Yogi Adityanath on Thursday became the first chief minister to retain power in Uttar Pradesh since the 1985 assembly elections. Back then, Congress’s ND Tiwari fought and won the polls, holding on to the CM’s chair.
Additionally, Yogi Adityanath is the only chief minister of the state with a full five years in the office to win the subsequent election and retain it.
This is really a historic achievement in a state that has seen 21 CMs in the last 70 years. But how did it become possible?
Was Yogi facing a pro-incumbency sentiment in the state and the criticism of mismanaging the Covid second wave was just political opportunism of rivals?
Or was his re-election pushed by the most visible factor in the state – Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav again fighting polls without much active support from his father Mulayam Singh Yadav?
GOVERNANCE THE BACKBONE
The administration of the state faced criticism for mishandling the second wave of the pandemic. It was combined with two other big issues that could have easily thwarted the BJP’s chances in this assembly election – unemployment, and farmers’ protest over three agricultural laws.
But Yogi Adityanath’s administration decided to overcome the criticism through its performance only, as suggested by the data available. And the image of the SP being a party supporting ‘gunda’ and ‘mafia’ elements only further added ammunition to the BJP’s election campaign.
The Yogi administration ensured that the effects of the social welfare schemes run by the BJP-led Centre as well as those introduced by the state government reached the masses with uniformity. Simultaneously, it also worked to improve the worsening law and order situation in the state, something that became a big point in its favour. Also, taking back the newly introduced farm laws by the central government was also a timely step that helped the party. Yes, unemployment remains a concern but voters, it seems, decided to give the BJP a chance again – based on its better performance than previous governments – and the SP’s image.
LAW AND ORDER – TIGHTENING THE GRIP
Law and order was a big problem in the state. Uttar Pradesh, along with Bihar, is seen at the top of India’s crime index and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP was constantly called a ‘gunda’ party. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures, UP was among the states most affected by violent crimes and gender violence in India. This directly affected its social and economic indicators.
Five years down the line, Yogi seems to have done a good job on this front. Violent crime incidents like murders came down by almost 23% over the four-year period from 2016 to 2020, for which the NCRB data is available. Cases of kidnapping and abduction also saw a significant drop of 30%.
Gender violence was a curse in the state but such cases have seen a drastic decline. Rape cases came down by 43% from 2016 to 2020 and there was a big dip in attempt to rape cases as well, of 87%. Simultaneously, women felt more secure with a tough approach taken on the rowdy elements resulting in acid attack cases on women coming down by 48%.
A tightening grip on law and order and a significant reduction in gender violence incidents meant the BJP and Yogi got greater support from the women voters in the state who form 46.5% of the UP electorate.
It also meant a spontaneous improvement in social well-being and economic development that ensured better support from the overall categories of the voters.
GOODWILL FROM SOCIAL WELFARE SCHEMES
As per Uttar Pradesh’s MSME minister Sidharth Nath Singh, the state saw around 44 lakh migrant workers returning home during the first and second Covid waves. The state government launched its own ration schemes, coupled it with the Centre’s free ration scheme, and ensured the last-mile delivery to the poor people during the pandemic. Additionally, they also got Rs 1,000 a month. Coupled with the delivery of ‘pucca houses’, it created a visible difference in their lives.
With the support of silent women voters and the success of the central government’s social welfare schemes, the BJP, in fact, went a step ahead this time in its social realignment efforts – adding women voters across caste and community lines to the non-Yadav and non-Jatav voters – be in MGNREGA or pandemic support or the triple talaq law.
Around 21% of PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana and 11% of MGNREGA beneficiary allocation to fight the pandemic, around 17% of Ujjwala cylinders, 23% of PM-Kisan allocations, 17.5% of Jan-Dhan accounts, and around 18% of pucca houses – the state saw some real empowerment for the poor happening on the ground.
HIGHWAYS – MIRAGE OF DEVELOPMENT TURNED REALITY
Trains, air services, metros, all are important ingredients for social development through connectivity but roads are the final addition in this map that take the intended benefits – of empowerment, social inclusion, and economic development – to the last person of society, living in a distant, nondescript village.
But Uttar Pradesh of the yesteryear was known for poor road infrastructure.
And the current government of the state has delivered on this front – connecting villages to the cities to reduce migration, and to push up development. The state has added over 15,000 km of rural roads in the past five years.
Add to it the number of highways and expressways and we come across the possibility of rapid social and industrial development in the days ahead. The state is expected to get over 2,200 km of expressways in the next two to three years– if we count the work completed and work going on or in the planning stage – the longest in India, leading to Uttar Pradesh being now called “Expressway Pradesh” by many, in a major turnaround for it.
AKHILESH YADAV SANS MULAYAM TOUCH
Akhilesh Yadav could not adequately carry forward the legacy of his father and former chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. A mass leader and follower of Ram Manohar Lohia, Mulayam crafted the Muslim-Yadav (M-Y) voter combination in the state and ruled it thrice.
Akhilesh needed to build on it, especially after the BJP’s social realignment efforts in Uttar Pradesh under Narendra Modi since 2014, capturing non-Yadav and non-Jatav voters to make a winning combination with upper caste votes. But Akhilesh failed to capitalise on it, facing the fourth electoral loss of his political career that started as the youngest chief minister of the state at 38 years of age.
Mulayam Singh Yadav has not been a campaign face for the SP since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections owing to family differences and it has coincided with the party’s electoral losses in the 2014 and 2019 parliamentary polls and the 2017 and 2022 assembly polls, something that raises questions on Akhilesh’s political vision and his future plans.
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