The lotus bloomed and bloomed big!!! , 15 years was a long wait and a wait worth it. The biggest state of the most vibrant democracy in the world had spoken and had spoken loudly
The Assembly elections 2017 saw aggressive campaigning from both the BJP and its opponents. Uttar Pradesh was always one of the most important states, being the most populous province with maximum number of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha seats. If we take out Uttar Pradesh from India then it would be the fifth largest country in the world in terms of population. It's the only state that has given most number of prime ministers to this country, eight out of fourteen, and gives 80 out of 543 Lok Sabha members. It's often said, how Uttar Pradesh votes today, India will vote tomorrow.
Uttar Pradesh is a diverse and a complicated state, where elections have rarely been fought on the plank of development and are more based on intricate combination of caste and religion.
This time around, the election results have broken all the arithmetic of caste and religion. Despite Akhilesh Yadav trying hard to put forth his development agenda, there was a very strong anti-incumbency against his government, given the poor law and order situation in the state.
The 2015 Panchayat elections were a perfect time for BJP to build its election machinery, which was eroded over years of ineptitude of the party organization. The current leadership took this opportunity to create a mean and lean election infrastructure by engaging and enrolling village youth. The result of winning just 12% seats out of the total fought, was deceptive politically, but was well worth it in terms of organization building for the grand push of 2017
This was followed up by a massive membership drive which brought more than a million active members, and most from semi-rural and rural Uttar Pradesh. From 2016, BJP organized numerous youth centric and women centric events along with various events focusing on Dalits and the trader communities as well. There were also various meetings arranged with grass root level workers and with state & regional leaders. This not just gave direction but also helped with feedback for further steps. More than 400 Parivartan Vans were deployed, covering almost every constituency. All of this along complimented with massive social media campaigning, on WhatsApp, Facebook and twitter helped the BJP. Even for selecting a candidate, a lot of thought went into the process with data collected through voter surveys and inputs from local workers.
PM Modi has been banking on his development agenda for a very long time now and even in UP, he stressed on development of the state, uplifting the poor, strengthening law and order and also rising above the caste politics. BJP did succeed in cracking the caste code of UP. The party, once known to be the party of upper caste, made in-roads within OBC and Dalit constituencies. While once the party had barely 10% membership from Dalits and OBC's, today that percentage has gone up to 45%. The Party's state president Keshav Prasad Maurya belongs to the Kushwaha caste. Samajwadi Party's alliance with congress also helped BJP in consolidating non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Dalits. SP and BSP have openly expressed their caste affiliations and in the entire campaigning all that they spoke of was caste and religion. UP surely had enough of this caste politics and wanted development this time. Akhilesh Yadav forgot that the state has 40% OBC of which Yadav's form only 9% of the population, BJP targeted that section of non-Yadav OBC's, fielding 130 non-Yadav OBC candidates.
BJP has always been accused of being communal and the fact that this time BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate, this added more fuel to the fire. Opponents used the "communal" card to consolidate Muslim votes, and in return ended up consolidating Hindu votes for BJP. Mayawati, Akhilesh, Rahul Gandhi, almost every opponent leader kept their focus on Muslim votes, thus eating onto each other's votes. Though they still believe that Muslims never voted for BJP, the fact remains that BJP won even in Muslim majority seats. Out of 82 such constituencies, BJP won 62, one being Deoband which has 71% Muslim population. Winning 300+ seats in a state where Muslims form 1/5th of the voters, isn't possible without any support from the community. The triple Talaq issue surely helped BJP as it was the only party talking about the rights of Muslim women.
While it might be difficult to precisely analyze the sociological factors that lead to the landslide , if we were to ignore the simplistic notions of polarization being only reason for the victory , one could conclude , that Verdict 2017 was a complex combination of the following broad reasons (not in the order of importance)
- Demonetization was a political success, the BJP reaped the political benefit of the move. One can safely say that the Lutyens media can hallucinate in their echo chambers at least for now
- The NaMo appeal remains strong , his brand as a decisive leader becomes stronger and stronger
- Development as a key narrative of the masses is gaining central currency in the political dialogues of the marginalized
And one must not forget the perception that NaMo is the beacon of New India, where he represents everybody from the urban elite to the marginalized sections of society
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