BJP Conquered UP, But SP Grew Substantially

The results of Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections have got the BJP leaders and cadre grooving and celebrating, not only in the Northern state but also across the country. In an unprecedented repeat of its 2017 victory, the BJP not only managed to break the age-old tradition of UP not giving two consecutive term to one party, but its CM face Yogi Adityanath also became the first UP Chief Minister to get a second consecutive term. 

The BJP’s victory in UP has been seen as the cow-belt state’s referendum on the performance of CM Yogi Adityanath and the BJP’s policies for the ultra-poor. Free ration and direct cash transfer schemes have had a big impact on the elections, leading to the BJP’s victory, many political pundits believe. 

Uttar Pradesh, being the most populous state in India, sends majority of MPs to Lok Sabha, compared to other states. That is why the general perception is that the road to power in Delhi goes from the state of UP. Even before the assembly elections began officially, there was much talk around how the results of UP assembly elections will portray in which direction the winds are blowing in lead up to the General Elections in 2024. 

It is only to reinstate the same belief among the masses that the 2024 elections will be a walkover for the saffron party after its victory in Uttar Pradesh, PM Modi yesterday said: “2022 has decided the results of 2024.” 

This, however, could be a misleading assumption. To understand whether the BJP’s victory in assembly elections in UP is an indication of its third consecutive victory on national level, or whether there is more to this story, let’s go through some poll data of the state from the last three major elections. 

BJP’s seats drop, SP sees uptick

According to the ECI’s data, the alliance led by Bharatiya Janata Party, out of 403 seats, has won 273 seats– 52 seats less than the last election’s tally of 325. The BJP, on its own, had managed to win 312 seats in 2017 assembly elections. This time around, the BJP’s tally has come down to 255, a significant drop of 57 seats. 

On the other hand, Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party had won only 47 seats in 2017 assembly elections. Its tally with its ally Congress stood at 54 seats. However, in this election, the SP managed to win 111 seats on its own, a whopping rise of 64 seats. Its alliance with other smaller parties together scored 126 seats, a significant uptick of 72 seats. 

Vote Share: Marginal improvement for BJP, Big gains for SP

Before the assembly elections began, there were speculations that the BJP would probably record a downslide in its voting percentage, considering the massive and hardly repeatable mandate it had won in 2017. However, the BJP not only retained the vote share it had managed to win in 2017, but also added a few more percent to its tally. 

In 2017 assembly election, the BJP+ had managed to garner 41.97% votes. In 2022 assembly elections, the BJP+ has won 44% vote share, a 2% rise in its vote share compared to 2017. 

The SP+, on the other hand, had won 28.07% votes in 2017 assembly elections. However, in 2022 polls, the vote share of SP+ has gone up to 36.5%, a jump of almost 9%. 

Caste Arithmetic: Who voted for whom? 

The wide social coalition that the BJP crafted and honed in U.P. during national and State elections over the last seven years remained intact this Assembly election. An analysis of the caste-wise vote preference data from the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey points to a story of continuity as far as the BJP’s base is concerned.

The Yadav and Muslim votes, as expected earlier, voted en masse for the SP-RLD alliance.

Though the SP also improved its performance among communities except the upper castes, but this was clearly not enough to defeat the BJP. Netting over four-fifths support from the Brahmins, Thakurs and Vaishyas, the BJP managed to not only consolidate its traditionally staunch upper caste base even further but also held on rather successfully to its relatively recently cultivated support base of non-Yadav Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Due to SP’s alliance with smaller caste-based parties such as the Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, Janwadi Socialist Party, Mahan Dal, and Apna Dal (Kamerawadi), it was expected that the non-Yadav OBC votes will steer away from the saffron party. Induction of OBC leaders like Swami Prasad Maury, DHaram Singh Saini etc. indiated that the OBC votes might move away from the BJP and support the SP. However, the post-poll data suggesst that the BJP actually ended up gaining more support from these constituencies. 

Another unexpected jolt to the SP was very significant gains made by the BJP among the Dalits: Jatavs and non-Jatavs. It won over two-fifths of the support of non-Jatav Dalits as opposed to one-thirds last time. It made some of its most impressive inroads among Jatav Dalits, the community that has stood by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) through thick and thin in the past, securing 21% or nearly a fifth of their votes, more than double of 2017. This is the reason why many political pundits have been blaming the BSP for cutting through Samajwadi Party’s votes and helping the BJP win. Among non-Jatavs, the BSP’s vote share reduced considerably too, and it was the SP that gained far more from this BSP decline among non-Jatav Dalits than the BJP. But it wasn’t sufficient.

Chance to capitalise on gains in 2024

Even though the SP could not defeat the BJP in assembly elections, it has two more years before 2024 general elections to capitalise on the gains it has made . With the SP+ gaining over 9% votes more than the last time, and improving seat count by some 80 seats, it is positioned to make gains in Lok Sabha polls if it continues the uptick trend in its performance and focuses on voters who it could not convince to vote against the BJP in assembly polls. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won 62 seats out of 80 in UP, whereas the SP won only 5. However, the SP’s performance increasing substantially, even if manages to dent 20 Lok Sabha seats held by the BJP, it will be a big boost for opposition efforts to unseat the BJP-led government at the centre. 

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