The BJP’s four-fifths majority in both the Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Uttarakhand assembly elections brings to mind the similar landslide which the Telugu Desam Party, then led by the late NT Rama Rao, had won in 1994 in the then united Andhra Pradesh.
As counting wound to a close late on 11 March, the BJP seemed set to win 322 seats in the 403 seat UP assembly, and 56 seats in the 70-member Uttarakhand assembly. Both figures are exactly four-fifths of the total.
The Andhra Assembly election of 1994 was perhaps even more remarkable, for they marked the defeat of the party that then ruled at the Centre, led by a prime minister from the state (PV Narasimha Rao).
The key to that success was the TDP’s promise of rice at Rs two per kilo by the government and the distribution of various freebies. In UP too, the distribution of 80 lakh of gas cylinders before the elections may be viewed in the same light. However, the pull of Narendra Modi has obviously been an even more important factor. Even though these were state assembly elections, the BJP had not projected any candidate as prospective chief minister — which the SP, Congress and BSP did. The party’s chief pull was the prime minister.
Given the fact that no issue at the national level — demonetisation, foreign policy or Kashmir, for instance — was expected to play a positive role, the 46 percent vote for the BJP is remarkable. No observer expected this. Indeed, most had predicted a hung assembly.
A minute level of social engineering appears to have been at play to achieve this success. The party’s high-tech teams and its politically savvy president, Amit Shah, did a great deal of mirco-planning for various seats and different castes and communities in each part of the sprawling state.
There were major doubts about whether it would win the Jat belt in the very first phase of polling in February. However, the results indicate that the party succeeded handsomely in that west UP area.
The prime minister’s hectic campaigning in the eastern UP area around his own Lok Sabha seat, Varanasi, indicated that he was putting his best foot forward. It has allowed him to claim a personal victory.
The official party line and statements from a host of its senior leaders all attributed the victory to him and his personal popularity. There seems little scope now for any challenge to his authority in his party.
Indeed, after these elections, he has come to dominate national politics with even more strength than he hitherto had. For, he can claim to have won the largest and most complex state in the country, and thus had his national mandate confirmed, more than halfway through his term as prime minister.
This also puts him on course to install a president of his choice in July, to work towards more support from the Rajya Sabha (where the ruling party has had a very tough time over the past almost three years), and pursue his agenda without a serious challenge.
Updated Date: Mar 12, 2017 09:56 AM