UP Poll Outcome

What does it mean for larger political equations?

The UP poll outcome threw up a much bigger surprise than even the most optimistic estimates. The trend shift towards the BJP was quite evident in the exit polls, but the actual result, with the BJP cornering over 80% of the seats came as a real surprise. It was not just about seats. Even the vote share of the BJP at 41% was at an all-time high and almost at par with the vote share cornered by the BJP in the central elections in 2014. Here are 3 learnings.

Demonetization did not matter…

For all the skeptics who predicted that the demonetization would work against the BJP, it was a great wake up call. The UP public at large seems to have reconciled to the fact that the exercise was a necessary effort towards flushing out black money. Ironically, it was the very demonetization effort of the central government that really worked in favor of the BJP in the UP elections. In a way, the BJP under the leadership of Mr. Modi has managed to successfully change the narrative in UP. Firstly, it has successively positioned the entire demonetization exercise as a small price to pay for a larger good. That has surely worked with the public at large. Secondly, the BJP has managed to ensure that economic growth and development takes precedence over traditional caste equations in UP. These two points worked substantially in favor of BJP. For the die-hard opponents of “Notebandi”, that is a wake-up call!

Opposition errs on arithmetic…

State elections are as much about arithmetic and astute calculations as it is about popularity and performance. That is exactly where the opposition got the arithmetic entirely wrong. The SP-Congress combine was betting on the Muslim votes gravitating towards them and the Dalit votes towards the BSP. On the contrary, these votes got split between the SP and the BSP. In the state of UP they could not manage a grand alliance on the same scale as in Bihar. The split in crucial votes and the personal popularity of Mr. Modi finally proved to be the difference between victory and defeat.

 Equations could change now…

More importantly, the shape of UP politics could change drastically. The caste-based parties may have to do a re-think of their strategy going ahead. The caste card has played out successfully in UP in the last 25 years but its utility seems to be gradually diminishing. Within the SP, the battle lines between the old and the new guard could only get sharper and more vociferous. As for the Congress, it was a marginal player in the larger scheme of things to begin with. They will have to seriously reconsider their road ahead. With the win in UP and Uttarakhand, BJP now literally dominates a large part of the Hindi belt. Probably, a harbinger of the changing order in UP politics! ©

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