The stunning second term win for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh under Yogi Adityanath has its reasons. They are very precise, methodical and politically calculated reasons. They give an interesting insight on how the BJP election machinery operates, strategises and reaches the rural belt with maximum emphasis on face to face connect.
Yogi Adityanath, in his celebratory speech in Lucknow, gave maximum emphasis to better law and order, beneficial schemes for the poor, housing facilities and congratulated the voters for rejecting dynastic politics. He repeatedly invoked schemes for the poor, free ration, and better security for women.
Yogi’s speech summed up the win on the back of law and order, growth, development and uplift of the poor. He highlighted the need for balance between Josh and Hosh (Fervour and Calm).
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP — often described as the party of Brahmins and Banias — worked assiduously to create a wider social base. It garnered the vote of non-Yadav backwards and non-Jatav Dalits.
Women voters comprised an important segment. They voted freely and independently, shattering the myth of patriarchal control. Yogi thanked them in his speech, saying women turned out in large numbers to vote for the BJP. Women benefited a lot from schemes like Ayushman Bharat, free ration, Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana, toilets, housing, and Ujjwala.
The real trench warfare was between the Samajwadi Party and the BJP. Priyanka Gandhi did try to revive the Congress with the slogan of “I am a girl, can fight”, but its virtual absence at the grassroots was a major setback. Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party was absent for most of the time. There were poll predictions that she might land anything between 14 and 20 seats, but now she is looking at a single seat signifying absolute decimation.
The law and order situation has often been talked about in Lucknow. The general view was that under BJP the security situation has improved remarkably. And that is exactly where the Samajwadi Party, despite making significant gains, failed to win the battle. Their previous stigma of “goonda raj” would take more time to erase.
Broadly speaking, there are seven reasons why BJP won in Uttar Pradesh:
1. While Narendra Modi has been associated with the RSS, Yogi was attached to his own group, Hindu Yuva Vahini, in Gorakhpur. The duo, despite their perceived differences, came together before a crucial election to signify unity and continuity.
2. BJP not only kept the Brahmin and core BJP vote intact, but pulled in the Yadav votes from the OBC, and the Jatavs and non-Jatav votes from BSP too.
3. The UP government distributed free foodgrains to around 15 crore people in the state during the second pandemic wave. Yogi brought back the scheme in December 2021, where people would receive 10 kg of free foodgrains and oil under two separate schemes until Holi 2022.
4. Labharthi is the section of people who got monetary benefits from the Centre. UP tops the list, where farmers, women, and people from marginalised sections of the society got assistance from the government. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana gave monetary assistance to around 10 lakh people in UP. In rural pockets, Rs 1.2 lakh was given for the construction of homes; while in urban pockets, Rs 2.5 lakh was distributed.
5. Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, money was transferred to construct toilets. Under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, 1.3 crore people were insured for their medical needs.
6. In 2022, UP registered the maximum number of encounters, with 117 in the last five years. A crackdown happened on several gangster-turned-politicians like Mukhtar Ansari and Atiq Ahmed.
7. The Hindutva flag kept waving merrily. Though the Ram Mandir rarely emerged in the narrative of the 2022 UP elections, it has been saved as a big-ticket item for the 2024 elections. The temple is slated to be completed by 2023, ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
The main challenger, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, played a good hand, yet it was not enough. If he persists in erasing some inherent deficiencies within his party, then his time would come.
Akhilesh Yadav and his alliance partner, Jayant Chaudhary of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), projected themselves as young leaders. Amit Shah tried his best to wean away Jayant. But when he failed, the BJP weaned away large parts of the Jat belt and unemployed youth with the promise of a better life.
Then the BJP managed to increase its vote share to over 42 per cent from 2017’s 39 per cent. Poll estimates say the state is roughly made up of 25-27 per cent general castes, while around 40 per cent population in UP belong to the OBC category, 20 per cent to SC/ST and the remaining 15 per cent to Muslims. The vote percentage indicates a large number of votes from general, OBCs and SC/ST categories.
Akhilesh did his best to increase the heat on Yogi. But he failed to project his way forward route map. The issues of farmers’ protest, fuel prices, unemployment, inflation, et al were real; even then the main rival failed to breach the BJP wall.
Elections are not won purely on individual charisma. It needs a strong organisation to power away.
The author is CEO of nnis. Views expressed are personal.