BJP terms UP win as 'even more significant' than 2014 sweep
The icing on the cake is Union leader Smriti Irani winning against Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi by a margin of 55,000 seats.
BJP leaders described this win as “even more significant” than the one in 2014 when its alliance had won 73 seats in Uttar Pradesh.
That’s because the party has secured nearly 50% of vote share, and the icing on the cake is Union leader Smriti Irani was leading Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Amethi as of press time Thursday.
Also, Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav’s wife Dimple and his cousin Dharmendra Yadav were trailing their BJP rivals in Kannauj and Badaun, respectively.
The opposition alliance has been virtually decimated, with SP likely to be reduced to just five seats, while Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party may win 10 seats and the Congress a single seat.
The alliance’s equation this time seemed exactly the opposite of its bypoll wins in Gorakhpur and Phulpur. Yadavs, who traditionally support SP, are believed to have voted for BSP candidates where the latter contested, but Dalits, the voter base of BSP, did not vote for SP but for BJP, political observers said. Also, Congress — which is winning only Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli seat in the state — may have costed the alliance wins in nearly half a dozen seats such as Barabanki, Badaun, Sant Kabir Nagar and Basti, observers said.
As per BJP strategists, the alliance simply did not click because the non-Yadav OBCs, Jats in west UP, upper castes and many Dalits stuck with BJP like in 2014 and the 2017 assembly elections due to the “Narendra Modi factor” and a plethora of development schemes that had reached them. Upper castes remained with the BJP after the 10% reservation move and did not move to Congress, they said.
“The alliance messaging was all wrong,” a senior BJP leader in UP told ET. “Mayawati and Akhilesh in their speeches at joint rallies attacked the PM and spoke of installing a new PM. They spoke less of caste or their candidate, which was their core strength, and more of the national aspirations. This way, they played directly into BJP’s hands. People simply did not believe that Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav had the capacity to replace Modi as the PM.”
Both Mayawati and Akhilesh also seemed to have taken their caste arithmetic for granted and adopted the bypoll wins of Gorakhpur and Phulpur as a template, as ET found during field trips during the campaign, and turned complacent, while BJP’s star candidate prime Minister Narendra Modi increased the tempo as the campaign entered in east Uttar Pradesh.
Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into the election also suited BJP more than the alliance as Muslims started seeing Congress as an option, BJP leaders told ET, claiming some Muslim votes were divided between the alliance and Congress. Mayawati’s appeal to Muslims in Deoband to vote for the alliance and not Congress showed this was a huge irritant for the alliance, BJP leaders said. With educated Dalits also rallying behind BJP as in earlier polls, BSP was unable to help SP win in even the latter’s Yadav bastions of Kannauj and Badaun.
Another major miscalculation of the alliance seemed that they thought chief minister Yogi Adityanath was unpopular and a liability for BJP compared to Modi, while the voters opinion on the ground was quite different, observers said. So, while Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav took digs at Adityanath over the stray cattle issue, the chief minister’s no-nonsense policy on law and order seemed to find good positive resonance on the ground as people could compare the earlier SP rule to the present. In the end, Adityanath redeemed himself by reclaiming the Gorakhpur seat for Ravi Kishan while the Narendra Modi factor subsumed any dissatisfaction people had with the UP government.