By: Srujan Reddy Chada
In all fairness UP elections was a fierce battle. In the beginning it was very difficult to understand the BJP’s landslide victory especially when looked in conjunction with recent heavy defeat in panchayat polls and demonetisation. I rubbished exit polls and BJP leader’s prediction’s on BJP win and I have confidently predicted BJP’s defeat. Well the question is not BJP won or lost, but how did they manage that 325/403 when majority of the senior BJP leaders predicted between 220 and 250? For a young politician and Analyst like me UP election’s was a perfect case study to dwell into especially on BJP’s election strategy. I thank Honourable Nizambad MP Smt. Kalvakuntla Kavitha garu and her team Sri Sujoy garu and Sri Avinash garu for encouraging me in this study.
BJP exercised its decade’s old strategy of Reverse Polarisation which was originally played by its first UP Chief Minister Sri Kalyan Singh in 1991, strategy then was to unite forward caste against Muslim, Yadav and Jat’s. Simillar exercise was played again in 2014 general elections and then it was about uniting OBC which indeed paid off with 71/80. This time it was about uniting all the Hindus. As per 2011 census Hindu population accumulates to a total of 60 % (OBC 44% Brahmin’s 14% Other’s– 2%) So to start with this 60% were the BJP’s targeted voters out of which Yadav’s count to 9% who are believed to be traditional vote bank of SP hence BJP is left precisely with 51% of the vote bank to target. Strategically BJP started with – 49% and any votes from Dalit’s, Muslims are treated as Bonus. As it wasn’t targeting any Muslim votes they haven’t given any ticket’s to Muslim community but I also see this as a strategy rather than approach because it sent silent a message to SP and BSP saying 20% of Muslim votes are for grabs. SP, Congress and BSP quickly responded and did everything to please the minority vote in the name of secularism, in effect his made them leave a huge 80% of vote bank to BJP which indeed they tapped with Hindutva and development strategy. In effect post-election analysis on vote sharing in Muslim dominated areas clearly proves that minority vote has split between BSP and SP alliance.
Probably this may be the first election ever where the Honourable Prime Minister has campaigned so excessively, aggressively for a state election but this can also be because of the heavy defeat in recent panchayat elections including Modi’s own adopted village. No doubt these elections were fought on Modi’s face value and development but I will give most of the credit to Amith shah as he was playing risky, bold strategies, Whatsapp group campaigns, Social media campaigns addressing ticket distributions, accommodating new entrants and playing down rebel’s anger and he even used Modi’s signature word “Mitron …” many times more than honourable PM. However, BJP was in slight advantage from the day 1 of the elections due to it’s huge number of MP’s in the state, Akhilesh government’s Anti-Incumbency and Mulayam’s family feud. But to remember BJP also started with 49% vote share and some rebellion damage due to distribution of tickets such as Sitting MLA, Shyam Dev Rai Chaudhary was replaced with a younger local Brahman face. There was anger, but they took the risk and planned with meticulous care. Many people including me thought that Demonetisation will kill BJP but that was not the case as an illusion is created among the poor that eventually money from rich will be transferred to poor. Modis statement’s like “Diwali and Ramzan, kabristan and shamshanghat” was a clear social re-engineering. Pro Tripple talaq ban, assuring Ram mandir reconstruction on court ruling are big hit’s in social re-engineering campaign. At the same time strong Hindutva agenda was put forward by Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath. Sakshi Maharaj’s statement “Muslim’s should consider cremation as there is no burial ground left in UP” was seen as setting up pro Hindu environment. Strong Manifesto with clear benefits to all sections of people against SP’s blurred and weak manifesto and BSP having no MP’s and no manifesto also favoured BJP.
As you know elections are not won just on your strength but opposition weakness, mistakes are counted as well. There was lot happening in UP before elections and BJP was swift in analysing the situation in effect it was quick in hitting the ground, while other parties and media were opted to wait and watch, many people including me thought SP family fight was a staged strategy to distract other parties but it became clear once Mulayam backed off from election campaign. Mulayam backing-off resulting in SP loosing 6/10 Assembly seats in Mulayam Singh’s Azamgarh constituency tells severity of the damage. BJP acted quite swiftly in attracting the 9% vote share of Yadav’s by pleasing the SP rebels. Congress did not manage to win more than 46 seats since 1991 and Akhilesh tying up with congress is a showcase of his in-experience in election strategy. Congress did not have anything to contribute or to lose here but SP voter got unhappy with Akhilesh Yadav for allying with the Congress and for also betraying the party patriarch.
In summary if there was no SP Feud, BSP had manifesto – BJP would not have scored those numbers.