Breaking Down Verdict 2022: Western And Central UP Saw Bipolar Contests; Multi-Cornered Fights In East

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Mar 25, 2022 08:28 PM +05:30 IST
Breaking Down Verdict 2022: Western And Central UP Saw Bipolar Contests; Multi-Cornered Fights In EastAkhilesh Yadav and CM Yogi Adityanath.
Snapshot
  • The 2022 elections were unique, in the sense that they were intensely bipolar in large swathes, while the electorate was fractured three or more ways in other parts.

    An analysis through maps follows.

This is the first part of a series on the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

The recently-concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh were filled with speculations on a host of topics. The political queries ranged from the standard ones, on the extent to which various communities would consolidate under which banner, to psephological ones, which sought to quantify the vote shares and seats a coalition might get.

They swirled in merry step with colourful campaigns, and mercifully at last, without the spectre of any political violence whatsoever. Some of it was hilariously outlandish. A few usual suspects actually persisted in the narrative of an ‘RLD wave’ in western UP, before they were hooted derisively out of sight (this was a reference to the Rashtriya Lok Dal, a fringe, spent force in UP politics, who were in desperate alliance with the principal opposition party, the Samajwadi Party, or SP, for one last shot at relevance).

Reporters had a hard time keeping a straight face whenever the SP’s Akhilesh Yadav predicted that his party would win 300 of the 403 seats. The Congress party, led by Priyanka Vadra, got an inordinate amount of air time courtesy a generous mainstream media; that narrative made it seem as if the Congress would win 300 seats on their own.

Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena grandly claimed that her party would do well in these polls. Popular response to that was to make viral, a video clip of the forlorn Sena politician campaigning desultorily through empty streets!

Others were less flippant and correctly gauged that this election would be primarily bipolar, with the bulk of the contests, and the bulk of the votes, being between the SP and the BJP. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was expected to lose most of its Muslim vote base to the SP alliance, with an as-yet undetermined fraction of its Jatav core shifting to the BJP.

Yet, for all that, there was little doubt in most minds that the Bharatiya Janata Party alliance (BJP) under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, and propelled by the remarkably-sustained popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would be returned with a simple majority at the very least.

Consequently, the key focus of pollsters and analysts was on trying to predict, as accurately as possible, the extent of the BJP’s victory before the exit polls were out. It would be a mark of how well a team had understood the electoral dynamics of the state. These are the Uttar Pradesh assembly election results:

Vote share and seat tally in Uttar Pradesh 2022
Vote share and seat tally in Uttar Pradesh 2022
(Open in new tab to enlarge)
(Open in new tab to enlarge)

As a chart below shows, Republic’s variant-2 forecast (upper white square), and Swarajya’s predictor model (light blue square), were closest on vote shares. Both predicted 43 per cent for the BJP, with Swarajya being slightly closer on seat forecasts: 300, against Republic’s 308. The BJP’s actual performance in 2022 – 43.8 per cent vote share and 273 seats – is marked by an orange circle.

(Open in new tab to enlarge)
(Open in new tab to enlarge)

(For more details of Swarayja’s UP predictor model, see here. This writer may also now disclose, to his infinite chagrin and everlasting regret, that he did not follow his instincts the day before the exit polls were released, and reduce his seat-forecast for the BJP at 43 per cent vote share, from 300 to 280. Alas, if only…)

Some other agencies either predicted too low a vote share for the BJP (largely in the 38 to 42 per cent band), or adopted a conservative approach while converting survey vote shares to seats.

What this chart tells us is that the 2022 elections were unique, in the sense that they were intensely bipolar in large swathes, while the electorate was fractured three or more ways in other parts. To that end, and as forthcoming articles in this series will show, 2022 mimicked the 2019 general elections more in western and central UP, while it paralleled the 2017 in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh.

This interpretation is substantiated by a bipolarity map given below, which shows the state-wide distribution of the combined SP and BJP vote share in each constituency. Winners are labelled by party acronym (BSP, AD, etc.).

(Open in new tab to enlarge)
(Open in new tab to enlarge)

A distinct reduction of bipolarity is noted as we move from west to east (left to right) on the map. Interestingly, this change in trend also follows the phased manner in which elections were conducted across the state over a month.

Why and how these trend shifts emerged, and what impact they had on outcomes, will be elaborated upon in subsequent pieces, but this much is clear: the BSP did not disintegrate to the extent expected by most, and it is about a dozen or so, messy three- and four-way affairs, which hobbled accuracy of forecasting.

All data from Election Commission of India website.

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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