The results of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Uttarakhand and Manipur show many political messages, the biggest being the faith that people continue to repose in the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine. But, the bigger message is, decimation of regional parties. In none of these five states have any of these managed to get close to the winning mark. Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which proved psephologists and political commentators wrong in Delhi Assembly election in 2014, expected to wrest Punjab from BJP-SAD alliance riding on anti-incumbency against three terms of rule. The party also hoped to do better in Goa, but Congress won both these states.
In Uttar Pradesh, the decisive and conclusive mandate is for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but it is also against Bahaujan Samaj Party (BSP), which hoped to return to power with Muslim support. Mayawati’s outburst after the results, alleging that the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were rigged in favour of BJP, underlined her frustration of three straight routs. She lost the state to Akhilesh Yadav in 2012, fared miserably in 2014 general elections and has managed to get only 19 seats in the 403-seat Assembly now.
The AAP won zilch in Goa and 20 seats in Punjab, managing to perform better than the BJP-SAD combine, but that’s a small consolation for a political outfit that hoped to become a national player soon by winning one more state after Delhi.
There will be detailed post-mortem in Samajwadi Party, BSP and AAP on what didn’t work in their favour but the over-arching statement is that people rejected regional players and trusted the two national parties – BJP and Congress.
The biggest takeaway of the Assembly elections 2017, of course, remains the landslide in Uttar Pradesh, biggest Indian state that sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha. It’s a repeat of Modi magic of 2014 when the party won 73 of 80 seats, a feat it had never achieved in more than 35 years of its existence. In 1991, when the BJP formed government in UP for the first time riding on Ramjanmabhoomi movement, it won 221 seats out of 419. After Babri demolition in December 1992, the party slid to 177 when elections were held in 1993. This year was the emergence of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, both of which came together to form government in 1993.
UP was in a political flux for many years after this with no party getting absolute majority in elections in 1996 and 2002. In 2007, Mayawati, who had been chief minister of the state thrice before with support from SP and BJP on different occasions, got absolute majority when BSP polled 206 seats.
For the first time since 1985 – when Congress won 269 seats in undivided UP – one party ruled the state for a full five-year term (2007 to 2012).
In 2012 elections also, Samajwadi Party won 224 seats, thus the era of coalition governments or governments on clutches was over in UP, but no one, including leaders in the BJP, expected the 300-plus tsunami that swept the state on Mar. 11.
The last time any party got 300-plus seats in UP was in 1980 when Congress won 309 but the total seats then were 425. In that sense BJP’s 2017 victory in the state becomes the biggest ever and truly historic.
Such mandates are not won without a wave. Most journalists covering the length and breadth of UP didn’t see this wave. My own sense is that even Modi and Shah didn’t see this wave although party state president Keshav Prasad Maurya, for some strange reason, did give out the slogan, abki baar, 300 par (this time, more than 300).
It is important to note that with great success comes a greater responsibility. The PM will need to fulfill the aspirations of young Uttar Pradesh, people who want employment and development. The state hopes to shed its BIMARU tag under this new dispensation.
But, for now, let the saffron surge sink in.