UP election result: Samajwadi Party vote share goes up but not enough
UP election result: Until exit poll results were announced on the evening of March 7, the Uttar Pradesh elections were described as a closely contested one by not just analysts but also senior political laeaders across parties (including some from the Bharatiya Janata Party).
Until exit poll results were announced on the evening of March 7, the Uttar Pradesh elections were described as a closely contested one by not just analysts but also senior political laeaders across parties (including some from the Bharatiya Janata Party). With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) winning a comfortable majority in the state, exit poll predictions have been vindicated. But why did a lot of people see the Uttar Pradesh elections as a close contest ?
The answer is to be found in the qualitative change these elections have brought in Uttar Pradesh’s politics. While the BJP did not lose much of its support-base, the Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance actually managed to consolidate a large section of the opposition vote behind it. This element of increased bipolarity actually gave an impression of the BJP facing a more difficult challenge in the state than it did in 2017, even though it was never in the threat of losing the elections.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP along with its ally Apna Dal, surprised everyone by winning 73 Lok Sabha seats from the state. It also crossed the 40% vote share threshold for the first time in the state. The BJP, by and large, repeated this performance in the 2017 elections. The only difference between the 2014 and the 2017 elections in Uttar Pradesh were the opposition alliances. In 2014, the three major opposition parties, namely the SP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress contested separately. In 2017, the SP and Congress fought together in an alliance. After failing to arrest the BJP’s dominance in 2017, the SP and BSP came together in an alliance in 2019. Yet again, the BJP managed to trounce this alliance by crossing the 50% vote share mark. For this election, the SP formed an alliance with smaller parties including the Rashtriya Lok Dal in Western Uttar Pradesh.
In the 2022 elections, the BJP has lost vote share compared to the 2019 polls, which is bound to have found a reflection in anecdotal accounts of some of the party’s voters deserting it, even as the consolidation behind the SP alliance, thanks to the BSP’s irrelevance in this election gave the impression of the SP gaining significant support across the state. An HT analysis of past election results using Trivedi Centre for Political Data numbers shows that the median effective number of parties (ENOP) – a measure of the competitiveness at the constituency level calculated by taking the reciprocal of the sum of the squares of vote shares – in the 2022 elections in Uttar Pradesh is the lowest since 1977.
To put it differently, the median difference between the BJP and its nearest rival in the 312 assembly constituencies (ACs) it won in the 2017 elections was 14%. This number came down to 10.9% in the 2022 elections. So, in a way, these elections were a closer contest than 2017. It is another matter that they were not close enough to ever create a situation where the BJP would lose power.