#Elections2019: Uttar Pradesh, A cakewalk for none


Mayawati and Akhilesh have sealed the deal for the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) which sends the highest number of Members to Parliament. BJP swept the state in 2014 riding on Modi wave and its development agenda trumping caste politics. Opinion polls predict heavy losses for BJP in the state. In this article, we look at eleven key factors which will determine the results of UP in 2019.

Transfer of votes without leakages: The success of any alliance depends upon the ability of partners to transfer their votes to each other with limited leakages. While in Bihar in 2015, a similar Mahagathbandhan (MGB) of Lalu, Nitish and Congress succeeded in doing so, in UP, alliance of SP-Congress failed to shift votes to each other in 2017. An informal alliance of SP and BSP for three bypolls succeeded vote transfer in bypolls last year.

Management of rebels: SP and BSP contested separately in 2014 and on an aggregate fielded 158 candidates. Almost half of these candidates (82 out of 158) will be denied tickets this time due to an alliance. Both parties will have to put in a lot of efforts to quell rebellion and reduce the impact to minimum levels. Uncle Shivpal’s party and even Congress could accommodate such rebels.

Ram Mandir & reverse polarisation: The Mandir issue is hot currently with RSS and other Hindu organisations. UP CM Yogi Adityanath has many times reiterated that bhavya Ram mandir will be built in Ayodhya. In such an environment, any attempts to consolidate the minority vote by MGB in their favour could be counter-productive and unify the Hindu votes towards BJP.

Voting preference of non-Jatavs: The prime reason for decline in BSP’s influence in UP has been that it is losing support of its core vote bank of Dalits. They account for 21 per cent of the population; Jatavs (Mayawati’s caste is 12-14 per cent) and non-Jatavs (7-9 per cent). The support of non-Jatavs which was 64 per cent for party in 2009 declined to 30 per cent in 2014. BJP emerged as the choice for 45 per cent of non-Jatavs in 2014 as they were unhappy with Jatavisation/ Brahmanisation of BSP.

Voting preference of non-Yadav OBCs: OBCs account for 40 per cent of the state’s population. Yadavs (10 per cent) have been backing the SP while non-Yadavs (29 per cent), including Kurmis, Lodhis, Patels mostly supported the BJP till the time Kalyan Singh was there in the party. After his exit in 1999, the party lost the NYOBC votes to SP-BSP. From 43 per cent in 2002, support of Kurmis/ Koeris for BJP declined to 20 per cent in 2009. The fact that Modi belongs to the OBC community, strategic alliance entered with Apna Dal and disenchantment of non-Yadavs with SP due to their neglect led to massive consolidation in favour of BJP (60 per cent) in 2014.

How many sitting MPs are denied tickets? Modi and Shah follow a unique model to curb anti-incumbency. Today there is BJP government at the Centre, in the state and in many local bodies. So, the party has to face what I call triple anti-incumbency. To negate the impact of this, the party usually denies tickets to 30-40 per cent of its existing MPs/ MLAs. In the three state elections held recently, the number was between 25-30 per cent. In MCD elections, all corporators of BJP were denied tickets.

How seriously Congress fights in UP & Priyanka factor: After being snubbed, the Congress has declared it will contest all 80 seats and has made Priyanka in-charge of East UP. She is expected to contest from Rae Bareli. This has enthused the party cadre. The Congress bagged 7.5 per cent vote share in 2014 in peak Modi wave, winning two and finishing second in seats. It also has influence in urban areas and enjoys support from section of upper castes, Muslims and Dalits in the state. If SP, BSP, Congress and RLD had contested together they would have won 57 seats in 2014 instead of 41 if only SP and BSP contested together.

Impact of smaller parties: Smaller parties have traditionally recorded 10-15 per cent vote share in UP. They are community-specific parties like RLD (Jats), Apna Dal (Patel’s), SBSP (Rajbhar), Nishad Party (Mallah) etc. BJP entered into strategic alliances with Apna Dal and SBSP in central and state polls to get the community votes and make inroads. Both allies are unhappy with BJP and posturing for more tickets this time around. Nishad Party is likely to get two seats from MGB quota.

Voting pattern of first-time voters: First-time voters play a crucial role in every election. These young voters mostly do not carry any baggage of ideology and vote on issues/ development. A media survey in 2014 said that almost half of 15 crore first-time voters in the 2014 general election, wanted to see Modi as PM. BJP made good inroads into young Yadav and Dalit voters in UP. As per reports, there are 12.7 crore first-time voters in 2019 out of which 2.2 crores are in UP.

Ability of MGB to manage contradictions in its vote blocks: It will be difficult for a section of SP and BSP cadre to accept each other as allies forgetting their bitter past. Many Dalits have borne the brunt of violence/torture by powerful OBCs.

How does development vs caste politics pan out? In 2014, BJP was able to convert the caste-ridden politics of the state into a narrative of nation-building and got support from all caste/class groups. As AK Verma opines in NES 2014, “This victory signalled a paradigm shift in voter behaviour, with a preference for good governance and development pushing out the identity politics of caste and community.” Whether MGB takes it back to caste politics, remains to be seen!

To sum up, in 2019, voters of UP will evaluate the performance of the Modi government. MGB will try to convert this battle into an ‘agadey vs pichadey’ fight. An interesting battle on the cards with many layers.

This article was first published dnaindia.com on 10th Feb 2019.

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#Elections2019: Why Congress May Damage The Mahagathbandhan More Than The BJP In Uttar Pradesh


The bua and bhatija jodi of Mayawati and Akhilesh have sealed an alliance for Uttar Pradesh. The duo kept Congress out from the scheme of things citing that the party does not have the ability to reciprocate vote transfer. The media is abuzz with debates about who will the Congress damage more, the mahagathbandhan or th Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in this triangular contest. The opinion is divided. In this post the writer will analyse who will benefit from Congress contesting independently. But first let’s take a look at the performance of the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh.

 

Vote Share And Seats

Since the advent of the coalition era in 1989, and the Mandal and Kamandal issue, which has a lasting impact on state politics, the Congress party’s graph has been witnessing a downward spiral in Uttar Pradesh.

From 31.8 per cent in 1989, its vote share declined to 6 per cent in 1998 when it even failed to open its account. From 1998 to 2014, its vote share has witnessed cyclical pattern. Its best performance in the last three decades was in 2009 when it surprised everybody by bagging 21 seats. In 2014, in Modi wave that gripped the state, it could retain just the family strongholds of Rae Bareli and Amethi.The party got 60.6 lakh votes in Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It received 9.35 lakh votes in Amethi and Rae Bareli where it won.

On the remaining 65 seats it received on an average 79,000 votes per seat. It finished runner up in six seats, Bara Banki, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Kushi Nagar, Lucknow and Saharanpur where its candidates received more votes than Samajwadi Party (SP)/Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidates. It finished third in five seats where it received more votes than one of the mahagathbandhanpartners; Kheri (>SP), Mirzapur (>SP), Pratapgarh (>SP), Rampur (>BSP) and Varanasi (both >SP and >BSP).

Caste-Wise Support

The party enjoys significant support among the upper caste in Uttar Pradesh. It also enjoys good support among the Kurmi and Koeri community (Other Backward Class or OBC) and Muslims.

A break-up of the Congress vote share in UP in 2014 shows that the biggest chunk of the party’s vote came from minorities (23 per cent) followed by the upper caste (21 per cent) and OBCs (20 per cent). While minorities have traditionally voted for a party which is in a position to defeat the BJP, the upper caste communities are vocal supporters of the BJP.

Five Factors Why Congress Might Damage The Mahagathbandhan More Than The BJP

1. Congress will split the anti-BJP vote

Even after a scathing attack by Mayawati on Congress which, by the way, was no less than her attack on the BJP, Congress sympathisers feel the party will go for a tacit understanding with the mahagathbandhan. My political understanding is that Congress will fight spiritedly and try to prove a point that it can win without SP-BSP support, especially, after the victories in the three Hindi heartland states. While in Uttar Pradesh it cannot win more seats than mahagathbandhan, it can play a key role in 10-15 seats.

2. Congress will get a section of Dalit-Muslim-Yadav votes which would have otherwise gone to the mahagathbandhan

Some analysts are saying that the Congress will damage the BJP by garnering the Brahmin/upper caste votes of the BJP. The upper caste vote is only 21 per cent of total votes of Congress, going by the 2014 data. Muslims, Yadavs and Dalits which form the core vote bank of mahagathbandhan account for 39 per cent of Congress votes. This is almost double its upper caste support. The mahagathbandhan cannot defeat the BJP without the support of non-Yadav OBCs. Here as well Congress scores well with 35 per cent of its total support.

One could argue why Muslims would vote for Congress when they know the mahagathbandhan is in better position to defeat the BJP. This is because:

  • The Congress would also put up Muslim candidates in some seats leading to a split of votes
  • The Congress is in a better position to defeat the BJP nationally, SP and BSP can’t do that as they have no/ limited presence outside UP.

3. Congress could have compensated for leakages if it was part of the alliance

No community votes 100 per cent for any party in any elections and at best one could get is 70 per cent-75 per cent of one group’s vote, hence Congress could retain its Dalit, Muslim, Yadav (DMY) votes, which could hurt the mahagathbandhan in a tight contest. It is incorrect to assume that the Dalit, Muslim, Yadav voters of the Congress would not have voted for SP-BSP candidates in a larger alliance which included Congress as well.

These votes would have been easily transferred to the mahagathbandhan, roughly 3.5 per cent-4 per cent vote share based on the 2014 numbers. This would have compensated for translation losses. For any alliance to achieve pre-poll vote shares is difficult and like we saw in Bihar, 5 per cent-10 per cent leakage is normal. In that case the Congress party’s 7.5 per cent vote share would be handy.

4. Congress is strong in Urban pockets and Awadh region

Uttar Pradesh has 68 rural and 12 urban seats. In the urban seats, Congress performance was much better (+5 per cent) its vote share was almost similar to the BSP and SP vote share. In Awadh regions, which has 13 Lok Sabha seats, its vote share was 17.8 per cent in 2014, of course, helped by the fact that Rae Bareli and Amethi come under this region. In this region, its vote share was higher than the SP.

5. National vs Regional elections

UP has sent the maximum prime ministers to Parliament. In 1989, people voted for V P Singh and during 1996, 1998 and 1999 for Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In 2004, there was no PM candidate of the Congress and people were not gung-ho about Vajpayee’s return. In 2009, L K Advani (PM candidate of the BJP) contested from Gujarat while Rahul Gandhi who was conjectured to take over from Manmohan Singh in UPA 2 contesting from UP.

This is why the Congress surprised all with 21 seats. In 2014, Modi the PM candidate of BJP, contested from Varanasi and people voted for BJP in large numbers. This time it’s clear that the PM candidate of Congress is Rahul Gandhi. With both PM candidates of BJP and Congress contesting from UP, this could make the elections national rather than regional helping Congress like it did in 2009.

To sum up, the Congress contesting alone will damage the prospects of the mahagathbandhan in UP. The main issue why it was not included in the mahagathbandhan is that being a national party it would not have settled for anything less than 12-15 seats. That would have reduced the number of seats of SP-BSP and their ability to bargain in a hung Parliament situation. An interesting contest is on the cards.

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