The results of the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are yet to sink in as nobody could've anticipated a landslide victory in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While the party and its supporters were busy celebrating a ‘kesariya Holi’, as promised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we delved into the bigger underlying themes in these elections.
While the results might show that Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has been routed, the numbers reveal that Akhilesh is the biggest loser in these elections:
Samajwadi Party+Congress alliance's combined vote share as well as seat tally declined compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections
In 2014, SP and Congress received a vote share of 30 percent, which reduced to 28 percent in the current state election. Had they contested together in the Lok Sabha election, they would have been leading in 84 Assembly segments.
In 2017, the alliance managed to win only 54 seats. SP recorded its worst performance since its inception in early 1990s. It bagged 47 seats, less than half of its previous worst of 97 in 2007, when it lost out to BSP.
BSP's vote share as well as seat tally improved vis-à-vis 2014 Lok Sabha elections
BSP received 20 percent vote share in 2014, which it increased to 22 percent in these elections. It doubled its tally to 19 from nine in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
SP, not BSP, was the front runner to defeat BJP. Hence, this is a bigger setback for Akhilesh
Since Q3 of 2016, SP had emerged as the principal opposition to BJP in the state. BSP was not even in contention. Some polls before voting commenced even predicted a SP win. Media had projected these elections as a direct fight between Akhilesh and Modi. CSDS had even suggested in a poll that Akhilesh enjoyed higher popularity than Modi in the state.
BSP received a vote share in line with opinion poll projections, while SP under-performed
The last three polls on average projected a 22 percent vote share for BSP. It managed to record that in the state elections. SP, on the other hand, was projected to receive 33 percent vote share and in the end received five percent lesser votes.
BSP on an average was projected to win 53 seats, it could win only 36 percent of the projected seats. Whereas SP+INC were projected to win 177 seats and could win only 31 percent of the projected seats.
BSP and BJP both made a dent into Akhilesh's Muslim vote-bank
BSP managed to receive 16 percent and BJP 10 percent of Muslim votes as per Today’s Chanakya. Since the agency was closest in predicting BJP's vote share, we can safely assume it to be true. Though it shows SP+INC alliance was able to consolidate minority votes, it doesn’t reflect the true picture.
BSP managed to garner strong support from Muslims in their heavy population seats, thus damaging SP and ensuring a BJP win. As per reports, out of 81 (>30 percent population Muslim seats), BJP won 64. Despite a clear lead, Akhilesh was not able to convert Muslim support into votes in key constituencies.
BJP also dented SP's Yadav support
As per Today’s Chanakya, BJP received 25 percent Yadav votes. If this is true, then essentially the tall claims made by Akhilesh's campaign managers, who projected him as a development youth icon, didn’t cut much ice with his own community.
BSP had higher support than SP from voters outside the core segment
As per our research, the BSP vote share is split equally between Dalits and other castes/communities (OBC, upper castes, Muslims, Jats, Yadavs). Three fourth of SP+INC's votes were received from anchor segments. This indicates much higher acceptance for Mayawati among different caste and class groups than Akhilesh.
Akhilesh's strike rate was poor
Akhilesh held 235 rallies across Uttar Pradesh to garner support for candidates. His wife Dimple and alliance partner Rahul Gandhi also held 50 rallies each, totalling 335. Mayawati, on the other hand, held only 58 rallies. This shows Akhilesh had a poor seat to rally conversion rate – of only 16 percent. Mayawati had a better strike rate of 33 percent.
Akhilesh lost despite his good leadership ratings... something that is rarely seen nowadays
Akhilesh was leading in popularity ratings for the most preferred CM candidate versus Mayawati and other BJP leaders. In recent history, a party whose candidate leads the charts ends up winning the elections – like Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, J Jayalalitha etc.
However, his popularity began to sag when BJP unleashed its all star campaigners across the state. The BJP star campaigners belonged to a rainbow of caste groups, with little negative image, and this helped them connect effectively with the voters.
The final nail in the coffin was the presence of Modi, who is now seen as a politician for the poor, due to his demonetisation and LPG schemes. The SP was unable to convince the voters about the effectiveness of its programs.
Knives are out, Akhilesh could lose control of the party
Akhilesh baiters in SP, especially the Shivpal gang, are baying for his blood. Even legislators who had supported Akhilesh earlier are out criticising his decision to give too many seats to unworthy Congress leaders . More than three-fourth of the ministers in Akhilesh's cabinet have lost. He is not an MLA himself, as he didn’t contest. Under these circumstances, Shivpal may throw his hat in the ring to become the leader of legislative party and the Opposition.
To sum up, the main reasons for Akhilesh’s failure include: Giving a free run in the first three years to a variety of 'characters', who severely damaged the image of his party; the inability to control the riots in Muzaffarnagar; the inability to support all caste groups equally while in power; the delays in launching the campaign (due to the Yadav family feud) and handing over too many seats to the Congress party as part of the alliance.
It’s a loss of face moment for Akhilesh. The way forward is the 2019 election, where a grand alliance with Mayawati seems to be the only option for both the parties. In the longer run, he will need to refashion SP to attract a much wider caste base, and compete aggressively with BJP.
The authors are independent political consultants, authors of ‘Battle of Bihar, Battle of Uttar Pradesh’ and can be reached at @politicalbaaba and @schandra_100
Updated Date: Mar 14, 2017 13:03 PM