BJP’s resounding victory in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2022 has given birth to a new brand of politics weaving social welfarism and developmentalism propelling two new classes of voters.
As the results of assembly elections were announced on 10th March, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retained all four states that it held power in, ie, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. Although its stellar performance in defending in all four states where it was in power was remarkable, what actually stole the show was BJP’s landslide victory in the politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh where it returned to power with two third majority creating a history after 37 years when an incumbent party was voted back to power with a higher vote share in the state. BJP led alliance has won 273 seats with a vote share of 42 percent. As the dust settles on the prestigious electoral battle in the Hindi heartland state of UP, let us try to decode what exactly worked for the BJP.
Yogi Adityanath’s impressive track record on law and order:
Uttar Pradesh was once known to be notoriously infamous for high crime rate, Mafia Raj, political patronization of criminals and extreme insecurity. Extortions, murders, rapes, kidnappings, communal riots had become every day affairs. People feared stepping out of their homes after dusk. But came a Yogi in 2017, things changed drastically. Most dreaded criminals and gangsters were either served an ultimatum to mend their ways or to leave the state.Yogi took a tough stand on criminals. Those who didn’t were killed in police encounters or put behind bars including some of the senior political leaders who were involved in wrong doings and criminal activities. People of UP heaved a sigh of relief with the improvement in the law and order system. Businessmen are able carry out their businesses without the fear of extortion, women could step out of their homes even at night without any fear. This assurance of safety turned out to be one of the chief electoral planks for the Yogi Adityanath led BJP government for which it earned accolades of voters as well as won their trust in terms of votes. Not even a single instance of communal riot reported in last five years. A NCRB report published in September 2021 states that crime rate in UP is at the lowest since 2013.
From Ulta Pradesh to Uttam Pradesh : Transforming the face of UP
Beset by poor law and order, a perpetual anarchy and communal riots that had vitiated the atmosphere of UP, development had taken a back seat in the state. Investors feared investing in UP, there was extreme underdevelopment in the state and a complete breakdown of governance and administrative machinery. People from other states used to taunt UP as ‘’Ulta Pradesh’’. With Yogi’s take over as the Chief Minister of India’s most populous state, UP’s fortunes began changing. With a sound law and order, efforts were directed at image makeover of the state to woo industries and investments. Many ambitious infrastructural projects were undertaken like construction of Poorvanchal Expressway, Prayagraj – Varanasi Highway ,Delhi – Meerut Expressway, laying the foundation for Ganga Expressway, new airports at Kushinagar and Jewar, defence corridor in Bundelkhand, irrigation and potable water supply to the parched Bundelkhand, construction of many new medical colleges to improve health care, reopening of Fertilizer Plant and AIIMS in Gorakhpur, revamping government schools under Kayakalp Yojana, boosting manufacturing through schemes like One District One Product (ODOP). UP is right now the second largest economy of India in terms of GDP after Maharashtra, up from eight place in 2013-14, ranks second in Ease of Doing Business. UP has also doubled its per capita income which is a significant achievement, all within a span of just five years. Although the state has a long way to go in terms of improving key social indicators, NITI Aayog reports suggest UP is amongst the state which has shown significant improvements compared with its performance in previous years. Its quite discernible why Yogi became the first CM to come back to power in the state.
Emphasis on Social Welfare schemes and delivery of social goods
This is an era of politics of performance. You perform, you win, you don’t, you lose. BJP governments, both at the Centre and at the state emphasized on an elaborate policy of social welfare schemes reaching at the doorsteps of the poorest and the most disadvantaged sections of the society. Whether its about providing free ration to the 15 crore poor families in the state, construction of houses for poor, free coaching under CM Abhyudaya Yojana, gas cylinders or direct cash transfer and other social benefits, the schemes have resonated well among these voters who wanted this government to stay. Also these schemes have reached to all the eligible beneficiaries without any discrimination or preferential treatment unlike earlier regimes were most of the cream was cornered by a particular caste and religion who owed their allegiance to the ruling party then. Hence, Ration, Shashan and Prashashan were the trio which voted back the Yogi Adityanath government.
Noted Political Scientist Atul Kohli in his 2012 book, ‘Poverty and Plenty in India’ had categorized Indian states into three categories based on their level of development and governance models as Developmental, Social Democratic and Neopatrimonial. States like UP and Bihar fell in the category of Neopatrimonial where political process was dominated by patron client networks, feudalistic social character and caste based political entities leaving little scope for democratization of development. But now we can say UP has began a nascent transition towards a genuine developmental state undermining traditional political cultures based on patron client networks and manifesting a genuine quest for power to transform itself.
Emergence of two new class of voters : A case study for students of Political Science
One of the takeaways of UP elections is the emergence of two new categories of voting class who have been the much heard about term in mainstream media, ie the ‘’silent voters’’. It is the salience of this silence which stormed BJP to power in Lucknow on 10th March 2022. They were the ‘Labharti Varg’ or the beneficiaries and Women voters who stood rock solid behind Modi – Yogi duo.
- Labharti Varg – These people were the ones who have been the prime beneficiaries of the expansive social welfare schemes of the BJP government. They belonged to different castes and religions, yet when it came to chosing their government they defied their traditional political loyalties and party affiliations and voted for BJP. This is evident from the caste wise analysis of voting pattern where we see a significant chunk of Jatavs who are considered to be the core voters of Maywati led BSP have shifted to BJP. Also a large number of non Yadav OBCs and numerous other sub castes have voted for BJP enbloc. Hence, along with Ration, Shashan and Prashashan, Representation also adds to BJP’s winning streak. This formidable social coalition was the mainstay of BJP’s sheer political dominance in this election. As opposed to opposition Samajwadi Party’s political rhetoric on forging a broader social coalition of Lohiaites and Ambedkarties ( knitting non Yadav OBCs and Dalits along with Yadavs), BJP’s social engineering rested on its proven record of delivery and social security. This is a new churn in UP’s politics where traditionally political competition has rested on mobilization on caste and religious lines. This shows that inclusive development (Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas) has the potential to upset conventional political equations and trump ascriptive identity politics and create room for a positive agenda driven politics. Brute caste arithmetic can be undone by this new class of beneficiary voters.
- Women Voters – That women voters play a key role in determining electoral outcomes has been evident in elections to various state assemblies in recent past but Uttar Pradesh elections has decisively established fact. As per the data by Axis – My India exit polls, 48 percent women voters voted for BJP whereas only 32 percent women voted for SP. Thus, BJP enjoyed a clear 16 percent advantage over its rival when it came to women support. Clearly, women are the major beneficiaries of various social schemes which created a sense of goodwill for BJP among them. The biggest factor however was the law and order and safety. This was a common refrain that reverberated across the length and breadth of UP and women cutting across castes and regions were quite vocal about it. They were firm on electing the government which guaranteed their safety and security in contrast to the previous regime which was voted out of power for its abysmal track record on law and order among other failures. Mahila – Yojana (M-Y) seems to be the new acronym in UP politics replacing the older M-Y , ie the Muslims and Yadavs who form the core votebank of Samajwadi Party in the state.
Here in lies a lesson – this is perhaps the emergence of women as an independent, autonomous political force capable of making electoral choices on the issues which affect their lives in a major way. This is a welcome step in Indian Politics and provides a gendered perspective of electoral politics which otherwise gets obscured by the high decibel campaigning on various issues. This would push the political parties for ceding more space to women candidates in elections , governments to make more women centric policies and facilitate an enabling environment for unleashing the creative potential of our womenfolk. This could be a major victory for Naari Shakti in India by mainstreaming their presence on the political firmament of the country.
UP has chosen its government, in a way its future. But what it has taught us is the articulation of a new grammar of politics which is foregrounded in the politics of performance and good governance based on merit, aspirations of masses and inclusivity. A new UP model is taking shape which is slowly rising above narrow identity politics to embrace a more emancipatory and empowering polity and the electorate of the state has proved this not once but four times in a row, in 2014, 2017, 2019 and yet again in 2022. A saffron clad Monk has proved his worth at the hustings despite all odds stacked against him. Cynics and naysayers can trivialize the outcome of UP elections at the altar of their ideological prejudices against BJP or Yogi Adityanath but the reality is Uttar Pradesh is reckoning with a new brand of politics . Future will of course determine how far this sustains and is replicable in other states with similar socio economic conditions.