The BJP swept to power in Uttar Pradesh with a two-thirds majority on Saturday and the largest vote share of any party in the state since 1957. While the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance fared poorly, the biggest loser was the Bahujan Samaj Party.
This is how the BJP won India’s most-populous state:
1. The Modi factor
Prime Minister Narendra Modi evokes massive admiration across Uttar Pradesh. Voters believed he had delivered on his promises. The enthusiasm for demonetisation may have subsided along the line, but the faith in Modi as a decisive leader didn’t. From Jan Dhan Yojana, to India’s image abroad, to the general idea of development, people felt the man would transform India and UP. Modi too seized on his enduring appeal and campaigned extensively in the state.
While the Samajwadi Party was caught in an internal feud and the BSP in a state of virtual invisibility, the BJP was on with its campaign. The party organised 88 youth-centric, 77 women-centric, 200 OBC-centric, 18 Dalit-centric and 14 trader-centric events, and held numerous state, regional and sector-level meetings with booth workers. It deployed 403 Parivartan Vans in each constituency. The party also launched a Mann ki Baat campaign that received 34 lakh responses. It created four Facebook pages and 6,608 Whatsapp groups.
3. The 60 percent formula
The BJP assumed that Muslims, and a majority of Yadavs and Jatavs, would not vote for the party. This would leave 55-60% of the electorate for BJP to target. So the party put together a plan to pool together upper-caste Hindus, non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits into a sweeping voter base. It gave them space across the organisation. The state president was an OBC; many district office bearers were from OBC communities; the party gave the highest number of tickets it has ever done to people from OBC communities. And it provided a narrative of how it would channel their aspirations, and counter the domination of Yadavs.
4. Hindu card
The party carefully played the Hindu card. The strategy was clear in west UP, where candidates proudly declared themselves to be the epitome of Hindu pride. PM Modi himself brought up Diwali and Ramzan, kabristan and shamshanghat right after the third phase. In rally after rally, Amit Shah directly accused the SP government of dispensing development benefits based on religious and caste identity.
5. Mistakes others made
The family feud in SP took a toll on its campaign momentum. Akhilesh Yadav was unable to wash off anti-incumbency. The delay in ticket distribution and campaigning cost him dearly. The alliance with Congress seems to have yielded little benefit. The Bahujan Samaj Party is left with little besides its core vote. The fact that Mayawati sits in Delhi and Lucknow, and barely travels to the districts when in Opposition, has come back to haunt her.