The BJP is storming back to power in the bellwether state of Uttar Pradesh, early trends indicated on Thursday, as the ruling party appeared to have beat back a strong challenge from the Samajwadi Party in the country’s most populous state.
Holding onto Uttar Pradesh would give a huge boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hopes of winning a third straight term office in the 2024 general election and bolster his image as the most popular politician in the country in decades.
The much-talked-about revival of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also appeared to have fizzled out as the party led by former chief minister Mayawati trailed in most of the seats it had contested.
The Congress’ free-fall continued and its much-hyped strategy of fielding women candidates in a majority of seats seems of have backfired.
For the BJP, the trends are a vindication of its governance and poll strategy which ensured that a large chunk of non-Yadav OBC votes reposed its faith in the leadership of chief minister Yogi Adityanath.
There were predictions of a realignment of caste groups with the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP running a spirited campaign based on social engineering centred around the Mandal vs Kamandal narrative.
Still, it is expected to fare much better than its 2017 tally of 49. By noon, the SP was leading in over a 100 seats.
The trends indicated that the 2017 shift of non-Yadav OBC voters and non-Jatav voters, earlier aligned to the BSP, towards the BJP is intact, to an extent. The erosion of BSP votes has benefitted the BJP, as non-Jatav Dalit votes seemed to be shifted to the saffron party.
All issues that were claimed to be working against BJP—from farmers protest to unemployment crisis seemingly remained non-issues. Though there was anti-incumbency on ground, it appears to have little effect on the results.
Another factor that could have helped was the fragmented opposition. It seems that it largely favoured BJP–the invisibility of a credible opposition whom people could trust was absent.