Abdul Bari Masoud presents an analysis of the results of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and other four States, and concludes that it is not a triumph of Hindutva in UP.
The BJP has won elections in Uttar Pradesh for the second time in a row, as well as in Uttarakhand, Goa, and Manipur. Punjab went to Aam Aadmi Party, uprooting the Congress from power in a landslide win. The people of Punjab rejected the two established parties, the Congress and the Akali Dal, in a decisive vote.
However, BJP’s ‘unexpected win’ has been tainted by accusations of massive rigging. Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee termed the BJP’s win as ‘a machinery mandate’. She accused the BJP of using “election apparatus, federal agencies, and central forces” to win the UP elections. She also called for a forensic examination of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in the UP polls.
Her accusation gained traction after a leaked audio recording was shared on social media, supposedly containing a conversation between two people, one of whom is a polling official, who stated that the EVMs in the polling booth where he was stationed in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghazipur district had been ‘modified’.
Taking note of the purported audio clip circulating on the social media, Samajwadi Party (SP) President Akhilesh Yadav sought safety of the said poll official. He urged the Supreme Court and the President to ensure security of the polling officer, who could be heard saying in the audio clip that he had… been threatened by a police official, when he objected to the changing of the EVMs at his polling booth. “The concerned person must be provided security….the life of a person is more important to us than forming a government,” Akhilesh said in a tweet.
Akhilesh claimed that officials in several districts had been ‘tampering’ with EVMs on the orders of a top bureaucrat, who was Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s principal secretary a day after the last phase of election. SP workers had apprehended two trucks laden with EVMs near Pahadia Mandi in Varanasi a day before counting.
There is no denying that the unexpected and perplexing election results have also taken voters by surprise as they were confident about a change of guard in UP.
“I’m not convinced by the election results as the public was furious with the BJP, and its defeat was imminent. To win the elections, the BJP must have done something fishy and I’m not sure how they (BJP) managed to win.” This was 25-year-old Pawan Kashyap’s reactions whose journalist brother Raman Kashyap was slain along with four protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri last year during a protest march against three disputed farm laws. The SUV car of Union Minister Teni Mishra’s son allegedly ran them over.
HOW PARTIES FARED
BJP won 250 seats down by 57 seats as it had won 325 seats along with its allies in the 2017 elections. Samajwadi Party (SP) got 111 seats up by 64 seats. It secured the highest percentage of votes (32%), up from 21.8% in 2017 since it came into being. In 2012, when it won 224 seats, it had got just 29.15% votes.
That means that the Muslims-Yadavs combination did vote for SP in considerable numbers. Its partner RLD got 3.4% votes with 8 seats and another ally SBSP secured 6 seats. The SP vote share has increased by 11%. So, this discards the theory that Asaduddin Owasi’s MIM has cut the vote share of the SP.
What has made a difference is that the BJP vote share has increased from 39.67% in 2017 to 41.6% in 2022.
The irony is that when they got 39.67% votes, they won 312 seats; and when they got 41.6% votes, they won fewer, that is 270 seats.
What has made a difference is the non-performance of Congress and the BSP.
Congress got 2.38% votes against 6.25% in 2017, with two seats, its worst-ever showing in UP, while the Aam Aadmi Party devastated it in Punjab. In Goa, the hopes of deposing the BJP, which had been fighting an anti-incumbency campaign for ten years, were dashed. The identical wreck and ruins story may be found in Uttarakhand and Manipur.
The same was the story of the BSP which got 12.74% votes against 22.23% in 2017 with a single seat. Once a ruling party, the BSP has the worst-ever performance. However, Mayawati, the former chief minister of UP and the leader of the BSP, criticised the ‘casteist media’ for alienating Muslims by portraying her party as the “B squad of the BJP”.
NOT HINDUTVA TRIUMPH
The BJP’s success is being attributed to Hindutva by the servile media and their political masters, but this is only partially true because a number of factors contributed to the ‘victory’.
The First Past the Post system is unsuitable for Indian societal conditions, and it can be readily exploited by a party or individual with a lot of money, muscle and media clout.
Although the BJP received roughly 41% of votes, its percentage of the entire electorate is only about 27%. This is due to the fact that roughly 40% of people did not vote at all. As a result, BJP supporters cannot be considered a majority in this enormous state with 15 core voters and a population of 24 crore.
Apart from that, it should be mentioned that the BJP’s five-year reign, led by Yogi Adityanath, has built a significant dominance of the Hindutva discourse. This is seen in the marginalisation of Muslims, their stigmatisation, and a corresponding sense of Hindu superiority among significant segments of the population.
The Ram Temple celebrations, the alleged renovation of 700 temples, the construction of the Kashi-Vishwanath corridor in Varanasi, the renaming of places, and, most importantly, the continuous RSS/BJP propaganda against Muslims, carried out insidiously on every occasion, has been a deliberate path chosen by the BJP under Yogi.
It is a well-known fact that the BJP spent a massive sum of money in these elections, which is unknown. Workers were provided e-shram relief, as well as PM Kisan’s instalment. Advertising (digital, outdoor, electronic, and print media) has been ongoing for the past four months, if not longer. PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President JP Nadda, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and others crisscrossed the state, addressing hundreds of rallies while bouncing around in helicopters. Money allegedly poured like water in the villages, according to unsubstantiated reports. It is a cruel fact that purchasing 5 to 10 per cent votes is not a big deal in any election.
Observers believe that one segment of Dalits stayed with the BJP, as they had previously, while the BSP’s 12% vote share is primarily from the Jatav community, which is the largest Dalit population in UP. However, the results of 84 seats designated for Scheduled Castes and two seats allocated for Scheduled Tribes provide another signal. In 2017, the BJP received over 42% of the vote in these 86 seats, winning 73 of them. The SP received 23% of the vote, while the BSP received 24%. The BJP’s vote share fell to 39% this time, but it gained 21 seats, bringing its total to 52. The SP’s vote share grew to 30%, and its seats increased from 10 to 23. The BSP’s vote percentage has decreased to 14%.
If the reserved seats electorate is used as a proxy for their voting, this plainly reveals that a significant number of Dalits abandoned the BJP and switched over to the SP.
DISUNITY AMONG OPPOSITION PARTIES
The opposition’s greatest handicap or shortcoming was that they failed to put up a broad-based alliance as dozens of seats went into the kitty of BJP due to the split of secular votes. The opposition parties had been quiescent for the past five years, especially after the SP-BSP alliance’s devastating defeat in the 2019 general elections. Although the Priyanka Gandhi-led Congress was active in its own right, its roots in the public sphere are now so shaky that they just have celebrity value and no political momentum. When the Yogi government initiated an offensive against Muslims and other secular individuals who were challenging the citizenship bill, these parties did almost little.
Akhilesh Yadav took it for granted that people would support him and his party, the SP, even at election rallies. He never criticised the BJP/RSS for its divisive and poison-spreading activities, nor did he spoke up against the anti-people policies of the government. It is said Yadav spoke at a total of 131 rallies.
IMPACT OF WELFARE SCHEMES
This is a narrative propagated by both the BJP and the media. Free food grain provided by the Central plan to help people get through the pandemic, as well as extra supplies like cooking oil provided by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, were crucial in providing support to an estimated 14 crore people.
There is some truth in this, but the logic is flawed. If people exclusively vote on topics like monetary assistance and relief, severe unemployment and sky-high prices for basic commodities would inevitably erode this goodwill.
Also, if this was the main cause, why did the BJP lose over 50 seats from the previous election? Why did the BJP’s vote share fall from 46% in 2017 to 39% this time, in 40 seats in Southeast UP; it fell from 39% to 34% in Northeast UP. If social programmes had won the election, the BJP would have swept these impoverished areas.
THE MUSLIM FACTOR
The Muslim voters overwhelmingly voted for the SP-led alliance. BJP did not let its polarising tactics, even CM Adityanath in his scores of addresses deliberately worked to polarise the voters along Hindu-Muslim lines. His 80-20 jibe is well-known.
In spite of all this, the Muslim representation in the new legislative assembly has slightly improved from 27 to 34 MLAs.
Owasi’s AMIM came under sharp criticism from several quarters for the defeat of the SP alliance. But his party got just 0.47% votes with not even a single seat. Senior journalist Iftikhar Gilani, who did some math on the electoral results, told Radiance that in no way MIM has caused damage to secular candidates. “I don’t think Owaisi could have cut the votes of SP and BSP,” he said.
Results of UP and other states are seen as a consolidation of BJP and a wakeup call for the secular parties which remain confused in the face of Hindutva electoral tactics, relying on soft-Hindutva and half-baked concepts of secularism. They have failed to recognise and address the seriousness of the situation, in which communal polarisation, hostility, and genocidal threats are posing a major threat to the country’s existence.