The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has registered an unprecedented victory in Uttar Pradesh. The party has secured 312 seats in an assembly of 403 seats, completely decimating all opposition parties in India's largest state. The victory is being considered a major milestone in the BJP's path to winning the general elections in 2019. It has also reinforced belief in the "Modi wave", a phenomenon that had lost its sheen after the losses faced by the BJP in Delhi and Bihar. The real impacts of this mandate, however, are much larger.
This victory registered by the party has several effects that have the potential to define the future of politics in India.
The futility of vote bank politics
After the election results were announced, one of the first persons to react was Mayawati, the chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). She stated that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) had to be rigged because there was no way that the BJP won Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh. This reaction reveals two important impacts of the BJP's victory. Firstly, it demonstrates that Mayawati's political career has effectively ended. The party supremo is slated to lose her own Rajya Sabha seat in April 2018 after winning a paltry 19 seats in the UP elections. The party will not have the strength to survive five more years out of power, especially with Mayawati being out of a constitutional post herself.
Politics based around mathematical configurations of castes and religious vote banks might have effectively ended after this BJP landslide.
The second phenomenon that her statement reveals is that politics based around mathematical configurations of castes and religious vote banks might have effectively ended after this BJP landslide. Parties have banked upon generating enough votes from specific sections of society to win elections for a long time in India. This phenomenon is especially prevalent in state elections, where there isn't much effort by parties to appeal to the general population, with a focus instead on specific castes and religious groups. This has been the dominant strategy for both the regional parties of UP, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP). The failure of the SP-Congress combine to win even one-sixth of the seats in spite of attempts to corner the Yadav and Muslim votes, and the failure of Mayawati in consolidating even the Maha Dalit votes, is a clear indication that vote bank politics is not a strategy that can be relied upon any longer.
A blow to dynastic politics
Another major impact of the BJP victory is an unequivocal defeat of dynasty politics. These state elections have not only cemented the end of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty of the Congress party, but they have also effectively demolished India's largest political dynasty created by Mulayam Singh Yadav. The family had over 20 members in politics, including five members in the Lok Sabha, one in the Rajya Sabha, one MLA, two MLCs and several others further down the political hierarchy. To solidify his image as a man of development and to end Samajwadi Party's image of hooliganism ("gundagardi"), Akhilesh Yadav distanced himself from the family. The MLAs that followed his lead are disgruntled at their leader's decision after the crushing defeat and it is entirely possible that the family will not be able to come back together due to the ensuing power struggle. The old age of Mulayam Singh Yadav and the unassailable differences between Akhilesh Yadav and his uncle Shivpal Yadav might lead to a permanent demise of this dynasty.
A fillip to development
This victory also has the potential to yield several positive impacts in the sphere of development for the state of Uttar Pradesh and India as a whole. For the first time since the 1980s the same party is in power with full majority in the Centre and in the state of UP. This has the potential to fast track several developmental projects that have not materialised historically due to a tussle between the ruling parties at the two levels of government. If the BJP can successfully demonstrate the positive impact of having the same government rule in the Centre and in the state through rapid development in Uttar Pradesh, it will boost its prospects of forming the government in all other states that go to polls.
Bad news for coalitions and regional parties
This mandate in UP is being seen as a major predictor of the BJP's victory in the 2019 general elections. Not only does the BJP have a hold over India's largest state, the prospect of a "mahagathbandhan" challenging the party in 2019 seems unlikely. The lack of effective leadership in the Congress party to challenge Narendra Modi is evident, but the possibility of a massive coalition rising up against the BJP in 2019 was earlier a possibility. This victory ensures that India's largest state will not be a part of any such coalition, thereby making the entire idea unfeasible. With even a modicum of good governance in UP, it is unlikely that enough anti-incumbency will build up against the party in the next two years for either of the regional players to make a significant dent in the general elections. The defeat of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab, which was trying to create a narrative of being the BJP's opposition, has further strengthened the party's position for the 2019 general elections.
For the first time since the 1980s the same party is in power with full majority in the Centre and in UP. This could fast track several developmental projects...
The defeat of the entrenched regional parties in UP, combined with the rout of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab and the lacklustre performance of Shiv Sena in the BMC civic polls might also hint at a decline of regional parties across the country. The fact that regional parties are being forced to come together in order to stand a chance against BJP, like they had to do in Bihar, further illustrates their declining strength. It is too early to definitively extrapolate such a trend, but it is something that parties like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and Trinamool Congress (AITMC) in West Bengal should watch out for.
A chance to showcase good governance
Lastly, the victory in Uttar Pradesh provides BJP with an incredible opportunity to solidify its image as a pro-development party that does not tolerate corruption. In a massive country like India it is incredibly difficult to enact major reform and inertia of the nation ensures that results take a long time to show. A state like UP, which has been ruled by regional parties that had a reputation for corruption, crime and casteism is the perfect place for BJP to showcase good governance.
If the party can improve the law and order situation, prevent the systemic corruption that currently plagues all departments, ensure proper procurement at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops, curtail illegal mining and other mafias operating in the state and bring in investments into Uttar Pradesh, it will reflect immediately in a state that has been misruled for over two decades. It would also cause massive improvements for India as a whole because UP alone consists of one-sixth of India's population.
The mandate that BJP has received in India's largest state is a major victory and a major challenge. The party must dedicate itself to ensure that it accomplishing the goals that it has set for itself in Uttar Pradesh.
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Disclaimer: The author worked for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2017 Manipur Legislative Assembly Elections.