New Delhi, March 11: “Holi has come early this time”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his victory speech at the BJP headquarters. The election slogan — “Ayenge toh Yogi hi” became a reality as the BJP scored a resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh (UP). The party also decimated the Opposition in Uttarakhand, Manipur and after a neck and neck fight with Congress, retained Goa for the third consecutive time. Also for the time in Uttarakhand, an incumbent government managed to return with a renewed mandate. On the other side, it was an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wave that wiped out the ruling Congress in Punjab.
Of the 403 seats in UP, BJP leading in 274 seats is far ahead of the simple majority mark and of the 70 seats in Uttarakhand the BJP leading in at least 48 seats is set to form the government.
While the Narendra Modi magic was clearly visible in the Assembly elections, particularly in UP and Uttarakhand, Yogi Adityanath, armed with his mantra “Ration aur Sashon (Free ration and good governance)” created history by becoming the first Chief Minister to return to power for the second time with an absolute majority in UP. Also, it was for the first time since 1985 that a party came to power in two consecutive elections. If the elections in UP were being regarded as a bellwether of the national mood, the 2024 general elections might witness the return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the third consecutive time. The Prime Minister announced the “outcome of 2022 has indicated the outcome of 2024”. Modi pointed out BJP created “history” in both UP and Uttarakhand. He pointed out, “the double-engine government has provided double safety for the people.”
What worked in BJP’s favour in UP was the free ration delivery along with the cash transfer scheme. A senior BJP leader said that this twin scheme not merely cut across the caste and community but also countered the anti-incumbency factor against the Yogi government. The other factor which found the mark was the law and order plank and raising the bogey that BJP’s defeat would bring back the “mafia-raj”.
As far as the Muslim-dominated pockets were concerned in UP, the constituencies apparently witnessed a counter polarisation in BJP’s favour, a party functionary said. The other factor that worked in the party’s favour was the charisma of the Prime Minister, Modi who relentlessly criss-crossed UP. “The results are a clear indication that “Modiji’s popularity continues to grow every day”, the BJP functionary said.
If western UP was being viewed as BJP’s waterloo, the party proved the detractors wrong by bagging the majority of the vote share in the region. In western UP, BJP got nearly 46 per cent of the vote share as compared to SP’s 38 per cent. Similarly in Bundelkhand, the OBC-Dalit dominated region, BJP polled nearly 46 per cent of votes while the Samajwadi Party managed only 29 per cent. BJP again marched ahead with 44 per cent of vote share in the Awadh region and 42 per cent in Purvanchal.
AAP’s victory in Punjab also fulfilled Kejriwal’s ambition to expand beyond Delhi. In 2024, it could possibly be a race between Trinamool Congress Chief, Mamata Banerjee and Kejriwal to emerge as the face of the opposition. As the AAP chariot rolled across Punjab, the political giants ranging from the powerful Badal clan, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, high-profile Navjot Singh Sidhu and former Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh fell by the wayside. The satirist-turned-politician, Bhagwant Maan, AAP’s chief ministerial face won by a huge margin of more than 45,000 votes. Making his national ambition amply clear, Kejriwal in his victory speech exhorted everyone across the nation to join AAP and declared, “the ‘inqualab’ which had come to Delhi has now spread to Punjab. It’s time to spread this inqualab all across India.”
As for Congress and the Gandhis, the nightmare continues. Despite the Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi holding a maximum number of 209 rallies and roadshows across UP, the party struggled even to open its account. In Uttarakhand, the party failed to take advantage of the anti-incumbency and was completely decimated by the BJP. Congress’ chief ministerial face, Harish Rawat lost by a margin of nearly 14,000 votes to BJP from Lalkuan Assembly seat. After a neck and neck race in Goa, BJP inched closer to the majority while Congress kept sliding down the ladder. Repeated electoral debacles yet again put a question mark on the leadership of the Gandhi clan in the organisation.
Questions are being raised on whether this was the end of the road for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati. BSP which had won 19 seats in 2017 is struggling to win one seat. As the party got routed it could now be an existential crisis for the first woman Dalit Chief Minister.
Even though the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP gained more than 80 seats taking its tally from 52 in 2017 to over 130 seats failed to stop the BJP from creating history. It was learnt that failure to get the votes transferred from its ally hit the SP yet again. In 2017, while the SP votes got transferred to BSP, the reverse did not happen. This time too, while the SP votes got transferred to Rashtriya Lok Dal, it did not get the Jat votes. In western UP, while the Jats voted for RLD, they went for the BJP instead of the SP candidates.
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