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UP Bypolls Offer Preview of 2022 assembly Elections in Case Opposition Fails to Stop Anti-BJP Vote Split

Image for representation.

Image for representation.

While it already banks on a strong base of non-Yadav OBC, non-Jatav Dalits and upper castes, the ruling party can further hope to bridge the losses of any anti-incumbency and political issues like perceived annoyance of the Brahmins if it faces a splintered opposition.

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Pranshu Mishra

With just around fourteen months left for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in early 2022, the bypolls on seven seats of the Vidhan Sabha have yet again demonstrated the edge the Bharatiya Janata Party has in the state's politics. Though the results have been on expected lines with the BJP retaining its six seats, an analysis of the votes polled by various parties prove beyond doubt that a fragmented opposition cannot hope to halt the saffron victory march. A resurgent Congress and still-powerful Bahujan Samaj Party should be a further cause for concern for the Samajwadi Party, which aspires to be the primary opponent to the BJP.

In terms of numbers, the results have no major impact on the current party presence in the assembly. The BJP with more than 300 MLAs in the House of 403 will continue to hugely outnumber the opposition, but the bypolls if seen as the trailer to the mega contest of the upcoming assembly election suggest that the opposition space has seen a further split. The Congress’s creditable performance in at least two assembly constituencies should worry the Samajwadi Party.

The BSP too, despite all its perceived pro-BJP stand in the recent past, has done well on certain seats, emerging as the biggest opponent to the BJP in Bulandshahr. Clearly the SP and Congress’s efforts to project the BSP and BJP as two sides of the same coin failed to stop the split of non-BJP votes. The BSP proves it still holds ground and can also hope of Muslim support at least on the seats where it fields a candidate from the community. Its far from weakened position should be a cause for further concern for the SP and its chief Akhilesh Yadav.

CONGRESS’S RISE, SP’S NIGHTMARE?

For the Congress party, even its defeat in the bypolls have brought some satisfaction. The fact that party emerged as the biggest opponent to the BJP in two constituencies of Bangarmau in Unnao and Ghatampur in neighbouring Kanpur has surprised many. While in Bangarmau, the Congress’s Arti Vajpayee got almost forty thousand votes, the SP candidate got slightly less than thirty-six thousand votes. The BJP’s Srikant Katiyar won the seat by getting slightly more than seventy-one thousand votes.

In Ghatampur again, the larger story beyond the BJP’s victory has been the Congress’s stunning performance. Springing a surprise, the Congress polled second on the seat, followed by the BSP and then the SP. The BJP’s Upendra Nath won the seat by polling slightly above sixty-six thousand vote. The Congress’s Dr Kripashankar got around thirty-six thousand five hundred votes. In terms of percentage, the Congress got around 24 per cent votes in Ghatampur and around 23 per cent in Bangarmau.

In Bulandshahr in western UP, the Congress was again able to rub salt on the wounds of other opposition parties. The party polled far more votes than the SP-RLD joint candidate. While the BJP won the seat by polling around eighty-eight thousand votes, followed by the BSP’s around sixty-six thousand votes. The Congress polled more than ten thousand while the SP-RLD candidate could manage a little more than seven thousand votes.

BSP: STILL A FORCE TO RECKON WITH?

Despite a shrinking political space, perceived bonhomie with the BJP and a diminishing vote base, the BSP has yet again demonstrated its capacity. The party seems to have a hold not just among its core Dalit voters, the Bulandshahr results indicate that for minorities the preference will still be the BSP, depending upon the candidate. The BSP’s Md Yunus became the preferred choice for Muslims.

While Yunus polled more than sixty-six thousand votes, the joint candidate of the RLD-SP was nowhere in the contest against the BJP’s Usha Sirohi, who polled around eighty-six thousand votes.

In Naugat Sadat where both the SP and BSP had fielded Muslim candidates, the SP polled a little above seventy-one thousand votes, while the BSP got thirty-eight thousand votes. Clearly the BSP was able to split the minority vote. Had that not been the case, the SP would have won the seat, which it lost to the BJP by around sixteen thousand votes.

The two results reflect the larger scenario of how Muslim voters can behave on the bigger stage of the 2022 polls, especially with the presence of multiple candidates from the community. In the 2017 assembly polls, the BSP fielded around 100 Muslim candidates. Though the experiment failed to win seats, it was alleged that it led to a religious polarisation which went in favour of the BJP.

Beyond Bulandshahr, in Ghatampur the BSP polled around 23 per cent votes, which was slightly more than the SP's haul. In Tundla it got 22.62 per cent votes, the SP came second with a little over 30 per cent vote share while the BJP won the seat with 40.24 per cent of the total votes. The Congress didn’t contest the seat as its candidate’s nomination was cancelled.

In places like Deoria, Naugav Saat and Bangarmau too the BSP got 10 to 18 per cent votes, thus playing a big part in the division of the non-BJP votes, which ultimately helped the ruling party clinch the seats.

DIVIDED OPPOSITION A BOON FOR BJP

An analysis of the votes polled by different parties in six constituencies won by the BJP show that the saffron party gained from a divided opposition. For example in the Tundla and Naugav Sadat assembly constituencies, the combined vote share of the SP and BSP is far higher than that of the BJP. In Tundla, the BJP got less than 41 per cent votes, while the combined vote of SP-BSP is above 53 per cent. In Naugav Sadat it is again around 53 per cent, compared to the BJP’s 43 per cent.

In Deoria and Bulandshahr the combined vote share of the two is almost the same as the BJP's. One can recall the electoral significance of the Mahagathbandhan of the BSP and SP, that was forged for the Lok Sabha polls last year and which was later unilaterally ended by Mayawati. Such an alliance may not have worked that well in the Lok Sabha polls but could have been a major factor in assembly elections.

In constituencies like Bangarmau and Ghatampur, where the Congress came second, the combined votes of the SP, BSP and Congress are far beyond the BJP’s. In Bangarmau the three parties together polled 53 per cent votes compared to the BJP’s 40 per cent. In Ghatampur it was around 59 per cent to the BJP’s slightly less than 39 per cent.

Only in Malhani could the Samajwadi Party prove its might. In this Yadav stronghold, the SP polled more than the combined vote share of the BSP and the BJP. SP candidate Lucky Yadav got around 36 per cent votes. His nearest rival, independent candidate Dhananjay Singh managed slightly more than 32 per cent votes.

Clearly with the opposition vote splintered, the BJP will make further gains in its politics. While it already banks on a strong base of non-Yadav OBC, non-Jatav Dalits and upper castes, it can further hope to bridge the losses of any anti-incumbency and political issues like perceived annoyance of the Brahmins through division of the anti-BJP vote. And as the bypolls indicate, this division can be two or three-way depending on the strength of the opposition parties.


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