“Save my honour” pleaded a teary eyed Savita Devi near the polling booth in the primary school of Murtazapur to all groups of men who were walking down the lane to cast their votes. Savita Devi is one of the scores of Jat women whose sons and husbands have been jailed for the Peda-Nayagaon riots of 2016. It is these women who fanned out across the district extolling the usually lazy Hindus to rise up to the occasion and vote for the lotus. In fact, BJP had smartly given the Bijnortown ticket to Suchi Chaudhary whose husband(an RSS worker here) has also been imprisoned in that same riot case. Locals say each one of those arrested is a Jat while not a single Muslim rioter has been touched!

It is this group of Jat women who literally turned the tide in favour of BJP in the second phase of UP elections. If the tears of a woman often trigger a revolution, then the Bijnor rescue act of the United Spectrum of Hindu Votes by the Jat women was nothing short of a mini revolution that has managed to keep the lotus afloat in western UP. After a surprisingly weak show in phase 1 where BJP was supposed to sweep, the saffron party desperately needed massive polarization of Hindu voters in order to keep itself in the hunt for the throne of Lucknow. Indeed, Bijnor voted for lotus yesterday in substantially large numbers.

As the polling day began yesterday, the past electoral data and the demographics of this region were clearly tilted against the saffron party. If BJP had done poorly in two successive rounds, there was very little hope of a recovery. In fact, all the pointers going into this phase suggested that the Samajwadi-Congress alliance could potentially sweep this region where together they had 37 sitting MLAs from 2012. The average Muslim population of this region was over 33% which essentially meant 1 out of every 3 voters here was a Muslim which in actual weighted data could go as high as 1 out of every 2, because Muslim voter turnout is generally 20 to 30% higher than Hindu voters. BJP had only 9 sitting MLAs in this region and even in the 2014 Modi wave election, the party’s vote-share was 10% lower than the rest of the western UP region that went to polls in phase 1.

Peaks of Jan-Sangh & BJP in Uttar Pradesh

It is under such bleak conditions that the USHV seems to have shined for the BJP once again. What aided this rear-guard Hindu battle was also a big split in the Muslim votes. Since the last few months there has been a sinister game played by the secular-Lutyens clique to somehow amalgamate the entire Muslim vote into a one party entity so that BJP can be defeated at any cost. A massive media narrative was built around the Akhilesh-Rahul alliance sweeping the “Muslim voters off their feet” over the last 1 month or so, in order to create a sort of wave of minority traction against the BJP. To some extent this narrative succeeded too, especially in the 1st phase on February the 11th. But what we witnessed in the second phase was a virtual split among the Mulsim voters between the SP-INC alliance on the one hand and the BSP on the other hand. In fact, in many places, BSP was the first choice of a vast number of Muslim voters. Many big SP Muslim faces seem to have lost the battle yesterday due to this phenomenon of Muslim vote division not only between SP & BSP but also between AIMIM and RLD among others. Our initial assessment was that the Muslim vote split could still have given the grand alliance a lion’s share, but after deeper analysis of all the reports and data we now believe it was more in the 50:50 range between the SP-INC alliance on the one hand and BSP along with other smaller players on the other side. Such a vote split could mean Akhilesh Yadav’s doom in the coming days.

While the Muslim vote was getting split vertically, the Hindus were all consolidating behind the lotus on Wednesday. Upper castes, all non-Yadav OBCs (including Jats) and a section of non-Jatav Dalits were all polarized in totality. For instance in the district of Moradabad where all the sitting MLAs belong to the minorities, Hindus were determined to show their strength by voting for BJP in total solidarity. Similarly in Sambhal, where Muslim vote was splitting along Turk and non-Turk segments, Hindus had the solitary aim of pressing the Lotus button on the EVM machines. With such a background of polarization, here are the 6 factorials of Uttar Pradesh after phase 2;

  • BSP has been the big surprise of Uttar Pradesh election so far. A party that was completely written off by most pundits and pollsters, including yours truly, has literally risen from the ashes to put up a more than decent showing, at least in some of its western UP strongholds. The ‘97 tickets to Muslims’ gamble of Behenji seems to have come off well as not only are her core Jatav voters voting for BSP, but even a large segment of Muslims are opting for her party. The Lutyens gang has bet on the wrong horse for Muslim consolidation, instead if there was a BSP-Congress alliance, it could have spelt big trouble for BJP
  • BJP had unexpectedly underperformed in phase 1 where it was expected to sweep. In the second phase, BJP was only supposed to consolidate its position, but instead it seems to have done spectacularly well. In fact, our pre-poll expectation was that BJP would only slightly improve its position in the second phase as compared to 2012, but it has simply outgunned all the others in this phase despite adverse demographics of very high Muslim population. So the party seems to be on course to its pre-poll billing after that initial hiccup
  • The Grand Alliance of Akhilesh and Rahul seems to be faltering at the altar. Neither is the alliance getting one-sided Muslim consolidation nor is the alliance cohesive at the ground. For example, in phase 2, many small local congress leaders and workers were seen to be working for BSP rather than its ally because the local SP leaders simply treated them with disdain. In second phase, the Grand Alliance was expected to sweep at least some 40 seats as both the parties had won 37 seats in 2012 and were now coming together, but instead the alliance is tottering in more than half of those seats it held last time
  • Going forward, the battle for UP is now at a crucial juncture and one of these 3 parties will have to meltdown for a clear verdict to appear. Essentially UP is an unstable state which is why we always witnessed hung assemblies since late 80’s and stability only came in 2007 after one of the parties (the BJP in that case) receded into being the distant third pole while most contests were bipolar between SP and BSP. Something like that has to happen now. Since BJP’s base vote now begins at the 30th percentile and it is the only party that is in contention in all the 403 seats, the saffron party’s meltdown is mathematically improbable. So one of the other 2 opposition units will have to meltdown for BJP to get a clear majority
  • If the Grand Alliance doesn’t get its act together, there is a danger of UP turning into a BJP v/s BSP fight. But the big problem for Maya is that her stronghold areas have now passed and she enters into those electoral zones where her party has lost a lot of its organizational infrastructure and many of its local leaders (mostly to BJP). Also, more crucially, our pre-poll surveys have shown that the non-Jatav Dalit voters of central and eastern Uttar Pradesh were more prone towards BJP than their western UP counterparts by a factor of 27%. Thus if BJP manages to get a big chunk of Dalit votes from now on, it could mean that BSP would lose all its momentum
  • BJP is still the party in pole position to conquer the Lucknow throne despite some underperformance in West UP. The next phase is another weak zone for the saffron party and if it really performs well here then it would enter the final rounds with great confidence. The fact is that BJP started this election with a big advantage of strong leads in at least 80-100 seats out of 167 from the Poorvanchal region and that is what is still giving the opposition party strategists sleepless nights. The massive non-Yadav OBC saffron wave is as yet the most underrated story of UP 2017!