The Obvious And Not-So-Obvious: Top 10 Takeaways From Counting Day
The first five of the state elections scheduled for 2022 are over.
Here is how they could impact the country's politics in the year and beyond.
The results are here. My takeaways are below.
1. Not only is Prime Minister Narendra Modi the most popular leader in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, he is also the most — and I'm choosing the adjective carefully here — influential.
Uttarakhand was looking like a close contest until a week before polling. Today, however, it has returned a clear victory to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Note also, that this victory came with neither of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) being able to take away much of the anti-BJP vote from the Congress.
Clearly, something or someone pulled the BJP ahead in the last lap. That Prime Minister Modi can do this even in his eighth calendar year in power is a testimony to the kind of support and emotion he evokes among the electorate of Uttarakhand.
2. Yogi knows Modi's secret: there is no Hindutva without vikas.
Hindutva without political power has limited value, and there's no political power without vikas. Ergo, there is no Hindutva without vikas.
In five years, Yogi Adityanath's stature has risen from that of an MP and and an unapologetic Hindutva icon to that of a mass leader and an able administrator. If asked to describe the reason for this in one line, my answer would be: extraordinary delivery of 'ordinary' (fundamental) public goods like law and order, ration, electricity.
A voter worried about her physical security or the next meal would have no time for your cultural or civilisational narrative, even if she diligently believed in it. A voter assured of her physical security and the next meal would be the best mascot that you could get for it.
3. The sweep of the AAP, the collapse of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and the defeats of the members of the Badal clan implies that what was known as the 'Panthic' vote of the SAD has shifted to the AAP. What would be interesting to see now, is that having obtained this vote, how does AAP approach its expansion in other states, where it has a real opportunity to do so.
Remember, the Akali Dal never faced this problem because it didn't harbour any ambitions to grow beyond Punjab. But the AAP does.
4. The BSP is collapsing in Uttar Pradesh. From 22.4 per cent vote share the BSP is down to 12.7 per cent. That is a staggering loss of half the votes over a five-year period.
As things stand, the situation looks irreversible for the BSP. Its leader, Kumari Mayawati, still has her core vote bank, but that pool is getting smaller with each passing election. To add to it, the BSP supremo is hardly seen on the ground, except in mega rallies. In comparison, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav put up a good campaign and was seen in rallies, medium-sized public meetings, and even road shows.
BSP's revival in UP seems very difficult as of today.
5. And what that means, is that even without a mahagathbandhan, UP in 2024 will be a bipolar fight, much like it was in 2019 and now, in 2022.
6. The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has to decide what it stands for. Out of the 33 seats it contested in, it is on course to win only seven. Given the ground realities of the region of Uttar Pradesh the party operates in, alliance between the RLD and the BJP seems like a natural decision. But in 2021-2022, the party leadership seemed dismissive of this obvious truth.
Can the party survive another five-year period without power? Does the party leadership even want to be in government in Uttar Pradesh or at the Centre? Maybe the forthcoming months of 2022 hold the answer to that question.
7. While detailed studies on the voting choices of women and men in these elections would follow in the coming weeks and months, what can be inferred from today's numbers in at least Uttar Pradesh is that for a significant section of the women voters, voting for Prime Minister Modi has become a part of their political common sense. It is the new normal. A decision to vote for anyone but Modi has to be arrived at. A decision to vote for Modi is natural.
8. At the time of writing, Swami Prasad Maurya's political future seemed unclear at best, and bleak at worst. His crushing loss in Fazilnagar shows that last-minute switchovers are not appreciated by the voter.
9. The reverses and scares that the BJP is facing in urban Uttar Pradesh seems to suggest that middle-class urban voter has her share of complaints with the BJP. While the state administration covered all bases in protecting the most vulnerable sections of the population from the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, there is a possibility that the urban middle-class felt neglected in comparison.
10. The Congress is so irrelevant that we've come to the end of this piece and it is only now that I remembered that the party was also in the contest in the five states.
The party has taken a dangerous turn in the last two-three months. Maybe we have to wait for Rahul Gandhi's next speech in Parliament to know if the Congress has doubled down on that approach, or gone in for course correction.
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