The year-long farmers’ protest against the three farm laws was expected to play a decisive role in a State like Uttar Pradesh where farmers make up an important voting bloc, given that over two-thirds households are engaged in farming activities.
However, in what appears to be a repeat of 2019 where despite strong discontent the BJP managed to win over farmers, the party again seems to have successfully neutralised the anti-government sentiment among them.
The evidence from the post-poll survey conducted by Lokniti-CSDS indicates the BJP-led alliance enjoying a comfortable lead over the alliance led by the Samajwadi Party (SP) among the farmer voters and the voters of farming households. The SP’s improved performance seems largely due to the support of non-farming households.
As Table 1 highlights, the BJP-led alliance secures a 13 percentage points lead over the SP among the voters belonging to farming households, while among the voters of non-farming households, the two parties stand shoulder-to-shoulder.
When we segregate the voters of farming households on the basis of their stand with regard to the farmers’ protests, the BJP is found to be ahead of the SP by 10 percentage points even among the sympathisers.
Among nearly half the farming households that either oppose the protests or are non-committal about it, the BJP enjoys leads of four and 23 percentage points respectively.
So what explains this overwhelming support of farming households to the BJP despite registering their dissatisfaction?
Apart from the withdrawal of the controversial farm laws, the survey suggests the direct cash transfer through the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi might have helped the BJP assuage the angry farmers.
As Table 2 indicates, almost three-fifths of the farming households claim to have benefited from the scheme. Among them, the BJP enjoys a massive lead of about 20 percentage points over the SP. Among the non-beneficiaries, the SP is just two points behind.
What’s more, before the start of the elections, the issue of stray cattle looked like a standout issue potentially damaging the BJP’s chances. Three-fifths of voters from the farming households identify it to be a very important issue, but even among such voters, the BJP is found to be marginally ahead.
Perhaps, the benefit under PM Kisan softened their anger here — the BJP’s lead widens up to seven points among the beneficiaries, while the SP is six points ahead among the non-beneficiaries.
The other three issues concerning farmers — the issue of crop payment, the farmers’ movement and the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, however, appear to have significantly benefited the SP-led alliance.
For the voters belonging to farming households considering these issues to be very important while voting, the SP enjoys a comfortable lead of six, 11 and 16 percentage points respectively.
Manjesh Rana is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS. Akhilesh Pal is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Allahabad, Prayagraj