POLITICS
23/05/2019 2:07 PM IST | Updated 23/05/2019 2:14 PM IST

In UP, BJP's Hindutva Beats SP-BSP's 'Unbeatable' Caste Combine

BJP has beaten the "unbeatable" caste combine in UP.

PUNIT PARANJPE via Getty Images

NEW DELHI—As the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) look to cross 300 of the 545 seats in Lok Sabha, based on trends, the BJP in Uttar Pradesh appears to have weathered the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party (SP-BSP) caste consolidation, which was described as “formidable” and “unbeatable.” 

A day ahead of the election results, Ashutosh Mishra, a political science professor at Lucknow University, said that the caste-combine — brought to together by Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati — did not have “chemistry,” but it had “unbeatable arithmetic.” 

The BJP’s UP performance suggests that the party appears to have changed the rules of the game in India’s most politically significant state.

Earlier today, Rajya Sabha lawmaker and senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy told HuffPost India that Hindutva, BJP’s ideology of Hindu nationalism, had beaten caste in the Lok Sabha election. 

“Hindus are rising above caste,” said the Rajya Sabha lawmaker. “The younger generation of voters is very important. They are young nationalists. They don’t care about caste.” 

Swamy attributed the BJP sweep to a Hindutva wave, not a Modi wave. 

Exit polls on 19th May had also suggested that the BJP had weathered the SP-BSP caste consolidation, which some analysts said would drastically reduce the BJP to 20-30 seats.

The BJP appears to have prevailed in UP even though the Modi government did not follow up on the party’s repeated promises of building the Ram Temple. 

Even when he visited Ayodhya earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention the Ram Temple.  

As of 1:00 pm, the Election Commission said that the BJP was leading in 58 seats, while the SP-BSP combine was ahead in 18 seats. The Congress was leading in one. 

While former Congress president Sonia Gandhi is likely to retain her seat, her son, Rahul Gandhi, and the current president of the party, was trailing by 2,000 votes against BJP’s Smriti Irani in Amethi, which has been a Gandhi family bastion for the past 40 years. 

In 2004, when Rahul Gandhi contested Amethi for the first time, he received 66% of the votes. In 2014, the first time that Irani contested against him, his vote share was reduced to 46.71% while the BJP shot up to 34.48%.

 In 2014, the BJP and its ally Apna Dal won 72 out of 80 seats, BSP finished second in 34 seats, followed by SP in 31 seats and Congress in six seats.

In 2019, the SP and BSP contested 37 and 38 seats, respectively, while their partner, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), fought three seats in western UP.

The caste combine was banking on Mayawati’s core vote, the Dalits, especially her own community of Jatav Dalits, and SP’s core vote of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), especially the Yadav community.

The SP and BSP’s mutually exclusive and loyal voters account for 21% of the voting population. In 2014, BJP pulled in 42.63% of the votes, SP (22.36%) and BSP (20%) together were a close second at 42.36%.

The BJP was banking on the dominant castes as well as non-Jatav Dalits and the non-Yadav OBCs.

It is the non-Jatav Dalits and the non-Yadav OBCs, who had moved from the BSP and SP respectively to vote for the BJP in 2014.

The success of the caste combine hinged on transferring of votes. In other words, Yadavs and OBCs voting for the BSP and the Dalits voting for the SP.

There was considerable skepticism about the Yadav vote transferring to the BSP. Analysts say that in recent years, it is the OBCs, not the dominant castes, which have committed atrocities against Dalits. 

Furthermore, Shivpal Yadav’s exit from the SP could also weaken Akhilesh Yadav in a few seats.

The Congress, meanwhile, has been reduced to a bit player in UP. 

Despite months of negotiations, the Congress was left out of the SP-BSP alliance.

The entry of Priyanka Gandhi as a Congress general secretary in charge of eastern UP has done little to improve her party’s chances in UP.

The Congress had hoped that Rahul Gandhi’s sister would make up for the shortage of party workers and the lack of a clear election plan in the state. It was also expecting to draw Brahmin, Dalit and Muslim votes, but after a promising start, Priyanka Gandhi’s campaign fizzled out.

Congress workers in UP called it a “start, stop, start, stop campaign.”