It is election season once again. But what makes these elections in five states distinct from others is that these just might draft the future course of Indian politics, and also set the tone for the general elections to be held in 2024.
The stakes are really high, especially for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), given that it is seeking a second term in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India, and which holds the key to power at the Centre.
With 80 seats out of the 543 in Lok Sabha, 403 in the Assembly, and 31 of the 245 in Rajya Sabha, besides a 100-member Legislative Council, Uttar Pradesh with its over 15 crore voters carries more weight than any other state in the country’s politics. Yogi Adityanath, who took oath as Chief Minister on March 19, 2017, will be the third (after Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati) to complete their five-year tenure.
The BJP-led alliance in Uttar Pradesh is projected to win 229 seats in the Assembly elections. As per the ABP-CVOTER Battle for the States survey.
The numbers are as many as 96 less than the 2017 figures, but will still give the BJP a comfortable simple majority in the 403-seat Uttar Pradesh Assembly, as per the survey.
The Samajwadi Party-led alliance is projected to win 151 seats, a big jump of 103 seats compared to the 2017 results. But it is still far away from the majority.
The sample size for the survey was 61,802 across 403 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh.
The Samajwadi Party alliance led by Akhilesh Yadav has made a remarkable recovery, from an actual of 23.6 per cent vote share in the 2017 elections to a projected 33.5 per cent vote share, as per the latest opinion poll numbers made available on January 6.
The tracker also exposes the upper circuit that the SP alliance has been unable to breach. In their best possible upswing, they could not breach the 35 per cent mark, which is critical to bring the BJP down.
It seems the swing from BSP to SP+ has saturated and now Akhilesh Yadav will have to work on the 7 per cent odd votes that are parked with Congress to swing towards SP+ if he wishes to breach the 35 per cent-mark.
The BJP, at projected vote share of 41.5 per cent, seems to have maintained its vote share of 41 per cent secured in the 2017 Assembly elections even in the latest projections.
The worst seems to be over for the BJP as it trimmed and capped its decline at 40 per cent vote share.
It is to be seen how many non-performing MLAs are denied tickets because maximum anti-incumbency is working against the sitting MLAs in Uttar Pradesh. Add to this the campaign of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the BJP seems to be on the path of recovery at the moment.
Incumbent Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath leads the pack with 43 per cent of voters preferring him as the CM, while Akhilesh Yadav gets the support of 34 per cent of the voters. Former Chief Minister Mayawati trails way behind with 14 per cent, while Priyanka Gandhi manages a little more than 3 per cent.
The virtual absence of Mayawati and the BSP from being a serious contender in the race is startling for her supporters. The BSP vote share is projected to fall from 22.2 per cent in 2017 to a projected 12.9 per cent in the 2022 elections. If these projections hold, the BSP seems headed for a terminal decline in Uttar Pradesh.
This has made the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections a two-horse race between Yogi Adityanath and Akhilesh Yadav. When the latter started gathering momentum in late 2021 and went on to stitch alliances with smaller parties, it looked like Uttar Pradesh could be headed for a close contest. There was a time when the vote share difference between the two fell to just about 6 per cent, but the Akhilesh juggernaut seems to have failed to gain more pace.
One reason for this could be what analysts and pundits were saying about the impact of the farmers’ agitation on BJP’s fortunes, particularly in western UP. There were reports from the ground that the Jats and the Muslims could bury the memories of the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots and vote for the SP-RLD combine. The poll tracker shows that the projected vote share of BJP in the region is 41.2 per cent, far ahead of the projected 33 per cent for the SP-RLD combine.
Even in Purvanchal, considered to be a region where the BJP seemed vulnerable, the SP alliance has made considerable inroads; but not enough perhaps to dislodge the BJP.
As per the latest projections, the BJP gets a vote share of 40 per cent while the SP alliance gets a little more than 35 per cent. In the Awadh region of course, the BJP is more than 10 per cent ahead of the SP alliance.
Despite her brave efforts and imaginative slogans like ‘Ladki Hoon, Lad Sakti Hoon’, along with myriad promises of welfare schemes, Priyanka Gandhi doesn’t seem to be able to stop the terminal decline of the Congress in the state. The Congress vote share is projected to increase marginally, while the number of seats could decline from 7 in 2017 to 5 this time.