Even the most ardent supporter of the Bharatiya Janata Party had not expected the party to secure an unprecedented 312 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly. Nor had they hoped to get almost 40% of the votes polled. And while division of opposition votes did help (SP, BSP, Congress and RLD together polled 52% of the votes polled), BJP leaders and foot soldiers deserve full credit for making it possible.
Anti-incumbency, lawlessness, corruption etc played against the Samajwadi Party, in addition to the family feud. The BJP had little difficulty in calling the Congress-SP alliance opportunistic since the Congress had been campaigning very hard against the state government before the alliance was forged. It clearly put off both SP and Congress workers and ‘friendly fights’ and indifferent workers would have taken a toll. Demonetisation, observers say, may also have hit their war chest.
Explaining BJP’s sweep in Uttar Pradesh political observers on Saturday were generous in praising the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s national President Amit Shah. Discussions brought out the following factors behind BJP’s mammoth victory.
Amit Shah’s organisational ability: The BJP president is credited with visiting almost every Block headquarter in Uttar Pradesh, reaching out to various community leaders, eating with them and smoothening their ruffled feathers. “Which other party president has done as much,” wondered aloud a political analyst who wanted to remain anonymous. The organising and negotiating skills of Shah, vastly underrated by rivals, he felt, played an important role in the victory. Leaders of other political parties went on Rath Yatras and held road shows, but Shah had more connect with the ground. He also worked tirelessly and negotiated personally with communities with grievances.
Communication, credibility and messaging: The Bharatiya Janata Party beat others hollow when it came to communication strategy and reach and ability to convey its message clearly and without any clutter. It has built up a formidable team that works round the clock and not just during elections. And it is paying dividends.
The OBC Card: Making Keshav Prasad Maurya the state BJP chief and projecting him as the key OBC face in Uttar Pradesh. Also, poached other major backward leaders from other parties such as BSP’s Swami Prasad Maurya. Aggressively cultivated both Yadavs and non-Yadavs besides targeting non-Jatav Dalits.
The Communal Card: Fielding not even a single Muslim in the state rallied insecure sections of the majority community. From the UP manifesto that promised a Ram Mandir, anti-Romeo squad, a new Sanskrit University to PM Modi’s speeches, beginning with Jai Shri Ram in his Lucknow rally to insinuating that more graveyards were built for Muslims than cemeteries for Hindus at his Fatehpur rally, where he also referred to electricity ensured during Eid but not during Diwali, were done with polarisation in mind. With Mayawati openly courting Muslim votes by fielding 100 Muslim candidates the deft messaging that SP-Congress alliance was also pro-Muslim helped in counter polarisation.
The Marketing Genius: Demonetisation may have been a terrible idea and put the economy on a reverse gear, but Modi expertly sold it to the poor as something done for their benefit. The Opposition just failed to communicate to the poor. And, was more reactive. The claim that the Opposition was batting for the rich with black money carried more weight with the voters.
PM’s larger than life image: While critics scoffed at the Prime Minister of the country devoting so much time to a state election, the 23 rallies addressed by him clearly helped. In Deoria district the BJP had won just one seat in 2012 but this time it bagged seven, attributed to a large extent to the PM’s rally there.
100 low-intensity communal incidents: While Uttar Pradesh did not witness major communal violence as in Muzaffarnagar before the 2014 general election, observers note that around 100 low-intensity violent incidents in which one person was stabbed or a few shops set on fire etc preceded the polling in the state. While most of these incidents were largely ignored by the media, some observers believe they could have been manipulated to incite and consolidate one group or the other.
Above all, the BJP displayed a hunger for victory that others didn’t. It was also helped immensely by its foot soldiers and ‘Parcha Pramukhs’, each of whom was made responsible for mobilising 10 voters. It was long and hard work, the observers point out, that paved the way for the BJP to bag so many seats in a virtually wave-less and issue-less election.