Behind the Publicity Smog: Significant Losses for BJP in UP Since Assembly Polls
NEW DELHI: Amid the fierce battle for Gujarat, the results in the UP local bodies' elections have come as a shot in the arm for the BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called these results as the victory of ‘development’. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley declared that the results prove support to the GST implementation just as the last assembly elections in UP had shown public support to the demonetisation of currency.
Amit Shah congratulated UP Chief Minister while Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani saw the victory in Amethi as the confirmation that Rahul Gandhi is wasting time in Gujarat campaigning for assembly elections. Newspapers and TV channels have been screaming about the massive victory of BJP in UP local body elections. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that these elections are an eye opener for the people who are comparing it to the Gujarat Assembly Elections.
Yes, it is the time people open their eyes and see what these results actually mean.
The non-stop BJP election machinery and its publicity arm have claimed that these elections in UP show what is in store for the opposition in Gujarat. As political observers have pointed out, in the Gujarat Election, BJP is trying its best to turn the agenda of the elections away from development (or lack of it) towards polarising factors. It is important thus to penetrate the thick smog of publicity and hyperbolic claims about UP Local body elections and get a more objective picture of the reality.
However, a closer look reveals a different story. Indeed, in the Municipal Corporations, BJP notched up an impressive victory, the story is quite different. The results unambiguously show that BJP has lost significant ground in UP. Thought, the details of vote share are yet to come out, a quick analysis of the result brings out the obvious. Let us first see the Local Body Election results-
UP Local Body Election Results
Comparing it with the figures for Assembly Election 2017 results could provide us the perspective on it.
UP Assembly Elections (2017) final Tally-
Total Seats BJP+ SP Congress BSP Others 403 324 (80.6%) 47 (11%) 8 (.01%) 19 (.04%) 5 (.01%)
Clearly, the claim that BJP has swept the Local Body elections is far off the mark if you look at the results of Municipal Boards (Nagar Palika) and Nagar Panchayat results. What are the salient conclusions that can be drawn from these results-
- BJP has retained, indeed increased its hold over larger cities and towns of Uttar Pradesh. In 2012, out of 12 Municipal corporations, BJP had won 10. Now with 4 additional Municipal Corporations it has increased its tally to 14.
- In the smaller cities performance of BJP is far from spectacular. In Municipal Boards, BJP could get only about one third of the seats (67 out of 193).
- In the Nagar Panchayats, the smallest sized urban areas, the performance of BJP is even worse. It got less than 25 percent of the seats (100/437).
- Except for Municipal Corporation, SP continues to be the second largest force in UP with 45 seats in Municipal Boards and 83 seats in Nagar Panchayats.
- BSP is not a spent force. It is showing signs of revival in UP. In Municipal Corporation Elections, it got 2 seats while in Nagar Palika and Nagar Panchayat elections, it showed a good performance notching 28 and 45 seats respectively.
- The bad run of Congress continues. It is at the third place in all the three levels of Local Body elections.
- Congress has lost in its home borough of Amethi. Similarly, BJP has lost the Gorakhpur seat to an independent.
- The ‘others’ got a large number of seat in these elections which underlie the fact that individuals and local factors played a big role in the victory of candidates.
- Going by the logic of power, a number of these ‘others’ could switch their loyalty to the BJP in due course but that does not mean any significant point in terms of people’s support to the BJP.
- Compared to the 2017 UP assembly elections, BJP has lost a significant ground in UP. A comparison with Assembly Election figure would bring that out
The results have also to be seen against serious complaints about the preparation of the electoral rolls in UP for these elections. In many places, cases of discrepancy have been found. Some persons related to the preparation of electoral rolls have been suspended too when many people complained that there names have been deleted from the electoral rolls. At the same time, the allegations about mal-functioning of the EVM has also put a serious question mark on the use of EVMs in the elections. On social media there is a flurry of posts which claim that BJP has registered massive victories in the Municipal Corporation Election where EVMs were used.
It is now high time that the Election Commission takes up the issue of EVM tampering not as a technical issue but something that reflects people’s perception about conduct of free and fair elections. After all, in democracy, the highest constitutional bodies like EC and Supreme Court must also be sensitive to public perception about their functioning.