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In Uttar Pradesh, one big step for the BJP and a giant leap for Modi’s 2019 prospects

Uttar Pradesh-BJP-Modi
EPA/Rajat Gupta
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Published This article is more than 2 years old.

As winter turns to spring in northern India, the lotus has already bloomed in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the country’s most populous state.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by prime minister Narendra Modi, has recorded a resounding victory in UP—with a margin not seen in decades—winning 312 of the 403 seats in the state.

The win is a massive electoral validation of Modi’s demonetisation gamble last November, when 86% of India’s currency (by value) was rendered illegal overnight. Despite the botched implementation of the scheme, voters in UP still backed the party that swept the state in the 2014 general elections, putting Modi and the BJP in power in New Delhi.

In UP, the BJP campaigned without a chief ministerial candidate, instead relying on the prime minister to barnstorm across the state. Unlike Bihar in 2014, where Modi’s charisma failed to woo enough voters, the strategy has delivered the desired results in UP, often considered India’s most politically significant province. No other state sends more members to the upper or lower houses of India’s parliament.

With over 300 seats from UP in the bag now, the BJP will gain much needed strength in the Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house, where opposition parties have repeatedly combined to leave the Modi government’s legislative agenda hamstrung. Such parliamentary clout, though not expected to materialise before 2018, will come in handy as the party prepares the groundwork for the 2019 general elections, when Modi is once again likely to lead the charge.

The BJP and Modi’s ascendance in UP is in stark contrast to the plummeting fortunes of the two regional outfits, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which have dominated the state in recent years. After emerging victorious in a dramatic family feud within the SP’s ruling clan, incumbent chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, was unable to hold on to power, despite his alliance with the Congress party. The BSP and its supremo, Mayawati, also floundered, winning only 19 seats.

Seats won by major parties in UP assembly elections



The northern state of Uttarakhand, carved out of UP in 2000, voted largely along expected lines. Exit polls for this state of over 10 million had predicted a clear victory for the BJP.

The Congress party, which has been in power since 2012, had come under severe criticism for mishandling the 2013 floods in the region. Chief minister Harish Rawat himself lost in both the constituencies he contested in. In any case, since its first ever election in 2002, Uttarakhand has never voted a party back to power, something that could provide some succour the Congress party.

At 8.50pm on March 11, the BJP was either winning or leading in 57 of the state’s total 70 constituencies, while the Congress had 11 seats cornered.

Seats won by major parties in Uttarakhand assembly elections


(*2017 data include won and leading seats, updated as of 8.50pm)

Like in UP, the BJP is yet to declare a chief ministerial candidate for the state.


For the Congress, though, it hasn’t been all bad news. Led by Amarinder Singh, it won 77 of Punjab’s 117 seats, allowing it to comfortably form a government—some solace to India’s grand old party coming after a string of ghastly results at the ballot box.

The big losers in Punjab included the incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which contested in alliance with the BJP, only to lose its hold over 41 seats, and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won 20 seats. Although only a debutant in Punjab, much was expected from the AAP, which was even touted as a frontrunner at the hustings. But it was not to be.

Seats won by major parties in Punjab assembly elections



In Manipur, the Congress has finished ahead in a tightly fought contest but that isn’t the surprise. Instead, it is the BJP’s solid performance, on the back of a strong campaign, which even saw the prime minister’s participation.

The Congress won 28 seats, with the BJP second after winning 21 seats. Both parties have claimed that they will be forming the next government, but much depends on the regional parties and the upcoming horse-trading. Any dispensation needs 31 seats to rule Manipur.

The polls also saw the debut of Irom Sharmila, a human rights activist who went on a 16-year-old hunger strike against special powers granted to India’s armed forces in certain areas, including Manipur. Sharmila, who stood against incumbent chief minister, Okram Ibobi Singh, lost heavily, receiving less than 100 votes in the Thoubal constituency.

Seats won by major parties in Manipur assembly elections



Meanwhile, Goa, too, seems destined for a hung assembly. The state, with a population of 1.8 million, went to polls on Feb. 04 and saw 83% turnout. The Congress has won 17 seats, just a tad more than the BJP’s 13. Here, too, both parties have staked claim to forming the next government.

The Congress and BJP have often turned to local parties to form governments in the western coastal state. In 2002, the BJP formed the government with support from two parties, the United Goans Democratic Party and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP). In 2007, too, the Congress party took support from MGP and the Nationalist Congress Party to form the government. In 2012, however, the BJP won a clear majority under Manohar Parikkar, currently defence minister in Modi’s cabinet.

Seats won by major parties in Goa assembly elections


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