There is a funny anecdote doing the rounds in the power corridors of Lucknow that has been regaled at various political meetings in the last few weeks. As recently as in the last month of 2013, a well-connected and well-known businessman apparently approached the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the young and ‘dynamic’ Akhilesh Yadav, for a large project clearance. He was told by the CM frankly to first get all the necessary clearances from “below” (meaning the lower level clerks and babus) and he would then do the needful. The persistent businessman apparently spent considerable capital to grease the necessary palms and got all the “lower level” clearances in record time and returned back with the “approved” proposal to the CMO. This is when he had to face the most humiliating surprise from the young CM of UP, who shyly retorted back that the businessman has to now get approval from “above” (meaning Mulayam Singh Yadav).

This incident in all its glory (pun intended) is symptomatic of all that is wrong with the government of Uttar Pradesh, where the Chief Minister of the state is nothing but a glorified messenger who keeps relaying messages between the restless Samajwadi party cadre (read ‘goonda elements’) and his overarching father. While on the one hand, the lower level SP leaders and workers have formed a powerful cabal with government babus to run a parallel administration smeared in massive corruption and goondaism in distributing various government contracts, on the other hand Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brothers interfere in every decision that the CM tries to take for day-to-day administration of the state. The result of all this is total anarchy, as we have seen in scores of communal riots spread across the state in the last two years.

To be sure, Uttar Pradesh is like a country within a country, with a population of 20 Cr plus and a demographic that is as complex as any; it is a hard state to govern, but what the young Yadav has done is totally messed up this state. It is in such a background that this most populous state will be going to polls with the rest of India in the summer of 2014 and will possibly be the crucial deciding factor on who rules India for the foreseeable future. The state of UP has never been more crucial to the politics of India for almost three decades (the last time it played an important role was for a brief period of one and a half years in 1998 during the Vajpayee era). In more ways than one, 2014 will possibly restore the political glory of Uttar Pradesh to the pre-90s level when it was always regarded as the Kingmaker.

Uttar Pradesh is also the graveyard of political analysts who have tried to understand her since time immemorial. The sheer complexities of this state offer us such confounding array of possibilities that it is but natural for an analyst to miss out on some vital narratives that may prove costly at the end of the day. For me personally, Uttar Pradesh has been like a teasing lover who holds a million secrets in her bosom but only reveals the cleavage to titillate me into believing that I have seen a glimpse of her soul. The purity of my lust; a lust to analyze Uttar Pradesh; is what has been driving me in to her heart for so many years now. Yet, how does one analyze the electoral scenario of UP with certainty? How can one wrap her infinite bosom with ideas, words and numbers? How can one discover specificity in true ambiguity of the UP voter’s mind? This is an attempt to decipher Uttar Pradesh through a quadrilateral factorial index to discern electoral pattern out of chaos.

The Uttar Pradesh Electoral Quadrilateral

Roughly 5.5 Cr votes were polled in Uttar Pradesh in the 2009 LS polls, while it went up to 7.5 Cr in the 2012 assembly elections of the state. In 2014, Election Commission figures suggest that about 13.5 Cr voters of Uttar Pradesh would be eligible to exercise their franchise in the upcoming elections. The state has generally seen a sub-50% turnout in the LS polls in the recent past, but the polling percentage had gone up to 59% in the assembly elections of 2012. Logical progression of electoral trend data suggests that roughly 55% polling should be reported in the 2014 LS polls (which is always slightly lower than preceding assembly elections across India). Thus about 7.5 Cr UP voters are likely to participate in the democratic process in 2014, which is 2 Cr more than the previous election.

In 2009, there was almost a 4-way split in UP, with BSP topping the heap and BJP ending at the bottom. Such a 4-way split is unlikely to occur this time around and what is more likely is that one or two parties may go on to dominate the electoral scene. The last time a single party dominated UP was in 1998, when BJP had got 2 Cr plus votes in the state with a total turnover of 5.65 Cr. In the 2014 elections two possible scenarios can unfold based on a projected turnout of 7.5 Cr – A] two parties (formations) can split amongst themselves roughly 5 Cr votes in an almost bipolar contest or B] a single political party can emerge as a big winner (like in 1998) with close to 3 Cr votes. As of today a 3-way split looks unlikely and 4-way split can almost be ruled out.

In order to clearly establish the vote pathway, we have to use the UP electoral quadrilateral, which is essentially made up of the 4 important factors on which the state is likely to vote in 2014. This overall vote pattern of UP has not been subdivided into sub-regional or district wise categories in order to get a pan-UP picture. There could be various sub-regional distortions to this broad picture but most of them would cancel each other out. A deeper divisional level analysis of each of the 80 LS seats would be presented later in the run-up to 2014 here at 5Forty3.

The Caste-Vote Matrix

This is the new Verna classification of Uttar Pradesh’s modern day Electoral Vedic Dharma. The 5 modern Vernas/classes are divided as Upper Castes, OBCs, SC, Muslim and Others (Others include, Scheduled Tribes, Christians, Buddhists, and Sikhs etc.). The first four bigger ethnic groups are of political significance, whereas the smaller and more fragmented group of “Others” is of no practical importance in the overall scenario. For any political party to succeed in the electoral arena of this most populous state, it is of vital importance to get the major backing of one of these 4 groups – The Primary Vote – and also the minor backing of at least one or two of the remaining three ethnic groups – The Secondary Vote. For example: The Primary Vote of BSP was SC and The Secondary Vote was that of Muslim and Upper-caste (Brahmins) in the 2007 election when the party won an almost unprecedented mandate in the state.

The Upper Caste Vote:

The Brahmin vote has seen a 3-way split in the last decade or so after Vajpayee’s exit from the political scene, when it has been broadly divided between BJP, Congress and BSP (although BJP has always got a bigger share). If Modi and BJP are serious about winning 2014 then the cultivation of core Brahmin voters is an absolute must for the party, especially now that Congress is almost out of the scene in UP and Mayawati has also moved on to other strategies. What is important to understand about the Brahmin vote is that it is a 65-35 vote, in the sense that 35% of the vote is for local factors (of which the most important aspect is the contesting candidate) and 65% of it is the larger state/national level vote wherein party affiliations matter. Congress and especially BSP have been successful in getting the Brahmin vote mainly because of the second 50% – giving tickets to Brahmins and appointing Brahmin leaders to key local positions.

The Thakur vote also follows the 50-50 formula of general party affiliation and local factors, but has been split mainly between BJP and SP in the last few election cycles, although the Congress party was also a minor claimant of the vote in the 2009 election. As of today, the tallest standing Thakur in UP is Rajnath Singh and it remains to be seen how well he can knit the Thakur vote around BJP without making debilitating compromises at the local level. The Thakur romance with SP seems to be more-or-less over in the present scenario, yet candidate selection could be crucial for all political parties.

The Bania and other UC vote will also prove to be crucial in about 7-8 MP seats and as of today BJP seems to be getting the largest chunk. On the whole, Upper Castes of UP are fairly widespread across the state and are an important segment of voters – which is unique to UP among all of the heartland.

The SC Vote:

Roughly 1 Cr plus Jatav votes have been the mainstay of Behenji in UP politics. The Jatav Vote is essentially a 80-20 vote, in the sense that 80% of the vote invariably goes to Mayawati and only about 20% of it is dependent on local factors such as candidate selection. Although there are some signs of even Jatavs shifting to BJP in a polarized West-UP polity, overall this is a fortress that is unlikely to be breached anytime soon. The only problem for Mayawati is that the Jatav vote is widespread across the state and therefore doesn’t have the ability to convert votes to seats, so she needs additional votes to augment her core vote.

Pasi Vote is more of a 60-40 vote now, wherein 60% is affiliated to BSP; after the 12 year vanvas of RK Choudhary has ended with his return to the party fold; and 40% is dependent on local factors. Other groups of SC vote are essentially 50-50 votes that give other parties a chance to poach a section of the SC vote through localized realignments. Dhobis, Koris and Gonds (about 25 lakhs) are generally wooed by the Congress party, while Balmikis and Khatiks (about 12 lakhs) are more favourably inclined towards BJP. In a more polarized atmosphere, as seen in West-UP, sections of Dalit vote can also potentially shift towards BJP as it so happened in the early 90s.

The OBC Vote

Despite being the largest ethnic grouping of all, OBC vote is a highly fragmented entity and gets splintered widely among different political formations. Yadavs form the largest block of the OBC vote and also are the most politically powerful with their 70-30 vote in favor of the Samajwadi Party. Only about 30% of the Yadav vote can be moved along local factors by other parties. The second largest grouping is that of Kushwahas who have begun to realize their political importance only lately. Kushwaha vote is generally a 20-80 vote, wherein 80% of the vote usually gets splintered along local fault-lines. If BJP’s recent efforts bear fruit and the party is able to bring the various subgroups (Kachhi, Murao, Koiri etc.) together, then 2014 would be almost the first time when Kushwahas would have played such an important political role, apart from 2007 when they generally voted for Maya.

The Kurmi vote has been a 40-60 vote in the recent past – 40% voting for Congress and 60% voting along localized alignments. With the decline of the Congress party in 2014, the Kurmi vote is up for grabs and both SP & BJP are eying this group with interest. As of today, the Jat, Lodh, Teli, Gujjar and Gadderiya vote is solidly behind BJP with an overall 65-35 inclination. The rest of the OBC vote is also significant and with Modi as the mascot, BJP would be vying with SP to woo these sections.

The Muslim Vote

This is possibly the biggest monolith of all the votes of UP, for close to 90% of the Muslim vote would be anti-BJP in nature. It has been divided neatly into 4 parts, which are not essentially antagonistic to each other; for instance, a vote for SP based on local loyalties can also be a defeat-NaMo vote and vice-versa. This is possibly the biggest burden that the Muslim voter of UP carries on his shoulder, for he thinks that it is his responsibility to prevent Modi from becoming the next PM of India.

The Women Vote

There are roughly 6 Cr women voters in UP today and as is the trend these days (including in UP 2012), the female voters are likely to out-vote men by about 2 percentage points, which means about 3 Cr 40 lakh women voters are projected to exercise their franchise in the next general election. In India, women have never been treated as a solid voting bloc, but now there is a definite divergence emerging in the female voting pattern, Most political parties are either unaware or just do not have the wherewithal to understand the evolution of the women vote which is changing rapidly with each passing day.

Uttar Pradesh, 1 Cr 13 lakh more women participated in the election process in 2012 as compared to 2009, while the number of corresponding men voters increased only by 92 lakhs. The relative weightage of women voters increased by 4 percentage points from 2009 to 2012 – it was 42% in 2009 and 46% in 2012. That means 4% more women voters were able to decide electoral outcomes in the state in 3 years’ time.

Women voters tend to vote for better governance and stability and are relatively less corruptible therefore not influenced by last minute inducements (one of the primary last minute inducement for male voters is alcohol, which is almost overwhelmingly gender specific). In 2012, women voter turnout was 2 percentage points higher than men and most of them voted for a young Akhilesh Yadav in the hope that he would give better governance, but that mandate has been totally misread by the Samajwadis. Similarly in the 2009 LS polls, in the 21 LS seats that the Congress party won in UP, women voter turnout was a good 1 percentage point higher than the state average, which suggests that the women voted for Congress in the hope of a stable, performing government at the centre. Unfortunately, the women of UP have been betrayed twice and are waiting silently for their vengeance in 2014.

As per our calculations based on field studies, past poll surveys by CSDS and past electoral data of gender vote divergence, roughly 15% women voters have differing choices as compared to their corresponding male counterparts in Uttar Pradesh. This divergence is seen to be sharper in small towns and villages as compared to cities and also more prominent among lower economic strata as compared to middle class (a detailed study of different states will be presented later in the run-up to 2014). Overall heartland trends suggest that 7% more women voters make their electoral choices based on day-to-day inflation, 2% based on gender issues, 2% for stability and 4% for other smaller factors. Thus with 15% gender divergence vote, women voters of UP form a solid block of 50 lakh possible votes of a projected 3 Cr 40 lakh turnover in 2014 which cannot and should not be ignored by any political party.

Governance Vote

Indian electoral history can be divided into 5 broad cycles;

2013 marked the advent of the development model of governance in India. Cutting across gender, caste, religion and sub-regional fault-lines is the governance vote which is gaining increasing importance in India. The value of the governance vote has tremendously increased in the last decade, which is the primary reason for various state governments being voted back to power. This is also a unique feature of North India, where state governments from Bihar to MP to Chhattisgarh to Haryana have all been continuously rewarded for good governance, whereas the south Indian polity is relatively more anti-incumbent in nature (Karnataka, Kerala TN and Goa being prime examples).

Many political parties are yet to come to terms with this new phenomenon of good governance vote. The old system of minimum payoff to the voters in return for their vote in the form of welfare schemes, reservations or even stability is dead now. The payoffs for voters have increased by leaps and bounds, for they now demand 24/7 power, better surface transport avenues and connectivity etc. It is not just SP or Congress, but even newer political parties like AAP have misunderstood their mandates from people and are busy providing welfare instead of governance.

In the entire North India, Uttar Pradesh is the only large state which has not had a single party rule in the last two election cycles (apart from Rajasthan and Jharkhand). Furthermore, UP has seen six different forms of governments (including president’s rule) since the dawn of the new millennium – a record only equaled by the highly fragile state of Jharkhand. Thus there is a powerful governance vote in UP which has been experimenting with different political entities in the last few years. This hunger for better governance in UP is so strong that the UP voter has flirted with 4 different poles in the last 4 large statewide elections – 2007 VS polls with BSP, 2009 LS polls with Congress, 2012 VS polls with SP and 2012 local body elections with BJP.

Thus now we have a new variable in the traditional vote-matrix of India known as governance vote (apart from caste, political affiliation, region, economic status etc.). Although it is difficult to quantify this new variable as of now without a robust survey of the present day Uttar Pradesh, we are using the traditional classification and assigning it an overall value of 6% (which may be a very conservative estimate). Thus at 6% of the total projected turnout of 7.5 Cr would be roughly around 50 Lakh votes.

National Vote

This is one of the most underestimated vote of Uttar Pradesh, a state that has traditionally played an important role in the national political movement. The UP voter has always prided his primacy in shaping central governments. But since the last two decades UP hasn’t played a meaningful role in the national polity and that has made the UP voter restless. This was in fact one of the lesser understood reasons of the 2009 vote for the Congress party.

The 2009 national vote was UP’s flirtation with the Congress party, when suddenly out of nowhere party candidates got votes despite little organizational support on the ground. For instance, take the case of Faizabad, where Congress emerged on top in 4 out of 5 assembly segments in the 2009 LS polls, but could not win even a single assembly seat in 2012 and even managed to finish in the 4th position behind BJP in 3 out of 5 seats in 2012 (even in Dariyabad, where Congress got more votes in 2012 than in 2009, the party was a distant 3rdbehind SP and BSP). This pattern is visible across the state when we compare the performance of the party in 2009 to 2012. In fact, the national vote has further consolidated in the last 4-5 years and there is an even bigger presence in 2014.

Unlike other variables like caste or women vote, the national vote is not an independent block but instead is an appendage of those variables. For instance, any political party, like say Congress in 2009 getting 80 thousand Kurmi votes in Gonda LS seat would have accrued an additional 16000 Kurmi votes (20%) as the national vote appendage. This gives the frontrunner political party a unique 20% advantage in the LS polls – which is what Congress enjoyed to a certain extent in 2009 and BJP hopes to accrue with a much wider base in 2014 through an aggressive NaMo campaign in the state. The other component of the national vote is the Muslim strategic vote (as shown in the pie chart above) which runs as a counterbalance to the dominant party (BJP) in 2014 unlike 2009.

The three Vote Pathways of Uttar Pradesh 2014

Based on all the variables discussed in this paper, three possible Vote Pathways are envisaged for Uttar Pradesh in the 2014 LS polls.

Vote Pathway 01 – The least resistant pathway

[Ex: Total Thakur Vote = 80 lakhs, but our field studies have shown that Thakur voter turnout is 5-6% lower than the total state average (projected at 55% in 2014), so roughly 40 Lakh Thakurs are likely to vote in 2014. Assuming that Thakurs are 50-50 voters (50% party affiliations and 50% based on local factors), then BJP would get the biggest chunk of the general vote = 15 Lakhs. If BJP then gets its ticket distribution aspect right, it also gets 12 Lakh localized votes of Thakurs.]

  • This is the most likely path that BJP and Modi are attempting to take in UP, having met with resounding success in the neighbouring states of the Heartland in the recently concluded assembly elections – uniting the entire spectrum of Hindu Vote
  • This pathway encounters the least resistance as it even envisages an opposition alliance (between Cong and BSP or SP) and yet emerges victorious; the only possible roadblock in this model is of localized nature wherein if the party totally bungles up ticket distribution, then it may end up losing a big chunk of the local goodwill
  • This pathway is likely to produce stunning results for the party (of the 90s vintage) – BJP may win 50+ parliamentary seats while all other parties may have to scramble to take a dip into the remaining seats. This stunning performance of BJP is also mainly because the seat conversion ratio of this model is very high as it is spread optimally in about 300 assembly segments of 66-69 LS seats only.

Vote Pathway 02 – The midway

[Ex: If 50% Jatavs turnout to vote in 2014 (field studies still show Jatav fatigue and 4-5% lower participation than state average turnout of 55%), then 80% of that vote would blindly go to Mayawati so 52 lakh Jatavs would have voted for BSP. The localized Jatav vote is accrued to other parties more (mainly BJP in 2014) as Jatav/SC candidates also contest from other parties in reserved seats]

  • This is the Midway path which is the optimum performance level of BSP (with or without a Congress alliance), wherein the party gets the biggest chunk of the general Muslim vote as Muslims of UP seem to have decided that Maya has the best chance of defeating Modi
  • The biggest problem with this model is that it is spread thin, covering almost all the 404 assembly segments of 80 parliamentary constituencies of Uttar Pradesh and therefore the seat conversion ratio could be lower.
  • BSP may end up with 35+ seat tally with this pathway, while BJP may get 25+ and other parties may share the remaining seats

Vote Pathway 03 – The most resistant pathway

[Ex: The national vote for Samajwadis would be very limited in this election as the UP voter neither expects nor wants Mulayam Singh to have any role at the centre, therefore only 4% added vote-share]

  • This is the pathway that is most unlikely due to the horribly bad governance of  the Akhilesh Yadav dispensation and is totally dependent on Yadavs and a section of Muslims who may yet prop up the party (for example SC vote will simply never accrue to the party even in reserved constituencies in 2014).
  • SP still has tremendous hold over localized Muslim vote due to mid-level Muslim leadership and the favorable intellectual ecosystem – for instance, despite all the Muzaffarnagar shenanigans, SP still gets mostly good-press in the Urdu newspapers.
  • This model essentially produces a 2009 like result with the top 3 contenders all getting about 25 LS seats

Congress is going to be virtually absent in Uttar Pradesh this time around (even in family pocket boroughs), unless the party forms alliance with either SP or BSP. We will revisit these models if and when Congress is able to announce alliances, till then the party is virtually in the dark ages.

{This quasi-research paper is a result of hundreds of field studies, demographic tests, survey analysis conducted over many years by the author and also the result of thousands of man hours spent analyzing the voter rolls of Uttar Pradesh. The author takes responsibility for most numbers quoted in the piece which have been mostly rounded off for easy usage}