The Uttar Pradesh civic body elections were considered to be the first electoral test for the state’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath since the NDA headed by BJP came to power in March this year, winning 325 of the 403 assembly seats in the state. The media projected that BJP is continuing its winning streak in Uttar Pradesh, by winning 14 of the 16 mayoral seats in the state including those of Ayodhya and Varanasi. The other two mayoral posts were bagged by BSP in Aligarh and Meerut municipal corporations. Apart from TV channels, the newspapers too got carried away by this projection and hailed it as another milestone for the party. It was portrayed as fresh proof that voters were not unhappy with the demonetisation and the GST mess. BJP president Amit Shah went to the extent of saying that UP civic poll results were nothing compared to what will happen in Gujarat.
However, in contrast to the hype created by the media after the declaration of results over a “BJP sweep” in the Uttar Pradesh urban local bodies’ elections, the analysis of results demonstrated a considerable fading away of the pro-BJP mood that helped it win the UP assembly elections just eight months ago. The BJP alone won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 general elections, which amounts to 89 per cent. Then, in the February assembly elections, the BJP won 312 seats in a House of 403, which is roughly 77 pr cent. Considering such an outstanding electoral background in mind, the results of UP civic polls are a huge let down for the party. The only major victory the BJP is chest thumping about is the Mayor elections where it managed to get its mayors in 14 out of 16 towns.
Interestingly, BJP had swept the UP mayoral polls in 2012 as well, much before Modi and Yogi had arrived on the scene and the party’s performance in elections for municipality and panchayat chiefs were far from being called a sweep.
There were 198 seats up for grab by parties for the post of municipality chiefs. BJP won 70, Samajwadi Party 45, BSP bagged 29 and Congress won 9 seats. Independent candidates too emerged victorious in 45 seats. This doesn’t depict any clean sweep for the BJP by any stretch of imagination. Also, out of the 5,390 nagar panchayat seats, BJP could win only 662 wards, whereas others won 4,728. In the municipal council seats, the BJP candidates managed to defeat its opponents in only 914 ward out 5,217. Since BJP contested each and every seat, it is apt to say that the saffron party just lost in 4,303 seats. The real story of their big loss in vote share lies in the bottom tiers. Though Congress lost its strongholds of Rae Bareilly and Amethi, percentage of its votes this time improved considerably compared to the February assembly elections when it got only 6.2 per cent. This time the vote share of Congress went up to 10 per cent.
Voters’ list tampered with, alleges UP Opposition
Justice (Retired) Haider Abbas Raza, who is also ex-Lokayukt of Uttar Pradesh, and several of his family members could not vote in the recently held civic polls in the state as their names were found to be missing from the voters’ list. Two-time mayor Dauji Gupta, who belongs to a family of Gandhians, had the same complaint. He said that he got a jolt when he found that only four out of the total of 24 votes of his joint family were in the voters’ list. His name was missing and he had to return disappointed from the polling booth. Gupta said that he immediately SMSed all senior officers involved in the election process but nothing could be done.
Alleging a vicious design in the missing names from the voters list of the civic elections in Uttar Pradesh, veteran Congressman and senior advocate Syed Amir Haider has suggested that there be one voter list for the assembly, general and civic polls. Haider claimed that the names which were there in the state assembly elections of 2017 were missing in the civic electoral list. He alleged that it is much easier to delete names from the municipal elections voters list, adding that a common list for all elections will cut costs and make manipulations difficult.
Condemning the act of denying citizens their fundamental right to vote, Haider said that it is also the responsibility of a true and committed citizen in a democracy to cross check the voters list before the polling day. He said that a grave injustice has been done against those who could not vote because their names were missing from the voters list and that they must lodge a strong complaint for infringement of their Fundamental Rights. “Vote nahi to tax nahi (no vote, no tax),” should be their slogan, advised Haider.
Dr Subodh Srivastava of Congress, while stressing that voters should to be more careful and alert and ensure that their names are not deleted from the list, said that these civic polls are a prelude to the 2019 general elections and voters must ensure and check that their names are there in the voters list before the General elections.
Athar Hussain, social activist, while speaking on the subject said that time and again it has been proved that EVMs are not tamper proof and it is time that pressure is built on the government that EVMs are replaced by ballot voting which is more reliable. Veteran CPM leader Atul Kumar ‘Anjaan’ said that it is the duty of every citizen to check names in the voters’ list. He also bemoaned the deterioration in the working of the Election Commission, saying “the EC today is crippled.”
— Kulsum Mustafa
The BJP secured the mayor’s seat in PM Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency but it won only 36 of the 90 municipality seats. Meanwhile, Congress ranked second with 22 seats and Samajwadi Party third with 13. Similarly, in the fight for the councillors’ seats, in the Hindi heartland Allahabad BJP secured 22 seats while SP emerged victorious with 24 seats. To everyone’s surprise even Asaduddin Owaisi’s AIMIM grabbed one seat in the district. The BJP also lost in all six municipal panchayat seats in Kaushambi which is the home district of Deputy Chief Minister and former BJP President Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati added a twist to the tale after they raised the issue of EVM manipulation. The elections for civic bodies were held using EVMs, but in the rest, ballot papers were used. In polls conducted using the EVMs, BJP’s performance ratio is exceptionally high, i.e. 87 per cent. It is true that the SP and BSP did not improve their performance, yet wherever elections were held using ballots, BJP’s performance was shockingly poor. About 70 per cent of seats have been bagged by independents. The difference in results between polls conducted using EVMs and ballots have also given a fresh thrust to the EVM-hacking controversy. At many places like Meerut, Kanpur and Lucknow there have been instances where a candidate who voted for himself ended up with zero votes, raising questions about the fairness of the poll process.
The BJP had fielded 8,038 candidates out of the 12,644 seats but 45 per cent of its candidates were unable to secure their deposits. In the 652 urban local bodies, which include 16 municipal corporations, 198 municipal councils and 488 municipal panchayats, the party lost its deposit in 3,656 seats and won in 2,366. Though Samajwadi Party failed to open its account in mayoral posts, it has won the second highest number of seats after the BJP in spite of not being an urban voter-based party. The numbers speak extensiveness of Akhilesh Yadav’s leadership, who, despite not campaigning, gained vote share for his party. If the Congress and SP had continued its alliance, they would have equaled BJP’s performance in terms of vote share in nagar panchayat elections.
If the performance at the municipal corporations is not taken into account, then the victory in absolute terms lies with the Independents. Perhaps, for the first time in the electoral history of India, independent candidates have emerged as the single largest group in an election. The vote share of independent candidates has shot up from a paltry 2.5 per cent in the March election to 20.4 per cent in the civic polls.
What should worry the BJP is also the fact that these results have come after a 50-rally campaign by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, while no opponent of his stature, like Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav, campaigned for their respective parties. Another point that the BJP needs to take note of is the fact that it had lost in ward number 68 in Gorakhpur, the ward where the Goraknath Peeth is located. Adityanath is the priest of the Gorakhnath temple and is said to have considerable influence there, but BJP’s Maya Tripathi was defeated by Nadira Khatoon, an independent candidate by a margin of 483 votes. The BJP is not as well placed as it was eight months ago. These results show that BJP will fail to get majority in UP if assembly elections are held today and this is in light of Opposition unity being at an all time low with all parties fighting municipal elections separately.