the Congress lost one-fifths of its old supporters to the BJP and nearly one-thirds to the SP.

Moreover, BSP chief Mayawati was not very assertive in her campaigning all through, and maintained a low profile. Dalit voters, who shifted from the BSP to the BJP in 2017, again voted for the BJP in large numbers. Many of them could have gone to the BSP if they had found the party to be a strong contender for power. Even the Jatavs, who are core voters of the BSP, shifted significantly to the BJP in large numbers.

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