Time and again Uttar Pradesh (UP) has proved its prowess in changing the course of national politics. The key to the political importance of UP is in the number 80, which is the largest convoy of legislatures representing the state in the national parliament.

In the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, the mostly illiterate and impoverished population of UP decided to downsize the seemingly invincible ruling party, the only way it knows how to.

Voters had patiently suffered five years of this government to cast its verdict. Braving near dehydration and bad weather when temperatures had soared up to 50 degree Celsius and with the mere flick of a finger support for the ruling party was reduced from 71 seats out of 80 won in 2014 and 62 in 2019, to 33 seats this time round.

By doing so, the country’s most backward state has succeeded in preventing the government from enjoying a two thirds majority in order to remain in power for a third term. This simple act of the voter has contributed to hopefully humbling the haughty double engine government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi, and in Lucknow.

Here the majority population of 25 crore people continues to battle homelessness, ill health, illiteracy and unemployment and the collective will is clearly for a prime minister who will add a little more value to their miserable existence. The voters are in no mood this season to believe in promises made to them by any god king, promising them abundance in the future or in some after-life.

This reason alone is not enough for the BJP to understand its near rout in UP. Instead, the party has summoned its state president Chaudhary Bhupendra Singh from Lucknow to Delhi to find out more about its poor performance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

The party is perhaps in search of a scapegoat. Is the blame for the poor performance of the BJP in UP expected to fall upon UP Chief Minister (CM) Adityanath alone, is the question.

The Charismatic Chief Minister

The CM of UP is a charismatic personality. He was chosen head of the state after the 2017 assembly elections mainly for his aggressive politics packaged in religiosity. The planners and plotters had supported the CM also as a strategy to neutralise the all-pervasive popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at that time.

With Modi in Delhi and Adityanath in Lucknow the 2019 Lok Sabha elections had seemed like an easy win for the BJP also in 2024. The 2022 state assembly elections had been a cakewalk for the CM who easily won a second term after 2017.

However, the high and mighty did not get a whiff of the wind that decided to blow in a different direction this election. The political climate in UP has changed so much that Adityanath’s very future is at stake.

The defeat of the BJP in UP by the Congress and Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance led by Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav has incensed ruling party satraps. How did the two ‘shahzade’ (princes) get this far, is the question in the BJP camp even as hostility between Lucknow’s CM and the powerful Gujarat Lobby in Delhi intensifies.

According to analysts in Lucknow the collective eyes of the BJP high command are on the CM. The million dollar question is whether the CM will be asked to step down after the swearing in of Narendra Modi as PM for a third term? Or will the coalition government that Modi is expected to head in the future prevent him from taking any extreme action against the very popular CM of UP?

Will the CM, the star campaigner of the ruling party, not be in charge of UP in the state Assembly elections in 2027? This is a scenario hard to imagine at the moment.

On the other hand will the CM be able to defend himself against accusations that he is responsible for the poor performance of the ruling party in key constituencies like Ayodhya, Chitrakoot and Prayagraj all geographically associated with Lord Rama?

Adityanath was seen in the forefront of hundreds of public meetings and road shows during the election campaign. The CM helped to save Gorakhpur and Gonda from the opposition parties. He had camped in Gorakhpur, his home town for days on end. Despite his efforts, the ruling party lost key constituencies like Chandauli, Ghazipur and Jaunpur in the east and Rae Bareili and Amethi in the heart of UP.

Talk to people in the CM’s camp and they blame the selection of contestants in UP. The list of candidates submitted by Adityanath was overruled by the party and it is mostly party candidates suffering anti-incumbency that are responsible for the poor performance of the BJP. Not Adityanath, insist the supporters of the CM.

Adityanath was against the support given to politicians like the party hopper and Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) chief Om Prakash Rajbhar who failed to collect backward caste votes for the ruling party.

Despite having followed a shrill Hindutva election campaign, fingers continue to be pointed at the CM for the tightrope win by a reduced margin for Modi in Varanasi, the holiest of all cities not only in UP but in the country?

Mandal Not Kamandal

While campaigning both the CM and the PM had vied with each other in projecting themselves as more religious than the other, mocking and picking on religious minorities. Adityanath said that if the Congress or the SP comes to power Muslim Personal Law will be imposed, making even country cousins burst into laughter.

The fact of the matter is that this time round the voters had little stomach for more kamandal (religion). What made more sense in UP was to unitedly vote in the name of Mandal (caste) for a change.

The main reason for the veteran Lallu Singh to have lost the holy city of Ayodhya was his desire for more than 400 seats for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections so that the party could change the Constitution of India.

Having heard that the Dalit, Backward Castes and Muslims unitedly voted against the ruling party, in order to safeguard the Constitution.

The Only Regret

The one regret which supporters of the opposition parties in UP have expressed over and over again is that Priyanka Gandhi did not contest from Varanasi. Would the Congress Secretary have defeated the PM? Why not, counter question her Banarsi fans.