The assembly election results of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur herald yet another beginning for the country. They indicate the trend of rising political consolidation in India, which has not been seen before the last few decades. This is especially the case considering that these results have come in the backdrop of the extended farmers’ protests that had continued for more than a year, especially in areas of Uttar Pradesh and Punjab and, to an extent, Uttarakhand. The results lay waste to typical assumptions about Indian political patterns, and, about power of identities and protests.
The general assumption that the party ruling at the Centre does not perform very well in states, due to the divergence between national and state level dynamic has been disproven. This has dealt a blow to the fiefdom of regional parties, which have not been able to capitalize on divisive caste-based identities. Rather, BJP’s unification of Hindutva consciousness, combined with an efficient and effective delivery of basic public services and goods, has rendered it a party of choice for most of the electorate. This rising above petty social and economic issues, about seeing motivated protests as fake, and rising above sectarian identities and looking at the larger interest signifies the maturing of Indian polity and a sharpening of Indian national consciousness.
State-wise Election Results:
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) retained power in four out of the five states that went to polls. In all these four states, the incumbent government belonged to the BJP, whereas in Punjab due to severe anti-incumbency, anger against the Centre and state-specific conditions, Aam Admi Party (AAP) was voted to power.
Uttar Pradesh: A Comprehensive Consolidation
In UP, this is the first time that the same party is forming the government after 1985, thereby indicating the comprehensiveness of the BJP victory. The BJP comfortably crossed the majority mark and even managed to increase its vote-share compared to 2017 elections, although its seat-share declined compared to 2017 elections.
|Vote share (%) 2022||Vote share (%) 2017||Seat share 2022||Seat share 2017|
Phase-wise Results of UP:
In UP, the BJP managed to retain and expand the support of its core voter base belonging to Hindu castes, women, beneficiaries of welfare schemes and even the farmers.
|Other upper castes (2%)||70||78||15||17||5||1||2||2|
|Koeri, Maurya, Kushwaha, Saini (4%)||56||64||18||22||22||4||–||2|
|Kewat, Kashyap, Mallah, Nishad (4%)||74||63||7||26||15||7||1||2|
|Other OBCs (16%)||62||66||15||23||11||4||4||3|
|Other SC (8%)||32||41||11||23||44||27||2||4|
The BJP spectacularly increased its vote-share among all castes (except Mallahs). The inroads made among traditional BSP voters – Jatav Dalits – was particularly impressive, as was the substantial rise in the party’s Jat vote-share, despite the politically-motivated farmers’ protest. Even Yadav and Muslim vote-share of the party saw a minor increase. The speculations about Brahmins and other upper castes being disgruntled with BJP were superficial, as the upper caste vote-share of the party also saw an impressive rise.
The SP’s rise in vote-share among different castes – except Jats and upper castes – was also substantive. The party could successfully improve its performance among non-Yadav OBCs and Jatav and non-Jatav Dalits. The Muslim and Yadav vote was also heavily consolidated in its favour, much more so than before. Interestingly, the community at the epicenter of farmers protests – the Jats – thoroughly rejected the SP-RLD alliance.
The BSP saw a loss among almost all castes. This election also saw its traditional Jatav and non-Jatav Dalits heavily deserting the party. The election results sound a death-knell for the BSP, while for the Congress the less spoken the better it is. The party has written its own obituary. Its performance has not gone beyond early single-digits in case of any caste, and it has lost whatever little support it had of Yadavs and Muslims as well.
Besides the caste arithmetic, the UP elections also saw the effect of choices of farmers, women, the silent beneficiaries of welfare schemes and religious consolidation having an impact on the outcomes.
|BJP+ (%)||SP+ (%)||BSP (%)|
|Farm labour (8%)||42||34||17|
Among Hindus, both BJP and SP increased their vote-share. The BJP vote-share went up from 47% in 2017 to 54% in 2022, while SP’s vote-share went up from 19% in 2017 to 26% in 2022. It was also the case that Hindu consolidation behind the BJP was far greater in constituencies with higher Muslim population, while SP performed its best among Hindus in constituencies where Muslim population was less than 10%. This shows that higher Muslim population led to greater religious polarization.
One of the key highlights of the UP election was the emergence of the silent voter that massively benefitted from the Yogi government’s and central government’s efficient delivery of welfare services.
|Schemes||% of beneficiary households|
|Subsidized ration under Public Distribution System (PDS)||60|
|Kisan Samman Nidhi for farming households||57|
|Money in bank account due to other schemes||27|
|Assistance to build houses||21|
|Waiver of bills and loans||17|
|Free/cheap water and electricity||16|
|Financial assistance for marriage||15|
|Skill development and employment||13|
It is clear that the majority of people have massively benefitted from free ration, PDS and Kisan Samman Nidhi schemes. Some of the voter beneficiaries of these schemes voted for the BJP. In many cases, where the scheme coverage was poor, people still voted for BJP, while in cases where the scheme coverage was wide (like free ration), people did not vote as a whole for BJP. This shows that while welfare schemes do improve electoral prospects, they cannot be sufficient alone in ensuring victory.
The UP election results signal a new consolidation for the BJP. They are bound to have an impact at the national level. They are significant for many reasons.
First, while the SP did make progress compared to its dismal performance in previous elections, yet it benefitted mainly from the transfer of votes from BSP and Congress – both of which stand decimated in the state. It could not however, despite its best efforts, alliances and support to the toxic politics of farmers’ movement, wean away any votes from the BJP. Indeed, the BJP managed to further consolidate its core vote share.
Second, the BJP has a much superior strike rate – the vote-share on the seats contested – compared to SP. This is the real indicator of performance. The BJP’s strike rate was much higher than the 2017 elections and much higher than the SP, although lower than BJP’s own performance in the 2019 elections.
In terms of margins also, on an average, the BJP’s candidates won with the highest margins, almost double that of SP. Even the two and one seat(s) that Congress and BSP won respectively, were won with very low margins. This shows the clear and decisive advantage that the BJP holds over others in the state (Hasin 2022).
Third, SP performed best in areas that contain the largest share of its core support base – Yadavs in Lower Doab, Muslims in Rohilkhand. This limitation of the SP and the failure of SP-RLD alliance to dent the BJP was predictable. Despite trying its best to raise issues such as unemployment, the Hathras rape incident, farmer protests, price rise and Covid mismanagement, the issues did not resonate enough with the voters to seek a change of guard. The immense improvement seen under the Yogi government in terms of infrastructure, welfare, lack of corruption and law and order overshadowed all political controversies raked up by the Opposition.
Fourth, the farmer agitation was assumed to have hit BJP hard in Western UP specifically in the early phases. However, contrary to expectations, BJP’s lead over SP in terms of vote share is extremely high in the early phases of election, with even SP ally, RLD, managing to win just 8 out of 33 seats, registering a very low strike rate. While SP’s core Muslim-Yadav voters backed RLD, Jat voters seem to have not shown reciprocity.
Uttarakhand: A Victory Against Odds
The case of Uttarakhand proved nearly all exit polls wrong. Despite changing its Chief Ministers thrice and despite performing disappointingly during the 2020 COVID19 lockdown, the BJP kept trying to get its act together in the state and finally found the right person in Pushkar Singh Dhami. The latest Chief Minister single-handedly snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat for the BJP. This is also a unique case where the state has seen the same party come to power successively, beating the trend of a different party coming every five years.
|Seat share 2022||Seat share 2017||Vote share 2022 (%)||Vote share 2017 (%)|
The results indicate a combination of popularity of the central government as well as for the short performance of Pushkar Dhami. Efficient delivery of welfare schemes also had a substantial impact on the outcome.
|Other upper caste (7%)||20||25||68||56||–||1||5|
The BJP managed to increase its vote-share among all castes except Dalits and Muslims, where its vote-share lowered. The key to BJP’s victory was the heavy consolidation of the Brahmin and Thakur vote behind it. This consolidation was seen across the regional divides of Garhwal and Kumaon.
While the BJP performed well across the regional divide of Kumaon and Garhwal, yet in Maidan area it considerably lagged behind the Congress. While BJP’s sitting CM lost from his seat, his seven-month stint as the Chief Minister far outweighed the entire 4.5 year tenure of the previous BJP Chief Ministers. The seat from which he lost was in the Maidan area, where the Congress had greater foothold.
|Trivendra Singh Rawat’s 4-year tenure||Pushkar Singh Dhami’s 7-month tenure|
The overall performance of the BJP in Uttarakhand has belied all exit poll predictions of a hung verdict or a Congress victory, as they failed to anticipate the level of support and turnaround engineered by the Dhami government in just a few months.
The Punjab Verdict: A Clean Sweep for AAP:
The Punjab election results were another surprise that dealt a blow to the Congress in Punjab. Despite having a strong, decades-old social and political base in the state and supporting the subversive farmers’ protest, the Congress performed badly in Punjab. The change of Chief Minister from Captain Amarinder Singh to the Dalit face of Charanjit Singh Channi did not work out for the party.
|Seat share 2017||Seat share 2022||Vote share 2017 (%)||Vote share 2022 (%)|
|Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)||15||3||25.2||18.3|
In Punjab, people voted overwhelmingly for AAP, cutting across caste and community divides.
|Hindu Upper caste||49||24||16||15||24||35||7||20|
Caste and community-wise vote shares show that the decrease in vote-share for the Congress has occurred across all castes and religious groups, while for AAP the increase in support has occurred overwhelmingly across all castes and religious communities. For the SAD, its Hindu vote-share has largely remained the same, while its vote-share for other groups has considerably declined. For the BJP – which never had much of a base in Punjab – there is some good news in terms of the rise in Hindu vote-share from single to double digits.
Religion-wise, AAP garnered maximum support among, both, Hindus and Sikhs, while SAD and Congress performed badly. While SAD retained its small Hindu vote, it made heavy losses among Sikhs. Congress lost badly across both religions. BJP, however, did manage to make some gains among Hindus.
|Supported the farmer movement (84%)||19||24||43||4||10|
|Opposed the farmer movement (13%)||19||19||51||8||3|
The farmers’ movement also did not garner the Congress any support. Those who supported as well as opposed the farmers’ protests voted heavily for AAP. Indeed, the major reason for AAP’s brute majority in Punjab was due to its performance in the Malwa region, where it won 66 out of 69 seats. The region was also the epicenter of the farmers’ movement in Punjab. Overall, state-wide also AAP performed well across the farming community, garnering around 44% of its support.
Besides Malwa, in the other two regions of Majha and Doaba, the non-farming communities voted more for AAP than the farming communities. Indeed, in Majha and Doaba, even Congress and SAD could do well – better than AAP – among the farming communities.
The Punjab election was also marked by a strong sense of anti-incumbency, as a result of which Captain Amarinder Singh as well as Charanjit Singh Channi lost from their respective seats. Even other big names like Navjot Sidhu and Badals lost too. Parkash Singh Badal lost after 50 years.
|Capt. Amarinder’s 4.5 years government||Charanjit Channi’s 6-month government|
The electorate was dissatisfied with Captain’s as well as Channi’s tenure. While Channi’s tenure was rated better than the Captain’s, yet dissatisfaction with Channi was higher than overall satisfaction.
Goa: A Lucky Victory
In Goa, BJP formed the government with comfortable majority. Like Uttarakhand, the exit polls got Goa mostly wrong. Despite the all-important Christian vote moving fully away from BJP, the party was able to win comfortably in Goa. The main reason appears to be not so much Hindu consolidation, but Christian fragmentation, leading to unexpected losses for the Congress.
|2017 vote share (%)||2022 vote share (%)||2017 seat share||2022 seat share|
The BJP victory in Goa was yet another remarkable event. The victory occurred despite a strong anti-incumbency factor in the state, wherein 4 out of every 10 voters did not favour giving the BJP another chance. However, what worked in the BJP’s favour was its ability to successfully convert a quarter of non-committal voters in its favour and the inability of the Opposition to forge any united front or attract the unsure voters onto their side.
|Hindu upper caste (16%)||23||17||39||49||12||9||2||7||7||24||11|
|Kshatriya Maratha (7%)||21||14||53||34||16||16||4||<1||5||6||31|
|Bhandari Samaj (16%)||18||14||54||44||14||19||4||4||9||10||10|
|Other OBC (11%)||16||20||39||38||16||10||4||7||11||25||14|
|Other (including Hindu Dalits) (5%)||19||37||40||33||12||9||10||4||7||19||10|
The caste factor plays a very important role in shaping the voting choices of Goa electorate. Nearly one-third of Goa electorate voted according to their caste identity. BJP’s victory mainly lay in the support it mobilized from the Hindu upper castes (comprising mainly of the Saraswat Brahmins) and the STs, except the Kshatriya Maratha vote and the Bhandari Samaj, whose vote-share declined for the BJP. This is despite the fact the Pramod Sawant – the BJP’s Chief Minister in the state – is himself a Maratha. The BJP’s dramatic rise among the ST community was due to the support received from Velip and Kunbi castes, while the Gawda ST caste voted for the Congress. BJP’s already meagre Christian vote-share saw a decline.
The Christian vote-share of Congress also saw a decline. This decline was a heavy blow to the Congress which was neither able to consolidate Christian nor Muslim votes in the state, leading to its ultimate loss.
In terms of religion, traditionally, North Goa – with 76% Hindu population – has been a BJP bastion, while South Goa – with 36% Christian population – has been more inclined towards the Congress. Muslims are also more concentrated in South Goa (10%) than in North Goa (7%).
In this election, BJP was able to usurp the Congress party’s Hindu vote. Congress’s Hindu vote fell from 22% to 15%. BJP also independently made gains among the Hindus and some gain among the Muslims, wherein Muslims helped BJP victory in certain cons. The Christian vote was heavily fragmented, with both Congress and BJP losing their Christian vote. The newly formed Revolutionary Goans Party (RGP) ate up a large chunk of the Christian vote.
Manipur: Further Consolidation of the Northeast
In Manipur, BJP won more than comfortably, along expected lines.
|Vote share (%) 2017||Vote share (%) 2022||Seat share 2017||Seat share 2022|
While BJP managed to slightly increase its vote-share and greatly improve its seat-share in Manipur, it mainly benefitted due to the immense loss of the Congress which saw a dramatic decline in its vote-share and seat-share compared to 2017. Even regional parties performed better than Congress.
Geographically, hilly areas comprise 90% of the state, largely inhabited by tribals, while the ethnic Meitei group – comprising of the Meitei Hindus, the Meitei Sanamahi (those following the traditional Meitei religion) and the Meitei Muslims or Pangals – dominates the valley areas, which make up 10% of the state. While Meiteis make up 53% of the population (with 80% as Vaishnavites and 8% as Muslims), tribals — including the Nagas (24%) and the Kuki-Zo (16%) — constitute 41% of the population.
Manipur’s political landscape has been mainly marked by mutual differences between these ethnic groups. Of the 60 assembly seats in Manipur, the valley areas are represented by 40 seats, while the hills are represented by 20. As a result, the Meiteis, who reside in the valleys, have wielded more political influence in the state.
There were many reasons for the BJP victory in the state.
First, Manipur – like many other Northeastern states – prefers to vote for the party ruling at the Centre, so as to have a converging developmental and economic agenda for the state and the centre.
Second, the BJP’s 5-year tenure has been largely successful, marked by peace, development and stability. Across various areas of the Northeast, the much-reviled Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was removed or diluted, thereby increasing the party’s credibility and popularity. Even in those unfortunate one-off incidents of AFSPA misuse – which came down to a bare minimum – the central government was quick to own responsibility and take strict action, thereby appealing it to the people.
The BJP’s tenure has also been marked by the constant principle to unify rather than divide, and to develop rather than corrupt – a stark opposite to the Congress rule since decades. The party has always tried to bridge gaps between the hills and the valley and amongst the people, making its tenure people-friendly and truly democratic. Unlike the days of Congress, where it was a popular refrain that it was the central intelligence agencies that engineered elections in such Northeastern states, during this time, genuine expression of people is beginning to be seen.
This largely clean record of the BJP has stood in stark contrast to the tumultuous and miserable 15-year Congress regime under the Okram Ibobi Singh, which was marked by bandhs, blockades, lack of development, insurgency, ethnic strife, nepotism, a sharp rise in extra-judicial killings, torture of common people, misuse of AFSPA and corruption. The tactics of Congress – when it was a dominant party in the Northeast – has been marked by immense suffering for the common people, and their alienation from India. All this has been reversed now.
Corruption is at a nadir, with strict instructions from the centre that there should be zero leakage in subsidies and welfare delivery. Ministers and bureaucrats are tasked with performance of their duties and accessibility to masses, and addressing of grievances that remained pending for months and years was immediate. The hill people were subject of extra outreach by the government, so that they do not feel neglected – this helped to bridge and heal one of the most bitter divides in the state, which Congress deliberately kept on a boil.
Third, the BJP has put in systematic efforts over more than a decade in strengthening itself politically – on the back of RSS’s cultural expansion – across the Northeast. In the last five years, the BJP’s political engineering was so sure-footed that much of the Congress leadership in the state permanently shifted base to the BJP, leaving the Congress with very little. This cannot even be called defection, since its not a temporary electoral phenomenon, but permanent shift to a different political loyalty. Despite the internal and external political troubles and headwinds faced by Chief Minister, N. Biren Singh, the BJP government in the state always remained on sure ground. This enhanced the party strength in the final run.
Fourth, Manipur has benefitted greatly from the massive connectivity projects initiated by the Narendra Modi government over the past eight years under the ‘Act East dream’ policy. Manipur is set to become the gateway to Southeast Asia and will emerge as an important trade, manufacturing and logistics hub for the entire region.
Conclusion: A Maturing Polity
The election results of the four states have broken many past electoral trends and belied many intellectual expectations. In UP and Uttarakhand, the BJP saw a much more matured consolidation of its base. In Goa, it won despite effectively marginalizing and fragmenting the dominant Christian vote. In Manipur, the BJP victory underscored how the future potential of India’s Northeast is being unlocked and how the region is emerging out of the insufferable darkness of the Congress era into a new dawn. The region has become the geopolitical motor of India’s regional policy towards Southeast Asia instead of being the backward, insurgency-driven territory forcefully held by the Army. In Punjab, the lapse into separatism is a serious concern if the AAP were to succeed in its designs. The state still has a long way to go. The only advantage AAP had was of being a dark horse, with an allegedly ‘successful’ governance record in Delhi. Therefore, people – cutting across Hindu-Sikh divide – decided to give it a chance, preferring it over the corrupt Akalis and the inefficient Congress.
The one thing that is common across the election results in all states is the rising awareness of the voter and an unwillingness to be fooled by politicians supporting a subversive, anti-national agenda. The inability of regional parties and Opposition camp to re-create a caste-based coalition from a bygone era shows how far the Indian voter has come. The voter did not fall for the media and Opposition-created myth of the farmers movement as an espousal of some ‘democratic’ revival. In fact, the anti-national and caste-based agenda hidden underneath it – which the Opposition had utilized to the hilt – was exposed and now lies in tatters. Similarly, the so-called gender justice myth raised through the politicization of the unfortunate Hathras incident has spectacularly backfired for parties like the Congress. Only the concrete issues really mattered. In terms of a corruption-free, lawful and efficient governance, the BJP has raised the stakes high, making even its incumbency appear desirable compared to the jungle raj and insincerity of the regional parties.
Bose, M., and A. Menon. 2022. The Quint. March 11. Accessed April 10, 2022. https://www.thequint.com/uttar-pradesh-elections/up-election-results-analysis-phase-by-phase-how-many-seats-did-bjp-sp-win-turning-points#read-more.
Hasin, Fahad. 2022. The Wire. March 18. Accessed April 7, 2022. https://thewire.in/politics/uttar-pradesh-election-results-data.
Tiwari, A., and A. Burman. 2022. The Economic Times. March 12. Accessed April 8, 2022. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/elections/assembly-elections/uttar-pradesh/up-elections-2022-its-the-arithmetic-stupid/articleshow/90166932.cms?from=mdr.