By Tushar Singh
Much has been said about the UP civic polls. On one hand, the BJP claims that their emergence as the single largest party in the elections is a ratification of central moves like GST and demonetisation. Yogi Adityanath even believes that BJP is on its way towards winning all 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. On the other hand, there is the distressed opposition. The adversaries, after another defeat in the civic polls, should necessarily be in disarray. However, the opposition claims that EVMs were tampered with, which led to the BJP winning 14 out of the 16 mayoral seats. In fact, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav said on Twitter, “The BJP has only won 15% seats in ballot paper areas and 46% in EVM areas.” Moreover, the opposition also insists that the BJP has lost a fair amount of vote share in comparison to the Assembly elections held earlier this year. The jury is still out on whether the celebrations by the BJP are premature or not.
What the results mean for different parties
The BJP had taken the UP civic polls very seriously as it was held in the backdrop of rising criticism of the Central government and an emerging sensation of anti-incumbency in the nation. For the first time, the BJP had released a manifesto for the polls and given 95% tickets to full-time party workers, among whom murmurs of being ‘neglected’ were beginning to be heard. The Congress, on the other hand, put forward a lacklustre showing. With the exception of state party chief Raj Babbar, no major leader was seen campaigning. Moreover, the party lost in Amethi, the constituency of its President-to-be, Rahul Gandhi.
Samajwadi Party turned out to be the second largest political party after the BJP in the UP civic polls, despite no active participation from party chief Akhilesh Yadav in the campaigning. This is interesting given the context of the power struggle that took place just before the Assembly elections. It will be interesting to see what Mulayam Singh Yadav has to say about SP’s failure to win a single mayoral seat in the elections, and Akhilesh’s lack of enthusiasm thereof. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was the only party to win mayoral positions apart from the BJP. At least in the urban areas, the BSP seems to have been the biggest winner as it was able to secure two mayoral seats despite participating for the first time in the civic polls in 22 years. It might as well mark the return of BSP which finished a distant third in the Assembly polls in March earlier this year.
Baseless claims from the opposition
The BJP seems to be the biggest victor as it finished above other political parties in the Nigam Parishad, Nagar Palika Parishad and Nagar Panchayat polls. The opposition only seems to have two arguments to counter this claim. The first, which alleges the tampering of EVMs, is a claim regularly made, and was done as recently as in the assembly elections. Unable to furnish any proof, the opposition will only further lose the support of the people by continuing to make such baseless allegations.
The second argument is that the BJP has lost a significant share of its vote base since the assembly elections. While this claim is valid, the BJP has mostly lost its vote share in rural areas to independent candidates. Independent candidates have always dominated rural civic polls, and it is not a big surprise. If anything, the BJP won 184 of the top posts (mayors and chairpersons), accounting for a little over 28% of the total 652 posts. In 2012, the BJP had won 88 of the 629 positions of heads of civic bodies then on offer, or about 14% of the total. The recent UP civic polls should be compared to the municipal election of 2012, and not to the 2017 Assembly elections, as the factor of independent candidates is not very prominent in the latter.
The way forward
Ultimately, it can be said that while it might be an overstatement to claim that the election result marks a total public approval of government reforms and virtually ensures victory in all the all Lok Sabha seats, there is no reason why the party should not rejoice at a time when they proved wrong opinion polls showing a rising sense of anti-incumbency. As for the opposition, they must realise that to stop BJP, not only do they require the active participation of their leaders like Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, and Rahul Gandhi, but also a united opposition to end the BJP juggernaut in the populous state.
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