In the hill-State of Uttarakhand, Thakurs, along with Brahmins, constitute at least half of the electorate, often dominating the political discourse. Looking at the extent to which the two communities influenced this election, the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey in the State shows them consolidating even more strongly for the BJP this time around, as compared with 2017.
The BJP has significantly improved on the seven percentage points lead gained by it among Thakurs in 2017, adding another seven points this time around. Considering the fact that more than one-third of the State population is Thakur, this seems to have played a crucial role in securing an unprecedented second term for the BJP.
Among Brahmins too, the party made crucial gains. It improved its lead over the Congress by 11 percentage points as compared with 2017.
Overall, two-fifths of upper caste Hindus in the State backed the BJP, while only a quarter went with the Congress, decisively impacting the outcome.
The Congress, however, managed to consolidate Dalit voters to a large extent, but fell short of what it had achieved in 2012, when over half of Dalits backed the party.
Nevertheless, from trailing the BJP by 14 percentage points among Dalit voters in 2017, the party outdid the BJP among Dalits this time around. In fact, the Congress vote share among Dalits doubled from last time’s. It is also worth mentioning that the BJP which is making strong gains among Dalits in some other parts of the country was unable to do so in Uttarakhand, where Dalits constitute about a fifth of the State’s population. In fact, had the BJP not improved upon its base among upper castes, the contest in Uttarakhand might have been less one-sided.
As for the BSP, the decline in its Dalit base in Uttarakhand has been more rapid than in Uttar Pradesh. The party has shrunk from a 39% vote share among Dalits in 2012 to 16% now.
The caste division in Uttarakhand can be understood better along with Kumaoni-Garhwali-Maidani contestations. Though the support for the BJP among the two upper castes cuts across all three regions, the party performed far better among them in the Garhwal hills than in the other regions.
While in the Kumaon hills, more than half of both Brahmins and Thakurs voted for the BJP, in the Garhwal hills, where the party has traditionally performed better, the party enjoyed the support of more than three-fourths of Brahmins and two-thirds of Thakurs. The Congress performed relatively better among the Brahmins in Kumaon; in Garhwal, it enjoyed better support among Thakurs than Brahmins.
What’s more, Dalit vote was not as consistent with respect to the Congress State-wide. While the Congress was way ahead of the BJP among Dalits of Kumaon — by 42 percentage points — its advantage shrunk to 11 points among them in Garhwal. In Maidan, close to two-fifths of Dalit votes went to the BSP, further reducing the lead of the Congress over the BJP to just seven points.
Other than Dalits, religious minorities in the State, which are mostly in the plains, have strongly backed the Congress.
Among Muslims, who constitute about 14% of the electorate, more than three-fourths voted for the Congress.
The farmers’ movement and the Lakhimpur incident (which is physically close to the Uttarakhand plains) do seem to have had a serious impact on the Sikh community in Maidan, with the Congress winning over three-fifths of Sikh votes (61%). Notably, a significant proportion of Sikh votes (14%) also went to the AAP, which otherwise did not gain much among other communities.
(Manjesh Rana is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS. Bharti Sharma is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Graphic Era (Deemed to be University), Dehradun).