UP by-poll analysis

Contrary to popular media belief, the UP by-poll results not all bad news for the BJP

There were 11 seats in which by-polls were held in Uttar Pradesh in September 2014.  All the 11 seats had been held by the BJP.  The by-polls had to be held because all the legislators had been elected to the Lok Sabha. Of the 11, two seats were in the Upper Doab (Saharanpur Nagar and Noida), two in Rohilkhand (Thakurdwara, and Bijnore), three in Avadh (Nighasan, Lucknow East, and Balha), two in Bundelkhand (Hamirpur and Charkhari), one in Lower Doab (Sirathu), and one in Purvanchal (Rohaniya). Consequently, it can be observed that every region of UP, except the Central Doab were represented.  However, Central Doab come into the picture through the by-poll for the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat.


In general, the ruling party has a large advantage simply because few by-polls can result in a change of government.  There are many incentives to elect the ruling party, and hope to pick up the benefits accruing from having a more influential man locally.  Further, particularly in states with inadequate law and order enforcement, people in by-polls are hesitant to vote against the incumbent government.  More than once, threats have been made against people wanting to vote opposition parties in the by-polls.  The ruling party is able to manage the by-polls to its benefit.  Here is a blog explaining the general trends in by-polls )

With that out of the way, let us analyse the seats where by-polls were held in UP.

Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat

Total votes polled in LS 2014: 9,99,265
Votes for BJP: 2,31,292
Votes for SP: 5,95,916
Votes for BSP: 1,42.933
Votes for Congress: did not contest.
Total votes polled in September 2014: 10,07,595
Votes for BJP: 3,32,587
Votes for SP: 6,53,986
Votes for Congress: did not contest.
Mainpuri LS seat is an SP stronghold. The Samajwadi Party has been winning right from 1996. The BJP has never won here, and the closest came was in 1998, when a Yadav strongman from the BJP came close to beating the SP.  In the 2014 LS polls, Mulayam Singh Yadav had won the seat by about 3.64 lakh votes.  This is a Yadav OBC stronghold, and a pocket borough of the Mulayam Singh Yadav family.The voting percentage in both the May and September polls was roughly similar in Mainpuri.  In the absence of the BSP, the BJP improved its vote tally by about 1 lakh, while the SP improved its by about 60,000. The improvement of the BJP tally can be ascribed to the Shakyas voting strongly for the BJP (the vote had been divided in May), while the SP more than made up for that loss by getting the bulk of the BSP vote.All in all, not much to be learnt here, except that the BSP vote got transferred to the SP, while the BJP took some of the previous SP OBC vote.


Saharanpur Nagar

Total votes polled in 2012: 2,18,412
Votes for BJP: 85,170
Votes for the BSP: 36,140
Votes for SP: 19,145
Votes for the Congress: 72,544
Total votes polled in 2014: 2,20,668
Votes for BJP: 1,08,306 (won)
Votes for SP: 81,633
Votes for Congress: 28,553
Compared to 2012, BJP actually considerably improved its vote share.  The SP, however, managed to get most of the BSP and the Congress votes, and hugely improved its performance. In fact, the SP candidate in 2014 was the BSP candidate in 2012. The Congress vote went almost en masse to the SP. The BJP managing to win, nevertheless, is very impressive. In fact, the BJP managed to grab nearly 50 per cent of the vote.



Total votes polled in 2012: 2,09,385
Votes for BJP: 68,969
Votes for the BSP: 51,133
Votes for SP: 25,173
Votes for the Congress (RLD): 47,462
Total votes polled in 2014: 2,04,487
Votes for BJP: 90,181
Votes for SP: 81,639
Votes for Congress: 28,633
Compared to 2012, BJP considerably improved its performance. Again, the vote of the BSP accrued to the SP. The Congress had left this seat to RLD in 2012, and this time, the Congress has been completely wiped out. The RLD had fielded a Muslim, so one would imagine much of the Muslim vote has also gone to the SP.



Total votes polled in 2012: 2,20,216
Votes for BJP: 84530
Votes for the BSP: 46,519
Votes for SP: 5,633
Votes for the Congress: 26,317
Total votes polled in 2014: 2,32,308
Votes for BJP: 84,074
Votes for SP: 1,11,097
Votes for Congress: 17,377
In short, BJP got similar votes both times, but polling was higher in 2014.  So, it maybe fair to say that the BJP lost a few votes, marginally.  But votes of BSP shifted entirely to the SP, along with a huge chunk of the votes of the Congress (which was a close 3rd), along with those of the Mahan Dal[1] (which was in 2nd place last time).  BJP didn’t lose many votes compared to 2012, the opposition voted solidly for the SP.  However, this does hide a problem.  The votes of the Mahan Dal are completely compatible with the BJP: they are basically Maurya[2] and OBC votes.  The BJP should have managed to win these.  Why the BJP failed to do so may require some analysis.



Total votes polled in 2012: 2,09,705
Votes for BJP: 77,319
Votes for the BSP: 49,643
Votes for SP: 42,071
Votes for the Congress: 25,482
Total votes polled in 2014: 1,64,730
Votes for BJP: 1,00,433
Votes for SP: 41,481
Votes for Congress: 17,212
BJP vastly improved its performance over its 2012 performance, despite the fact that voting percentage fell by about 10%.  The other parties, including the SP, which came a distant second, were wiped out.  The less said about the Congress the better.



Total votes polled in 2012: 2,06,102
Votes for BJP: 75,005
Votes for the BSP: 35,798
Votes for SP: 43,966
Votes for the Congress: 16,483
Total votes polled in 2014: 1,99,751
Votes for BJP: 84,426
Votes for SP: 1,03,402
Votes for Congress: 6,842
Again, the BJP improved its performance.  But most of the BSP vote and 2/3 of the Congress vote shifted to the SP, helping them win in 2014.  Also, a bunch of smaller parties like Mahan Dal, and Peace Party had contested in 2012, taking small, but significant shares (around 10K votes each).  All these votes seem to have gravitated to the SP.


Lucknow East

Total votes polled in 2012: 1,89,267
Votes for BJP: 68,726
Votes for the BSP: 35,227
Votes for SP: 47,908
Votes for the Congress: 25,040
Total votes polled in 2014: 1,36,264
Votes for BJP: 71,640
Votes for SP: 45,181
Votes for Congress: 9,757
Again, the BJP has considerably improved its vote share, crossing 50 per cent of the vote.  The Congress has once again lost most of its vote, coming down to 25 per cent of its 2012 vote share.



Total votes polled in 2012: 2,31,097
Votes for BJP: 63,762
Votes for the BSP: 55,938
Votes for SP: 45,557
Votes for the Congress: 30,446
Total votes polled in 2014: 2,10,686
Votes for BJP: 44,439.
Votes for SP: 1,12,955
Votes for Congress: 42,200
This is one seat where the BJP vote share has gone down rather badly. But the SP has got the vote of the BSP (which fielded a Muslim here), and the Congress has actually improved its vote share compared to 2012. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyothi had won here, and maybe the BJP did not have a suitable replacement?



Total votes polled in 2012: 1,92,365
Votes for BJP: 66,888
Votes for the BSP: 41,358
Votes for SP: 41,623
Votes for the Congress: 22,531
Total votes polled in 2014: 1,93,305
Votes for BJP: 30,786
Votes for SP: 95,008
Votes for Congress: 44,203
This is a seat where the BJP has lost votes very badly. In fact, the BJP vote share fell to less than half of what it had got previously.  What makes it worse is that this was Uma Bharati’s seat. Why, in Uma Bharati’s seat, the BJP has performed disgracefully is open to question. There is also the point that Uma Bharati didn’t even campaign for the party nominee.



Total votes polled in 2012: 1,91,433
Votes for BJP: 57,926
Votes for the BSP: 48,063
Votes for SP: 32,309
Votes for the Congress: 20,890
Total votes polled in 2014: 1,66,732
Votes for BJP: 55,018
Votes for SP: 79,540
Votes for Congress: 5,803
Despite the fact that the voting percentage went down considerably, the BJP has more or less maintained its vote numbers in the constituency, and consequently increased its vote share.  If the voting percentage were to go up, the BJP should be able to win.  However, again, the BSP and Congress votes have gone to the SP than to the BJP.  Once more, the Congress vote has fallen radically.



Total votes polled in 2012: 1,77,173
Votes for BJP: 58,823
Votes for the BSP: 38,895
Votes for SP: 35,053
Votes for the Congress: 20,974
Total votes polled in 2014: 1,86,298
Votes for BJP: 74,039
Votes for SP: 99,220
Votes for Congress: 6,290
The BJP has improved its vote share from 2012 impressively, but again, the BJP has been done in by a consolidation of the vote of the other parties. Again, the Congress is left looking at a more or less empty plate.



Total votes polled in 2012: 1,91,215
Votes for BJP: 76,316 (This figure has been obtained by adding the votes of the BJP, which got about 18,000 votes, and its alliance partner Apna Dal which got 57,000 votes)
Votes for the BSP: 40,229
Votes for SP: 26,051
Votes for the Congress: 18,213
Total votes polled in 2014: 1,86,402
Votes for BJP: 61,672
Votes for SP: 76,121
Votes for Congress: 3,207
Here, the BJP vote has just not added to the Apna Dal vote (or maybe the Apna Dal failed to retain some of its vote?). This result should certainly a cause for concern for the BJP and Apna Dal. This is a Kurmi stronghold, and the Apna Dal should have had no problems retaining it. Also, this is part of Varanasi, so mayhap this should be more closely investigated. On a related note, even here the bulk of the Congress, SP and the BSP vote have combined to give the SP a victory.


Regional Analysis

 Upper Doab

The BJP has retained both the seats in the region. The BJP vote share was 38.40 per cent in Assembly 2012. In September 2014, its vote share is 54.16 per cent. Both seats were urban seats, and the BJP nearing or crossing the halfway mark in both urban seats is impressive. Further, in both seats, the BJP improved its vote share. The Upper Doab is the most promising region for the BJP and it should focus on further consolidation in this region.

Central Doab

There was only one LS seat in contention here, and that is the home turf of the Mulayam family.  The BJP managed to improve its vote share by about 10 per cent, whereas the SP managed improve it by 5 per cent. On the face of it, both the BJP and the SP were able to gain some of the vote by the absence of the BSP, but appearances are deceptive. It is much more likely that the BJP gained considerable parts of the OBC vote, but the SP was able to gain most of the BSP vote.


Bothe the seats, Bijnore and Thakurdwara, are rural. The BJP had 35.73 per cent of the vote in 2012, and now has 39.89.  However, it improved its vote share considerably in Thakurdwara, but lost its vote very marginally in Bijnore. Nevertheless, the only reason for the BJP loss is the consolidation of the SP vote.


Lucknow East is an urban seat, while the other two– Nighasan, Lucknow East and Balha—are rural seats from Lakhimpur district. Overall, the BJP had 35.38 per cent of the vote in 2012.  Today it has 44.05 per cent. The BJP once more breached the 50 per cent mark in the urban seat, compared to the 36.3 per cent it had in 2012. The BJP has also improved its vote share in the rural seats from 34.91 in 2012 to 41.04 per cent today.


This region has been the biggest disappointment for the BJP.  In fact, two of its prominent leaders, Sadhvi Uma Bharati and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyothi, were representing the Charkhari and Hamirpur seats respectively. The BJP had 30.85 per cent of the vote in 2013, and now, it has 18.62 per cent.  Both the Congress and the SP improved their vote share compared to 2012. This is going to be a serious worry for the BJP.  Does it indicate the disenchantment of the OBCs of the region with the BJP?  Some introspection regarding the collapse of the BJP vote in Bundelkhand is in order.

Lower Doab

The BJP had 30.26 per cent of the vote in 2012, and it now has 33 per cent. The only seat that went to polls here is again a rural seat. The BJP vote is an improvement over 2012, but not as dramatic as in the other regions.


The BJP+Apna Dal had 39.81 per cent of the vote, but now the combination has come down to 33.09 per cent.  But BJP and Apna Dal had contested separately.  Nevertheless, the BJP being unable to help the Apna Dal decisively in Modi’s constituency should be cause for worry for the party. The BJP should have won this seat hands down, no matter the gang-up against it.


In 2012, the BJP had 32 per cent of the vote in all the seats that went to by-polls.  Today it has 39 per cent. This shows that the BJP is making significant progress in the state.  While there are a few regions where the BJP vote share fell, this should not be beyond repair. By building up its shaky organisation, The SP has managed a 47 per cent vote share in the by-polls but is unlikely to replicate it in the Assembly polls. The best the SP has managed in a full Assembly poll is 30 per cent.  This sudden spurt of SP vote indicates the desperate push to stop the BJP at any cost.

In 2012, every BJP candidate who won, won either due to local factors, or on his own charisma. The BJP has, in all regions of UP except Bundelkhand and Purvanchal, improved its 2012 vote share now. In fact, the current vote share of the BJP in all areas except Bundelkhand is higher than it has ever had historically. The fact that it is a by-election along with the rampant thuggery of the SP means that the BJP performance is very creditable. In all urban seats, the BJP has breached the 50 per cent mark, winning easily.

In rural seats, its vote share is now between 30 and 40 per cent in most places. Only a desperate ‘secular’ consolidation has been able to stop the BJP to an extent.  Consequently, with a bit more focus, effort, and organisation building by the 2017 Assembly polls, our reading is that the BJP should be able to manage a handsome victory in the entire state. Mayawati has been too clever by half, and by transferring her vote to the SP, may have just shot herself in the foot. The fact that she is willing to do a deal with Mulayam for partisan political purposes undermines her credibility as a leader who will genuinely oppose the SP’s policies.

However, it would be good to sound one note of caution for the BJP. The OBCs still seem to be with the SP to a good extent, and the BSP has been able to transfer its SC vote to the SP (the SP and the BSP vote had been incompatible for quite some time now). These two factors should indicate that the BJP needs to be cautious and should step up its efforts to build up the broad spectrum of Hindu vote carefully.  If the BJP can just maintain its current vote share of 39 per cent in UP, it will win a huge majority in the state. The problem is maintaining the share. Further, these were seats that the BJP had won. Keeping the same vote in seats where it had lost in 2012 is going to be much harder. The BJP will also have to think hard about its coming strategy for Bundelkhand. It is obvious that the party is losing the plot there.

[1]          The Mahan Dal is a caste based outfit of the Mauryas, with claimed support from the Shakyas, and the Kushwahas, led by Keshav Dev Maurya.  On an interesting note, the founder happily claimed that his party has no ideology except love of power.  A refreshingly honest change!

[2]     I am unsure if the Mauryas are OBCs or Dalits, or some combination thereof, with some sub-castes in both categories.