Explained In Numbers: Why Akhilesh Yadav May Not Want To Ally With Mayawati Again, And Why He Should
Here's the analysis using historical voter data into all 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, and what prospects they hold for various parties in the 2022 elections.
For this, the 2019 general election results have been compared at the assembly segment level with those of 2017.
This is the third part of a series which analyses the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh using historical voter data and ongoing opinion polls.
In our previous piece, we saw that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) more than held its own in reserved seats, against a formidable coalition consisting of the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), during the 2019 elections.
In this piece, we analyse how these trends extended into all 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, and what prospects they hold for various parties in the 2022 elections.
To do this, the 2019 general election results have been compared at the assembly segment level with those of 2017. And although alliances did change in that period (the SP was aligned with the Congress in 2017), this approach offers us the closest apples-to-apples comparison possible.
A gains/holds table below, of 2019 versus 2017, shows who held on to how many seats, and who won what from whom.
Note: there may be minor mismatches in party-wise column tallies for multiple reasons: in some cases, the SP-led coalition didn’t contest selected Lok Sabha constituencies like Amethi and Rae Bareli, to give the Congress a leg up; or, they put up weak candidates as in Kanpur, again to tacitly assist the Congress; or, because one parliamentary seat covers five assembly segments, as a result of which, current tie-ups can mask the fact that some allies might not have contested the seat in the previous election, or, that allies today were electoral foes in the past (and vice versa).
Such minor constraints notwithstanding, we see overall that 301 of 403 were holds. Thus, gains and losses were restricted to just 102 seats, or a quarter of the total. A map below shows the 2019 gains/losses by party:
Of these 301 holds, 260 were by the BJP, and three by its partner the Apna Dal (87 per cent of the total holds). The electoral dominance of the BJP, even in the face of an SP-BSP-RLD coalition, is an indicator of who might secure the popular mandate in 2022.
The inference is straightforward: if the BSP contests the 2022 assembly elections alone, then the BJP alliance will retain more of the seats it won in 2017 (325). Once again, we see that the key to defeating the BJP is a combination of two factors: an extremely high index of opposition, plus an erosion of the BJP’s vote share below what it got in 2017. However, political developments till date, and surveys of the last three months, don’t indicate either.
Looking at the 2019 results from the gains side, the BJP alliance won 21 segments it lost in 2017. It gained 10 from the SP and five from the BSP; we may read this to mean that the BSP managed to hold on to more of its core vote base more than the SP did.
At the same time, the other parties gained 61 seats from the BJP. Of these, the BSP was the biggest beneficiary of its tie-up with the SP; it gained 40 segments from the BJP, and took its tally from 19 in 2017 to 65 in 2019. This can be interpreted as being caused by a consolidation of the rank identity vote.
The SP, on the other hand, gained only 15 segments from the BJP. In fact, the bulk of these 15 gains were only courtesy of an alliance with the BSP (and peripherally the RLD). Otherwise, they could have been nearly wiped out; and indeed, their 2019 tally of 40 was seven lower than the 47 they won in 2017.
What’s interesting here is the BJP’s performance in the seats it held: its average vote share went up in 2019 by a remarkable 10 per cent in 261 of its 263 holds. It suffered a negative vote swing, and only marginal at that, in just two assembly segments – Rath (-4.5 per cent) and Robertsganj (-0.2 per cent).
An even more interesting metric is how the BJP fared in the 61 seats it lost to other parties: in 54 of these, the BJP’s average vote share actually went up by 6.5 per cent. That means the BJP gained votes even while it lost to a more unified opposition.
And in the seven seats where it suffered a negative vote swing in 2019, the figure in five of those was less than 2 per cent.
But most intriguing is the performance of the BJP in segments which were won by the SP in 2017, and retained by the SP-BSP-RLD combine in 2019, but which had a BSP candidate in 2019.
There are eleven such seats and their results are given in the table below:
We see that barring one segment, Najibabad, the BJP registered a positive vote swing. In four, this swing to the BJP was over 5 per cent; in two it was over 10 per cent, and in one, it was nearly 20 per cent. That means there were a sizeable portion of electors who had voted for the SP in the past but preferred to vote for the BJP, rather than the BSP, even though the BSP was in alliance with their own, previously-preferred SP. Now, who might those voters be?
The implications of these statistics are significant:
One, the BSP benefited far more from a tie-up with the SP in 2019, than the latter did.
Two, the SP was spared its blushes in 2019 only because it contested alongside the BSP (in spite of which, the SP’s star candidate Dimple Yadav lost in Kannauj).
Three, the Yadav vote, so crucial to the SP’s electoral prospects, may just have started moving towards the BJP.
Four, the consolidation of the identity vote is not enough to stop the BJP’s growth, because it is now increasingly, and consistently, attracting more votes from a broader section of society – in part due to a counter-consolidation against the identity vote, and in part, on the back of a broader, pan-national supra-caste consolidation.
This is the quandary the SP is in, as it gears up for the 2022 election. If it doesn’t ally with the BSP, it will be swamped by the BJP and a low index of opposition unity. If it does, it risks allowing the BSP to benefit more than the SP would, and at the SP’s cost. Either way, the risk of the SP starting to progressively lose parts of its core Yadav vote to the BJP looms larger and larger.
In the next piece of this series, our focus will be on vote swings, consolidations, counter-consolidations, and the changing socio-political dynamics of Uttar Pradesh.
(All electoral data from ECI website.)
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