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This Uttar Pradesh election is BJP’s to lose

Despite the SP-Congress alliance about which the whole media is going gaga over, BJP still has the edge over others in the upcoming assembly elections. Contrary to what the media is projecting on the vote-share math based on 2012 elections, the vote-share to really look at is 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which gave a sweeping victory to BJP that resulted in BJP alone getting 71 out of 80 seats (that translate to more than 300 assembly seats) and 2 of Apna Dal, its partner in NDA.

According to a survey, BJP had received more than 75% of the Brahmin and upper caste votes, and more than 50% of OBC votes, plus a 20% of Jatavs and Dalit vote means, there was a high consolidation of Hindu votes across the board. They even managed to get 10% of Muslim votes in 2014, which anyway was a bonus. This resulted in a staggering 42% of the total vote-share, leaving SP and BSP at almost half of this. Congress was practically decimated.

This was almost the same case in Bihar, which is why Nitish and Lalu allied together which upset the vote-share math in 2015 Assembly elections. If you analyse the Bihar elections, there is no way BJP would have been able to conquer the total vote-share of JD(U), RJD and Congress put together of what they achieved in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Which is why, after trying to prop Priyanka Gandhi as the “Brahmin” face of Congress and ending up with Sheila Dixit, the wily Prashant Kishor tried the Bihar Mahagatbandhan model in UP too, perhaps prodded by Lalu and Nitish themselves to make SP come to the table this time.

But it is clear, the SP-Congress alliance in itself is a partial admission of SP’s own failure to win the elections on its own, and total admission of Congress having no chance at all if it plays the game by itself. So all that they are trying to do is to keep Muslim votes together instead of getting split, but what is being missed is, BSP too enjoy substantial share of Muslim votes, and BJP too had a 10% share of Muslim votes, and Muslims in general are realising they are being used only as vote-bank by such secular parties.

Therefore, unless the Mahagatbandhan is between BSP and SP (with or without Congress), the numbers really don’t add up to make a big upset for BJP yet. Assuming BJP retains most of the upper caste votes that it got in 2014 and manages to retain half of the OBC and Jatav votes, it would still be good at above 30% of the vote share which is enough for it to cross the line in a three cornered fight.

Granted, the drivers for state assembly elections are not the same as for Parliamentary elections and it is two years down the lane since Modi wave was at its peak in 2014, and also the assembly bye-election results post 2014 were in SP’s favour. Besides, Akhilesh Yadav has somehow managed to first pull a victim card in the family drama and then emerging as a fighting hero and looking good as the one to take over SP totally from Mulayam’s grip which could possibly give him an edge to fight the anti-incumbency.

But if he was so confident that way, he needn’t have agreed to make this alliance with Congress in the first place. It is not as if, he was making an alliance like in Bihar where principal opposition parties ganged up against Modi. Mayawati is no push-over but a strong contender herself as she had trounced SP in 2007. Though BSP didn’t get a single seat in 2014 general elections, their vote share is not small. They had polled as much votes as Mamata’s TMC or Jayalalitha’s AIADMK did in Bengal and Tamilnadu that got them 34 and 37 seats each respectively. And she fielded the maximum Muslim candidates in the election, more than SP or Congress, and is sure to take some Muslim votes this time as well. Therefore without BSP in the alliance, it isn’t as good as the Mahagatbandhan in Bihar.

Having said that, what could definitely go against BJP are the following.

They are still banking on Modi to win elections instead of a strong local leader who could be their CM face. This was their undoing in Bihar too. In UP, the problem is of plenty and the high conflict of priorities and interests among its popular leaders between Hindutva, Ram temple, Development and such. Also the infighting cannot be ruled out due to this and many are waiting and wanting to see Modi fail in UP too to build their own aspirations.

It is also not clear what are the true repercussions of demonetisation in rural Uttar Pradesh and how much the people have welcomed this there, or how cut up the people there are due to the pains caused due to it. Besides, others like AAP have pledged to campaign against BJP though they are not directly contesting the elections, and not to forget the mainstream media that appears to be backing Akhilesh Yadav 2.0

Hence Amit Shah and Om Mathur have their task cut out to ensure what was achieved in 2014 is not allowed to slip away, as on paper it is still a BJP’s election to lose.

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