There has been a lot of discussion on Uttar Pradesh elections due next year lately in the media.
The loss of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the panchayat elections and the alleged mishandling of the pandemic has given rise to the speculation that the BJP is on a tricky wicket in the state.
The rumours around change of leadership, meetings between national leaders and local cadre, dissatisfaction among ministers and MLAs, meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath all added fuel to the fire.
All these murmurs have been put to rest as it has been officially declared that the state elections will be contested under the leadership of Yogi.
As of today, the BJP is well poised to retain power in the state on account of the following five reasons:
1. Split of Opposition votes
Both Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati have announced that their parties will go it alone in the polls.
Then there is also the Priayanka Gandhi-led Congress party which is eager to make a mark this time.
Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen has also announced that it will contest about 100-odd seats in the 403-seat-strong UP Assembly. AIMIM’s entry could split the Muslim vote.
This low index of Opposition unity is likely to help the BJP as the votes will get split. This factor had also favoured the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in Bihar, Mamata’s Trinamool Congress in Bengal and the Left Democratic Front in Kerala.
2. BJP has carved out the largest social coalition
It’s a lot about caste in Uttar Pradesh elections. The SP’s influence is limited to Muslim-Yadav vote bank (31% of population) and the BSP’s is limited to Dalits (21% of popultion) and that too increasingly Jatavs, (only 12% of population).
On the other hand, the BJP has crafted a large support base of upper caste, non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits (58% of population). Even a 60% support from these communities would translate into 35% vote share which is enough to win a three-cornered fight.
3. Popularity of the chief minister
Yogi Adityanath enjoyed a popularity rating of 46% as per in May 2021. This is down 7% from April due to the grim COVID situation. However, this is still higher than the popularity ratings of either Akhilesh or Mayawati. The control of the pandemic in the state and high rate of vaccination are likely to result in better ratings next month for Yogi.
4. Development work done
Yogi Adityanath has worked hard to improve his image from a Hindutva to a development icon. Also, UP has emerged as the second state in ‘ease of doing business’ rankings after Andhra Pradesh.
Despite the pandemic, UP has emerged as the 2nd largest state in terms of GDP for FY 2020-21, ahead of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. During Yogi’s tenure as the chief minister, UP’s per capita income has more than doubled. He has also pushed for infrastructural development in the state.
International airports at Ayodhya and Jewar, the Ganga expressway, the RRTS between Delhi and Meerut, metros, flyovers, etc are also in the works. UP was the first state to announce a slew of labour reforms in the era of the pandemic. It has also led the way in wooing companies who wish to shift production out of China to boost employment.
5. Mayawati and Akhilesh absent during COVID
While the SP and the BSP have heavily criticised Yogi Adityanath for ‘mishandling’ the corona crisis, they themselves as well as their cadre have been absent from the scene. This in a way negates their attack on the state government. They have not been visible at all during the second wave.
Many people also see the devastation as an ‘act of God’ and may not blame Yogi or the BJP government for the death of their loved ones. Bread and butter issues rather than COVID could dominate the agenda of next year's elections as vaccination picks up.
6. Core Hindutva vote base happy
The Ram Mandir judgement by the Supreme Court has pacified the party's ideological voters. The construction of the grand Ram temple is underway and is likely to reap benefits for the party in the polls. The committed vote base of the party of around 25% is intact.
Despite the noise, the BJP is comfortably placed in Uttar Pradesh. However, 7-8 months is a long time in politics and we need to watch the developments closely.