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BJP won fewer seats than 2017 but its ‘trust capital’ got a boost in UP 2022

For Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, the challenge going forward would be to combine caste-based alliance with the social alliance led by communities on the ground.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party has emerged as the ‘emperor’ in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly election.

Although the Samajwadi party led by its leader Akhilesh Yadav made it a tough contest for the ruling BJP with its own set of narratives of rising prices (mehngai), unemployment (berozgari), and government failure in handling the Covid crisis, ultimately, the BJP’s narrative of law and order (suraksha), free ration, Hindutva pride and developmental aspirations prevailed.

The decrease in the number of seats BJP won this time compared to 2017 may suggest there is slow erosion in the ‘trust capital’ that the party commands, but in the end it was this trust capital that saw it cross the finishing line. Why the people of Uttar Pradesh trusted the BJP again is a crucial and complex question. The answer lies in decoding the key narratives proposed by the BJP.


Also read: If BJP wins UP, it’s because party has effectively captured popular mindscape, not booths


BJP’s winning narratives

First, the ruling BJP through its effective delivery of various social welfare schemes such as free ration, PM Awas Yojana, pension schemes that continued during the pandemic strengthened its trust value in society. It evolved a huge group of beneficiaries, who performed as the party’s silent voters, especially women. The BJP cadres followed these beneficiaries consistently to turn their trust into vote for the party.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi still commands enormous trust value among the people in the state, which added to the overall trust capital and provided winnability to the party.

Second, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has prepared the ground for co-opting Dalits and backwards in the Hindutva fold. The politics of the Hindutva version of social engineering could not allow the fully emerged caste identity politics pushed by some OBC leaders who resigned from the BJP and joined the Samajwadi Party.

The argument of backward-Dalit dignity failed to rupture the BJP effort of restoring Hindutva dignity. The grand construction and mega renovation of Hindu temples and teerths by the BJP helped create the perception that BJP is the only party that can ‘restore’ Hindu dignity in India.

Third, the BJP election campaign was also focused on law and order, and security (suraksha). While security may not look like an emotive slogan and dominant issue like Ram Janmabhoomi, it nevertheless did wonders for the BJP in this election. This strategy worked well in mobilising people across caste and class, especially among urban middle-class women and weaker sections of society. So, it can be said that Hindutva appears to have evolved with the 2022 UP election, evoking as well erasing worries and fear of various kinds of the weaker social groups such as women and Dalits.


Also read: Assembly election results show the power of 2, plus 1 — Modi, Kejriwal and Yogi


Lesson for opposition

The BJP undoubtedly has evolved as the biggest electoral machinery in India. The way the party shifted its campaign strategy with every phase showed its powerful planning in this election. The selection of star campaigners, making popular leaders of various states as election in-charge, and carpet bombing of its cadres brought from all over the country prepared the ground for the BJP’s victory. The RSS cadres handled the election war rooms and helped the BJP in placating annoyed social communities helped check the erosion in the party’s support base.

So, the 2022 UP election is also a lesson for the opposition parties. The Samajwadi Party has clearly performed better than in 2017 and extended its social alliance by adding many OBC-MBC communities to its Muslim-Yadav vote base, but still it has a long way to go.

For Akhilesh Yadav, the challenge going forward would be to combine caste-based alliance with the social alliance led by communities on the ground.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) faced a serious loss in this election. It suffered heavy erosion in its non-Jatav Dalit base. The BSP has a serious threat and it has to restore its support base to make Dalit politics relevant in Uttar Pradesh.

The Congress under the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra raised many socially important issues related to women and youth. But the result was depressing for the party. The cadres that the Congress has evolved in this election may help the party build its organisation in the state.

The takeaway from the BJP’s victory in the 2022 UP election is that in democracy needs consistent addition to the support base to increase your vote base.

The author is Professor and Director at the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. He tweets @poetbadri. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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