Lessons from the big blow to BJP in UP: Hindi belt is no longer a monolithic entity

Akhilesh Yadav’s Pichde-Dalit-Alpsankhyak or PDA alliance triumphs; constituency-level data show major sections of Rajputs and Jats have moved away from the BJP

Akhilesh Yadav
The 2024 results show that the core consolidation of upper-caste votes for the BJP, based on which it had rallied other non-Yadav OBCs, has been considerably shaken. File photo: PTI

The early leads and the general trend emerging from the vote counting till around 4 pm on the counting day (June 4) indicate that the biggest jolt to the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls has been delivered by Uttar Pradesh. The Hindi belt is no longer a monolithic electoral entity. The double-engine gaadi in UP has obviously derailed.

The trends available on the Election Commission website show that the BJP might end up with around 40 seats as against 63 it got in 2019 and the party might achieve a vote share of nearly 42% in UP, down from nearly 50% in 2019. The SP, with 32.55%, and the Congress, with 10.43%, together, have an edge over the BJP. Even where the BJP has won, the winning margins have decreased. Besides the common all-India issues like authoritarianism, unemployment and price rise, what are the specific UP-centric factors that caused this big blow?

Clearly, this kind of erosion for the BJP is a product of major social realignment. The constituency-level data show that major sections of Rajputs and Jats have moved away from the BJP. More importantly, the BJP could not continue its hold over the vast majority of the non-Yadav OBCs, like Patels, Mauryas, Rajbhars and Mallahs/Nishads, as results from Central and Eastern UP show. These areas have a sizable demographic concentration of these communities, giving them a strong electoral presence.

The 2024 results show that the core consolidation of upper-caste votes for the BJP, based on which it had rallied other non-Yadav OBCs, has been considerably shaken. Secondly, Modi’s politically targeted welfarism could not fully neutralize the impact of agrarian distress.

Akhilesh Yadav’s strategy has clicked

The results show that Akhilesh’s strategy of shedding the ‘M-Y’ (Muslim-Yadav) image and projecting a ‘PDA’ plank (Pichde-Dalit-Alpsankhyak) alliance has delivered good electoral dividends. Though Akhilesh faced flak for offering all the five seats he gave to Yadavs to members of his own family, SP had fielded 27 candidates from non-Yadav OBC castes.

Nine of them were given to Kurmis, four to Nishads and 6 to Maurya-Kushwaha-Shakya caste conglomerate. Besides 17 Dalit candidates in reserved constituencies, Akhilesh made a symbolic gesture by fielding two more Dalit candidates from general constituencies. The seat-wise results show that this strategy has clicked. For example, Awadhesh Prasad in Faizabad, fielded as the SP’s Dalit face, managed to attract most of the 24% Dalit votes in the constituency and defeated the BJP in the land of Ayodhya.

In addition, Akhilesh had fielded 11 upper-caste candidates (four Brahmins, two Thakurs, two Vaishyas, and three from other upper castes). The victory of Sanatan Pandey in Ballia is a successful outcome of this strategy where a section of Brahmins voted for the SP.

In contrast, Akhilesh had fielded only five Yadav candidates, and two Muslims. Congress, too, had fielded only two Muslims. Ironically enough, in contrast, Mayawati had fielded 20 Muslim candidates from the BSP.

The BSP remains a spoiler

The BSP has had a mixed impact in playing spoilsport, hampering the winning chances of some SP contenders by fielding Muslim candidates. For instance, Qamar Hayat from Ambedkarnagar, the BSP stronghold where Mayawati won thrice, was trailing. Mujahid Hussain from Amroha couldn’t spoil Danish Ali’s chances and came third. Only Abid Ali, who polled more than 71,000 votes, could have caused the defeat of SP candidate Neeraj Maurya, who lost to Dharmendra Kashyap in Aonla. In Azamgarh, SP’s Dharmendra Yadav’s lead over BJP’s Dinesh Lala Yadav was more than 83,600 votes BSP’s Masood Ansari polled. But in Badaun, SP’s Aditya Yadav, cousin of Akhilesh Yadav, is trailing by a narrow margin of around 11,000 votes while BSP’s Muslim Khan polled nearly 45,000 votes.

Likewise, BSP’s Amarsingh Choudhary, who polled 53,443 votes, caused the defeat of Kushal Tiwari of SP by around 24,000 votes. However, in Etah, SP’s Devesh Shakya is winning comfortably with a margin of around 45,000 votes despite the BSP candidate polling 41,000 votes. In Kannauj, in view of the VIP candidate of SP, the BSP could not do much damage. It had only a token contest against Rajnath Singh in Lucknow, and against Modi in Varanasi. But in eight other constituencies where it fielded Muslim candidates, the impact has been mixed.

Actually, the BSP was open to joining the India Bloc and some backroom talks were reportedly on with Congress but the move was spiked by Akhilesh. If Mayawati, too, had joined the INDIA Alliance, the BJP could have been further trounced in UP and that would have rehabilitated Mayawati; it would have been better than playing the B-team for the BJP.

BJP’s OBC thrust and Pasmanda gambit were only acts of posturing

Out of 75 candidates the BJP had fielded, 34 were from upper castes (16 Brahmins, 13 Thakurs, two Vaishyas, and thre from other upper castes). How has the BJP’s much-trumpeted ‘OBC card’ in UP translated into seats for OBC candidates? The BJP had fielded 25 OBC candidates, but strangely only one Yadav was among them. The BJP was mainly targeting non-Yadav OBCs, but many of them lost. It also indicates the problem of vote transfer to OBC candidates by the upper-caste base of the BJP.

The BJP, as usual, has not given a single seat to Muslims. Despite concerted wooing of Pasmanda Muslims, their hopes for getting tickets were belied. The UP poll outcome has lessons for all.

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