UP by election results 2018: In a shot in the arm, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, which entered into an experimental alliance with arch-rival Bahujan Samaj Party, has managed to dent the Bharatiya Janata Party’s winning streak, and decisively so. The SP-BSP combine won Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats, vacated by party’s two top leaders – Adityanath and Keshav Prasad Maurya who respectively went on to become the chief minister and deputy chief minister of the state. The elections, touted to be a battle of prestige for CM Adityanath, and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya, came as an undesired drubbing before 2019 for them. What makes the decision even more emphatic is that it comes at a time when the two are at the peak of their respective careers.
On the other hand, for the BSP and SP, it was a battle of existence and a decider for the future on two accounts. First, whether there’s a possibility of an alliance, and more significantly, whether the alliance will gain acceptability among the masses. The results were something unthought of. The SP wrested Gorakhpur, a seat held by BJP for the last seven terms, and won a landslide in Phulpur.
An alliance between SP and BSP was always under consideration since the mammoth defeat of the two parties in 2014. However, the leaders of two parties were not able to surmount their egos and as a result, were reduced to a battle of existence. In fact, the caste arithmetic always suggested that BSP and SP can make huge gains together.
SP drives its social support from Muslims, which form 19 per cent and Yadavs, which form 9 per cent of the total votes. Also, SP is popular among other OBC castes, which include Kurmis, Koeris, Lodhs, Telis, Kumahars and Kahars. In all, OBC’s account for 45 per cent of total votes. The Muslim votes often get divided between Congress, SP and BSP, and the coming together of the three parties can avoid division of votes.
Mayawati’s BSP, on the other hand, banks upon the Dalit vote bank, which accounts for 21 per cent of the electorate. If BSP and SP come together, it would mean a consolidation of Muslim (19%), Yadav (9%) and SC (21%) vote bank. Together, the three communities make for a whopping 49 per cent vote.
Prior to the elections, Mayawati has been dismissive of any alliance with the SP. “I want to clarify that BSP has not allied with any political party. All rumors about BSP and SP alliance in UP for 2019 Lok Sabha elctions are false and baseless,” Mayawati had said. However, the victory propels the possibilities of an alliance significantly. Soon after the verdict, Akhilesh Yadav said, “This was not the victory of SP alone, we were supported by BSP, it is the victory of both the parties.”
The only thing which can play spoiler is the seat-sharing. BSP and SP have failed to strike a deal with Congress which will have a significant effect on Muslim voters in next Lok Sabha election. The grand old party would obviously demand a larger chunk of seats. On the other hand, the BJP will try its best to make sure that an alliance doesn’t materialise. Remember, the saffron party has been in alliance with both SP and BSP in the state. The current situation may not allow the saffron party to enter into an alliance, but, they may nevertheless try to stop one between the oppositions parties.
The talks of an alliance and its potential to reshape the political arithmetic in the state would not have gained the traction that it has now had it not been for the performance of the BJP. For, the results beg one crucial question – is there still a Modi wave? Phulpur, once considered as a citadel of Jawahar Lal Nehru, was never a stronghold of BJP. However, riding on a Modi wave, BJP had won the seat by a record margin of 3.08 Lakh votes.
In Gorakhpur’s case, the victory has always been attributed to Adityanath’s popularity. The 73 seats won by BJP+ in Lok Sabha 2014, and repetition of the show the in 2017 Assembly reflected that a Modi wave was still prevalent in the elections. Had those outcomes were to reflect in today’s elections, the BJP would have landed a big victory. Here, one may argue that Gorakhpur’s defeat has to be attributed with the popularity of Yogi than that of Modi. But in Phulpur, whose sitting MP went on the become the deputy chief minister, a defeat suggests that Modi’s popularity may have taken a hit.
Surely, elections results are more than just a matter of numbers for the BJP which has seen defeats in neighbouring Rajasthan and MP polls. For the SP and BSP though, it breathes life before Lok Sabha 2019.