BJP holds against mahagathbandhan in UP; Rahul loses Amethi to Smriti Irani

The recent exit polls also predicted a BJP sweep
The duo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh (UP) Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has trumped the mahagathbandhan of regional heavyweights Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the polls.

With counting still on at the time of filing this report, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had already won 61 parliamentary seats and was leading in three others across UP, the state which elects the maximum (80) members to the Lok Sabha.

In one of the biggest upsets of the election, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was stunned in the Congress’ stronghold of Amethi by the BJP’s Smriti Irani by more than 55,000 votes. In 2014, he had defeated Irani by a narrow margin of 100,000 votes.

Those in the BJP who, at the time of going to press, had won  included Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Varanasi) and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh (Lucknow) who defeated SP candidate Poonam Sinha, the wife of BJP turncoat Shatrughan Sinha who is himself a Congress candidate from Patna Sahib. Union Minister General (Ret) V K Singh won from Ghaziabad. The mother-son duo of Menaka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi also emerged victorious from Sultanpur and Pilibhit constituencies.

In these polls, the BJP contested in 78 seats. It left the two seats of Mirzapur and Robertsganj for its junior ally, Apna Dal (S) whose candidates, Anupriya Patel and Pakaudi Lal Kol, had won from their respective seats.

Meanwhile, the mahagathbandhan won 15 seats in UP. Under the grand alliance, the SP and BSP contested 37 and 38 seats respectively, while leaving two seats for the Rashtriya Lok Dal and three for the Congress. The share of winning seats among SP and BSP stood at 5 and 10 respectively. SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and party president Akhilesh won from Mainpuri and Azamgarh constituencies respectively.

The critical takeaway of the UP results is the indication of a tactical shift in the voting pattern away from caste and community considerations. The mahagathbandhan was aimed at consolidating backward, Muslim and Dalit votes to create a winning axis against the BJP.

In contrast, the BJP focused on Modi, nationalism and the sabka saath, sabka vikas mantra of taking all communities together without special consideration towards a particular caste or section of society. This appeared to have delivered the goods for the party.

The Congress fielded candidates in nearly 70 seats but could win only in Rae Bareli where United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was in fray. The Congress’ game plan to galvanise its cadres by deploying Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia to manage the campaign failed to create any chemistry with the voters. The comatose party organisational structure in UP did the rest.

The exit polls also predicted a BJP sweep although a couple of pollsters also forecast the consolidation of votes by the mahagathanbhan in UP which had elected 73 members for the National Democratic Alliance in 2014.

Meanwhile, the election in the state sprung other surprises, perhaps too many, for the Congress and the mahagathbandhan. For example, Akshay Yadav, the son of SP General Secretary Ram Gopal Yadav, lost to BJP’s Chandra Sen Jadaon in Firozabad seat. In Badaun, SP President Akhilesh Yadav’s cousin, Dharmendra Yadav, lost to BJP nominee Sanghmitra Maurya, the daughter of UP minister and BSP turncoat Swami Prasad Maurya. Similarly, UP Congress President Raj Babbar and former Union minister Jitin Prasad lost in Fatehpur Sikri and Dhaurhara seats, respectively. Former union ministers Salman Khurshid and R P N Singh lost from Farrukhabad and Kushinagar, respectively.

The SP had some shocks too. The SP President’s wife Dimple Yadav was defeated by BJP’s Subrat Pathak in Kannuj. SP’s Muslim face and former UP minister Mohd Azam Khan won in Rampur by defeating BJP nominee and party turncoat Jaya Prada.

Meanwhile, Bhojpuri cinema star and BJP candidate Ravi Kishan scored a big win in Gorakhpur, the turf of Adityanath. The seat had gone to the combined Opposition candidate Praveen Nishad in the bypolls. Hema Malini won from Mathura.

Meanwhile, the virtual rout of the mahagathbandhan in UP is likely to spur a rethink by the SP and the BSP. Although the two had reiterated their commitment towards working together for the coming 2022 UP elections, the unexpected result is likely to make them re-strategise. 

In Uttarakhand, the BJP won all the five seats. The victorious candidates included Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Haridwar. Former CM and Congress leader Harish Rawat lost to the BJP’s Ajay Bhatt in Nainital.

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