On Sunday, May 12, eastern UP went to the polls.
Besides Azamgarh, the BJP had swept these seats in 2014. With a BSP candidate contesting the majority of seats, the day was a test for many things — chief amongst which was whether the SP vote would transfer votes to the BSP or not. We believe that the vote transfer has been seamless.
Traditional SP voters saw BSP voters turn out and vote for their candidates in Western and Central UP in the previous phases. They saw the bonhomie between Mayawati and their chief Akhilesh Yadav. They heard her tell voters in Azamgarh that a vote for Akhilesh Yadav was a vote for her. They turned out in droves to ensure BSP candidates won.
We expected this to happen and have been saying so for nearly a month now — so this didn’t surprise us.
What did surprise us is a potential shift in the Brahmin vote.
On Sunday, the BJP lost a section of the Brahmin vote it has courted assiduously to the Congress, and shockingly also to the Gathbandhan. Some of this can be attributed to the candidates Mayawati picked. But we believe the bigger reason is Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The anti-Yogi sentiment we picked up in Eastern UP is particularly sharp. And this is a part of the state which isn’t as badly impacted by the wild cows of UP. As we explored it, we realised caste dynamics of the ugliest sort were at play across the region. The Thakurs — the caste to which the Yogi Adityanath belongs — were perceived to have been given the license to behave badly. We had expected this to impact the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits to a certain extent.
The unpopularity of the Chief Minister has meant that his vitriol aimed at political opponents has been perceived as thinly veiled contempt for ALL backward classes and castes. The central government’s decision to award reservations to economically weaker sections has only reinforced this impression (it’s talked about as reservation for the upper castes).
But the impact is deeper and wider than we had imagined.
Priyanka Gandhi has had the impact she said she would. She has accelerated the departure of the disgruntled Brahmin voter — some of it has gone to the Congress, and some to the Gathbandhan. In fact, we believe there’s one seat where the Congress has done very well in this phase.
We predict the BJP’s vote share fall will be sharper here than in Western UP. And at the end of phase 6, we believe the Gathbandhan will win 53 seats (± 5). The BJP will win 22 (± 3) and the Congress 5 (± 2).
When the BJP go looking for a reason why they lost vote share in UP by the amounts we believe they will, they will have to think back to the time they chose to go with Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister and wonder if they did the right thing. And they will have to figure out if they will have him to continue for a full term or not.
Despite Narendra Modi’s recent missteps about radar, emails and digital cameras, he remains popular and respected. The Gathbandhan is winning because they have stitched together a winning combination. And the BJP is losing even more because they have the wrong man leading the state.
(Published first on Anthro.ai - a collection of anthropologists, mathematicians, data scientists and market specialists, studying the ongoing election in Uttar Pradesh as an experiment to test the tools and models they have developed to navigate complex human behavior. )