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CSDS-Lokniti post-poll survey: Why the BJP underperformed in U.P.

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Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at an election rally on the outskirts of Varanasi .

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at an election rally on the outskirts of Varanasi .
| Photo Credit: AFP

The INDIA coalition’s performance in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections has surprised everyone. The alliance has made deep inroads among all the major social groups except upper castes. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could win only 33 of the 75 seats it contested, and its allies won only one. On the other hand, the INDIA coalition won 43 seats.

The Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey data show that the general/upper caste Brahmin, Rajput, and Vaishya voters largely favoured the BJP, while the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Muslim voters preferred the INDIA coalition. Close to nine of every 10 (89%) Rajput voters favoured the BJP. Yadav and Muslim voters consolidated in favour of the INDIA coalition along with a sizeable share of non-Jatav Dalit voters (Table 1).

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) lost support among all the social denominations including Jatavs, its main support category. The BSP’s loss was a gain for the INDIA coalition as the former’s vote shifted heavily towards the latter.

Wins and losses

The Congress bagged six seats out of the 17 it contested. The better coordination between Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi got transferred to their cadres at the ground level and this was reflected in the seat share.

There were several factors which were responsible for the poor performance of the BJP and the spectacular performance of the Samajwadi Party (SP). First, the BJP, known for its social engineering, was overpowered by Mr. Yadav’s alternative social engineering formula of ‘PDA’ under which he distributed tickets mostly to Pichhadas (backward communities) and Dalits and a few to Yadavs and Muslims in order to counter the allegation of being a Muslim-Yadav party. The SP gave tickets to 32 OBCs, 16 Dalits, 10 upper caste candidates, and four Muslims.

Second, several State BJP leaders acknowledged that many sitting MPs of the party had not kept in touch with the electorate in their respective constituencies. Yet, the party re-nominated them. Consequently, as many as 26 sitting MPs lost the elections. Third, OBCs and Dalits feared that the BJP would change the Constitution after some leaders made statements to this effect. Their apprehension was further compounded by the BJP announcing its target of winning more than 400 seats (Ab Ki Baar, 400 Paar). The party could not counter the Opposition’s narrative that it wanted to change the Constitution and do away with reservation for OBCs and SC/STs.

Fourth, the BJP tried unsuccessfully to deflect the attention of voters from this issue by polarising the electorate. This did not cut much ice with the voters.

The BJP leadership was expecting its welfare schemes to elicit a favourable response from voters. However, these schemes did not seem to have much traction. Unemployment was a major concern for the electorate. Moreover, frequent leaks of examination papers for government jobs further eroded public trust and led to frustration among the youth and their families.

The Modi magic

The most important factor was that the “Modi magic” appeared to have waned significantly. In the survey, when respondents were asked who they want as the Prime Minister after this Lok Sabha election, 36% said they wanted Rahul Gandhi and only 32% said that they would prefer Narendra Modi.

Mirza Asmer Beg teaches at Aligarh Muslim University, Shashi Kant Pandey teaches at BBA University, Lucknow and Akhilesh Pal teaches at Allahabad University



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