The BJP has won the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections getting 253 seats in a deeply bipolar contest though with a reduced tally from their 2017 score of 312 seats. The Samajwadi Party a distant runner-up with 113 seats, lost the fight even though it registered an improved vote share of nearly ten percentage points and an increase in its tally by 66 seats.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who is the first Chief Minister to return to power in the State, called it a defeat for the politics of jaatiwaad (casteist) and paarivaad (nepotism). The BJP’s victory, he claimed was because of his government's emphasis on security, development and good administration.
Neither SP President Akhilesh Yadav nor his key ally RLD leader Jayant Chaudhary commented on the results. Till late in the evening, Mr. Yadav was closeted with his advisors in Lucknow.
There was a litany of complaints against the Yogi government including the high rate of unemployment, mishandling of the COVID pandemic, and disregard for the farmers with the Centre’s three infamous farm laws. Mr. Yadav’s election rallies were well attended and his slogan “Baees Main Bicycle” (Bicycle SP’s election symbol in 2022 elections) resonated with the voters. But all his efforts fell short as the BJP bulldozed over on the plank of maintaining law and order and banking on the extensive number of “labharthis” (beneficiaries) of various welfare schemes under his government. It was the silent voter, majority of them women, who helped the BJP secure the victory.
There are three main strands that emerge from these results:
The 2022 election upended the electoral equations in the State. Unlike the three-cornered contests in the past, this time, it was a direct battle between BSP and SP relegating other parties to the margins. The BSP which is said to have a 20% captive vote bank of Dalits especially the Jatavs got only a single seat — a huge fall from its 2017 tally of 19. Its vote share also fell from 22.23% to a little over 12%. The Congress which had got 6.25% votes in 2017 is down to 2.4%. It managed to win only two seats, five short of its 2017 tally.
Electoral arithmetic is never simple or straight. One cannot simply deduce that the votes dropped by BSP and Congress are equal to SP’s gain. If at all one has to analyse with the evidence on hand it is the BJP that has gained from the BSP’s fall. For example, in Agra district, a stronghold of the BSP, the BJP won four of the five Assembly seats.
The BJP’s victory is uniform across all regions of Uttar Pradesh. In Lakhimpur Kheri, where eight persons were mowed down allegedly by Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son during a protest march by the farmers, the party swept all the eight seats. The saffron party won even in areas considered to SP strongholds like the Mainpuri and Etawah assembly segments and all three seats in Kannauj also considered an SP bastion.
Allies fail SP
Ahead of the elections, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav made an attempt at social engineering tying up with Jayant Chaudhary’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, OP Rajbhar’s Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP), and Apna Dal (K). The RLD fought 33 seats of Western U.P. but could manage to win only eight of them. SBSP which fought on 19 seats had a better strike rate, winning six of these. The Samajwadi Party hit a high note when three ministers from the Yogi government — Swami Prasad Maurya, Dharam Singh Saini, and Dara Singh Chauhan — switches sides. Mr. Maurya’s switch to the SP especially gave the party a huge boost painting BJP as an anti-OBC party. However, the BJP avenged itself with Mr. Maurya’s ignominious defeat from the Fazil Nagar assembly constituency by a margin of nearly 40,000 votes. Out of the three only Dara Singh Chauhan managed to retain his seat.