BJP has maintained its winning streak in Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath. It bagged 14 out of 16 mayoral positions, scoring a hattrick after sweeping 71 out of 80 seats in Lok Sabha polls in 2014 and 312 out of 403 assembly seats earlier this year. BSP managed to sneak in 2 mayoral posts in minority dominated Aligarh and Meerut due to tactical voting by minorities. SP continues to be the principal challenger to BJP in the state despite failing to open account in mayor elections. Congress has been wiped out losing in Rahul Gandhi’s bastion Amethi. While Yogi toured the state extensively, Mayawati and Akhilesh were absent from the campaign trail.
Elections were held for 652 urban local bodies covering all the 75 districts of the state. Local body elections are usually contested on very local – local issues. The level of localization increases tier wise as we go from Nagar Nigam to Nagar Palika to Nagar Panchayat. Usually these elections are personality driven and that’s why independents have historically performed well. It’s for the first time BSP contested these elections on party symbol. Both SP and BSP didn’t contest previous elections in 2012 and had backed independents. Parties have also backed independents in some seats this time, which makes the calculations complex.
|Nagar Nigam Mahapaur||Nagar Palika Parishad Adhyaksh||Nagar Panchayat Adhyaksh|
|OTH & IND||0||45||193|
|Nagar Nigam Parshad||Nagar Palika Parishad Sadasya||Nagar Panchayat Sadasya|
|OTH & IND||244||3441||3972|
Five key themes emanate from the results of municipal polls in Uttar Pradesh.
1. BJP leads in Nagar Nigam Polls, Lags independents in Nagar Palika and Nagar Panchayat Polls
BJP continued with its good form in Uttar Pradesh banking on its innovative social engineering as it has managed to unify the various Hindu caste groups. Its candidates will be now mayors in 14 urban municipal bodies. The party has historically done well in urban areas and even during 2012 municipal elections, despite faring poorly in state elections, party had won 10 out of 12 mayoral positions. Out of 198 Nagar Palika Parishad Adhyakhs positions, it has emerged as the leader winning 70 such posts.
As the level of localization increases, its performance deteriorates. It has won 87.5% of Nagar Nigam Mahapaur posts, 35% Nagar Palika Parishad Adhyaksh and only 23% of Nagar Panchayat Adhyaksh posts. Similarly it won 46% of Nagar Nigam Parshad seats, but only 18% and 12% of Nagar Palika Parishad Sadasya and Nagar Panchayat Sadasya seats.
While it marginally increased its vote share in Nagar Nigam Parshad & Mahapaur elections vis-à-vis state elections, it lost massive vote share in nagar pallika and nagar panchayat polls where independents rule the roost.
It received some setbacks losing all six nagar panchayat seats in Kaushambi, the home town of Deputy CM Keshav Prasad. It also lost from CM Yogi’s home ward, Ward 61, in Gorakhpur, where a minority independent candidate won.
2. Mayawati regains some of the lost ground
Mayawati’s BSP, which finished a poor third in state elections, winning only 19 out of 403 seats, has made a comeback winning 2 mayoral posts. One independent backed by BSP had successfully become a mayor in 2012. The results show that Mayawati has regained some of the confidence of Dalits. Minorities are now flexible to vote for the party if it is seen as the principal challenger to BJP in the state, exhibited in the results of Meerut and Aligarh. However, it continues to lag SP in the overall seats.
3. SP remains principal challenger to BJP, Congress was never a force anyways
SP failed to open its account in mayoral posts, losing the post which an independent backed by party had won in 2012. Its competitor BSP won 2 mayor posts. Despite this, SP has won the second highest number of seats after BJP among the four parties. This showing despite the fact that Akhilesh didn’t campaign suggests now he has now gained full control of the party. Tactical voting by minorities in favour of BSP seems to have affected its performance in Meerut and Aligarh Mayor elections.
Congress party’s poor run in UP continues. Its candidate finished 4th in Rahul Gandhi’s bastion Amethi indicating a tough fight in 2019 central polls against Smriti. This performance couldn’t have come at a bad time for Rahul, as he will be elevated to party president post soon. Had the Congress and SP continued with the alliance, they would have equaled BJP’s performance in terms of vote share in Nagar Panchayat elections. Food for thought for the two parties.
4. Yogi emerges as undisputed leader of party in UP, Hindu face of BJP in 2019
Yogi’s name as CM was finalised last minute for UP. As per the buzz, Manoj Sinha was Modi-Shah choice for coveted post. RSS dig in its heels and thrust Yogis name highlighting mandate was for Hindutava. Yogi is now the Hindutava face of the party. He has been campaigning in Kerala and Gujarat. In municipal elections he campaigned fiercely holding many rallies and road shows. While credit for Lok Sabha and assembly win is rightly given to Modi, this win is due to the Yogi factor. He is steadily positioning himself as Modi’s heir post 2024. His claim for the top post has got a boost from these results.
5. Without mahagathbandhan no chance for opposition parties in UP
After the drubbing in assembly elections, SP, BSP, Congress talked of a grand alliance on lines of Bihar. Showing maturity both Akhilesh and Mayawati declared that they were ready to shake hands to keep at bay the so called communal forces. However, no breakthrough was achieved and they all contested independently. The only ray of hope for opposition parties is to contest together and put up a united candidate against BJP in 2019.
On a combined basis SP+BSP+INC received 49.8% votes in the 16 mayoral contests versus BJP’s 41.4%. If SP+BSP+INC had contested together, BJP would have been able to win just 3 of the 16 mayor posts. I am not saying that these votes are easily transferable, there will be some leakage and translation losses. But the broad social alliance of Dalits, Muslims and Yadavs which comprise of 50% of population can put up a spirited fight against BJP’s core support of upper castes and OBCs.
To conclude, the municipal results will provide a momentum to BJP’s claim to retain power in Gujarat. However, this doesn’t guarantee that BJP will also do well in Lok Sabha polls in the state in 2019. One and half years is a long time in politics. Good show in Uttar Pradesh is key to PM Modi’s fortunes in next central elections as state accounts for one-fourth of BJP’s tally in Parliament. To prevent the split of votes, opposition parties need to take lessons from this defeat and negotiate to put up a broad anti-BJP alliance in the state.
The article was first published here.