UP civic polls: In BJP’s victory it also has reason to be concerned
Data from the votes polled in corporations, municipalities and panchayats, indicate that there’s a dip in BJP’s acceptance in urban and rural pockets alikeopinion Updated: Dec 05, 2017 15:07 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s sweeping victory in the Uttar Pradesh local body elections have expectedly euphoric reactions from within the party as well as from media experts. The results have been described as chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s coming out ball eight months after the installation of his government after the BJP’s 16-years exile from power in UP. The party’s commanding performance could sway results in the Gujarat state assembly polls and indicate its prospects in the 2019 general elections.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described the results as popular endorsement to his development agenda, finance minister Arun Jaitley has claimed it was referendum on the success of demonetisation and the GST.
With 14 of the 16 municipal corporations’ mayoral posts in the bag, the BJP has reasons enough gloat about its achievement. The fact that Adityanath went the extra mile by addressing over 50 rallies should make him a natural claimant for the credit.
However, a closer look at the results of 16 municipal corporations, 198 municipalities and 438 nagar panchayats shows that some of this euphoria might be premature.
While the BJP has won in 596 of the 1,300 wards in municipal corporations (46%), it could win in only 18% wards in 198 municipalities and 12% wards 438 nagar panchayats. This would indicate a gradual waning in its support from urban clusters and smaller towns and villages.
Thus the inference that the BJP’s victory is an endorsement of the Adityanath government’s eight months rule is also open to doubt.
Voters in local bodies’ elections generally prefer the ruling party in the state. Moreover, the BJP is known to have a more substantial support base in cities and had its mayors in 10 of the 12 municipal corporations after 2012 elections.
Clearly, the optics of civic elections does not necessarily reflect the political reality at the ground level. An ironic proof of this is the fact that the BJP’s Maya Tripathi lost Ward No 68 in Gorakhpur, home to the Goraknath temple of which Yogi Adityanath is the main priest, and where the CM cast his vote. Deputy chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, also suffered a setback with the BJP losing all six nagar panchayats in Kaushambi, his hometown.
That said, its performance does come as a breeze of fresh rejuvenation for the BJP. The scale of urban local bodies poll for UP is bigger than vidhan sabha elections in over 20 Indian states. Around 33.2 million votes were polled in the three-phased urban civic elections. UP’s urban civic electorate is almost equivalent to the total electorate in Gujarat, which had around 33.8 million voters in 2012 assembly elections.
Another comforting news for the BJP is that the Muslim electorate, which account for 18% in UP, remain as confused over their preferred political alternative to the BJP as they were in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and 2017 state assembly elections.
This should worry the BJP’s potential challenges in UP. Mayawati, who had been completely written off after the UP assembly elections, can take some solace with a minor comeback, winning two corporations. But Akhilesh Yadav seems to have failed to arrest voter disenchantment, demonstrated in the state assembly elections that threw him out of power. As for the Congress, its terminal decline continues.
The much-talked about alliance between the Congress and the two regional parties, the BSP and SP, seems to be a non-starter. The BJP’s rivals in the state have a tough road ahead before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections if they are serious about slashing down the BJP’s tally of 73 Lok Sabha seats from UP that helped it to get an absolute majority in Lok Sabha.
Yogesh Vajpeyi is a senior journalist
The views expressed are personal