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BJP can now hasten its thrust for reforms
The spectacular victories of BJP in the UP and the Uttarakhand elections surpassed the most optimistic of predictions. After the rout in Delhi and Bihar, this victory is a huge morale booster for the party.

The battering ram that stunned the opposition

The recent round of state elections was keenly watched by political observers as well as industry leaders. For one, it was held just after the Modi government had completed half of its five year term and the results are to indicate the citizens’ reaction to government policies. 

The BJP received a jolt earlier when it suffered a big defeat in the Bihar elections in 2015, when the RLD, JDU and Congress campaigned together. It was feared that a loss in UP would force Modi  to adopt populist measures and forsake needed reforms in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Apart from the fear of losing UP, there was also the concern over BJP’s vote falling well below 30 per cent. Along with this, was the additional worry over the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) emerging the numero uno party in Punjab. 


The simple arithmetic...     

In Indian democracy, it has always been the case that when all major players, other than the dominant one ganged up together, they win. This happened in Bihar in 2015. The support for BJP and Modi in the state did not go down in 2015 from its high level in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.  But the opposition had united, and it won. This was a golden formula. The question was:  could it be repeated in UP? 

Early in the year it was believed that Mayawati’s BSP may bounce back and be at the forefront. As elections came closer, it seemed that Akhilesh Yadav’s SP was the favoured party. The anti-incumbency factor was passed off to uncle Shivpal Yadav who along with dad Mulayam broke from Akhilesh; sitting CM Akhilesh was portrayed as a good administrator whose hands were tied. Thus voters were urged to give this young and sincere person another chance to deliver! Demonetisation and the numerous stories on its ill effects seemed to convey that this alone would sink the BJP’s ship.

While a Bihar - style Mahagathbandan of all major players opposed to BJP was going to be very difficult due to the historical animosity between SP and BSP, coming together of the Congress and SP did indicate a possibility of their attaining pole position. 

As the polling day came closer, the BJP seemed to be making a comeback. Still stock Market players seemed to have reconciled to BJP losing UP. Most exit polls also predicted a hung assembly.

Thus the results came as a surprise to everyone, presumably also to BJP. The resounding victory in terms of seats (325 for BJP and allies out of 403) as well as about 40 per cent vote share for BJP was remarkable. It showed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s capability to connect with the masses and take them along even after a drastic decision on demonetisation.

Perhaps, BJP has changed the caste politics of the cow belt for ever. The resounding victory also means that in the next round of Rajya Sabha elections, the balance would shift towards NDA and the BJP will be in a much better position to elect a person of its choice as President when Pranab Mukherjee’s term ends. 

Now people can expect more fundamental, meaningful reforms. 

- Dr Rajeeva Karandikar

The author is Director, Chennai Mathematical Institute

The victories will give Modi and the BJP  an improved presence in the Rajya Sabha in 2018 where the opposition parties have been stalling bills. The advent of regional parties and their strident voices have been thwarting efforts on cooperative federalism. Of immediate importance is the clout gained by BJP in selecting a President and a Vice-President of its choice. 


High stakes...

Modi and Shah effectively  invested their energies in the campaign. The large crowds Modi addressed with such fine oratorical flourish, the long and evocative speeches he made faulting the incumbent government of Akhilesh Yadav were a repeat of his energetic campaign in 2014. The finale was witnessed at Varanasi: Modi camped in the temple city for three days;  the marathon road shows and large public meetings contributed to BJP winning all the eight assembly constituencies of Modi’s Varanasi. 

Amit Shah planned the strategy months ahead; the disciplined and extensive network of RSS, honed the arithmetic constituency-wise. While Modi concentrated on select towns and cities, Shah covered every district of this vast state. 


Hopes on lifting UP out of the BIMARU status

Mulayam Singh and Mayawati have been effectively utilising the caste calculus for long. Congress, desperate to regain a share of its past strengths in UP, joined as a junior partner of Samajwadi Party.  There were expectations of support from Muslims (who formed 19 per cent of the population) and the backward classes. Mayawati, likewise, banked on the voting strengths of Dalits and Muslims. In contrast, BJP focused on development  and pointed to the several welfare schemes introduced by the Centre – like gas connections, several women-oriented welfare schemes, housing, etc. It contrasted the weak economic growth of UP with not just Gujarat but the strident progress made by Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan that have been Bimaru companions. 

The task of managing this large state which accounts for nearly a sixth of the nation’s population, is daunting. Akhilesh did focus on infrastructure; BJP can be expected to sharpen this focus. Within UP the western region has been enjoying a much greater degree of prosperity. Agriculture, industry and services growth in this region, have been far higher than in Eastern UP. Despite the historical fame of Allahabad and Varanasi for education, Noida has a much stronger cluster of educational institutions. 


Way forward...

UP continues to be the largest producer of food- grains and sugar. BJP can be expected to focus on building on this strength through food processing industries. The Urja Ganga project will help the state catch up with the western parts on the use of natural gas. Fully conscious of the value of UP’s 80 seats for Lok Sabha in the 2019 elections, the Centre will provide a sharp focus on economic development through a slew of large public sector investments. BJP’s victory promises this and thus should be welcome. Equally welcome is the success in weaning control from regional parties that have been mostly concerned with narrow local issues. 

Demonetisation has been the boldest and the riskiest measure taken by the Central government so far. Assured of its approval by the masses, the Modi government can go ahead with more such reforms. Labour reforms, the impasse brought about by the Land Acquisition Act and more relentless assault on black money are areas that deserve the attention of Narendra Modi.  – SV

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