Yogi or Modi ? Double engine won elections?
Who is the winning horse?
(Dr Pentapati Pullarao, New Delhi)
BJP is returning to power in Uttar Pradesh, but with a reduced majority. The question is why did BJP get less seats this time . Modi said that the “ Double Engine “ of himself and Yogi will deliver progress for Uttar Pradesh. As the BJP majority is reduced, which one of the Double engines failed or was less powerful ? Would Yogi Adityanath have won the Uttar Pradesh elections by himself?
Winning UP is a Marathon to any party
Ever since modern Olympics started in 1896, marathon is the race which everyone remembers. It is a race of 26 miles and 385 yards. The Marathon runner is always remembered, because it is the toughest race. Till 1985, it was the Congress which won the Uttar Pradesh marathon, except for 1977. After 1985, other parties started winning Uttar Pradesh. No doubt, Uttar Pradesh is the largest state in India with 22 crore population, 403 MLAs and 80 Lok Sabha MPs. If a national party wins Uttar Pradesh, then it forms the government in Delhi.
In 1999, BJP won 190 MLAs in Uttar Pradesh and Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime minister. Subsequently in 2002, 2007, 2017, Mayavathi and Mulayam Singh Yadav won Uttar Pradesh elections. But they did not control the central government. So for a national party, it helps greatly if they win Uttar Pradesh.
In 2014, Narendra Modi was appointed the Prime minister candidate of the BJP. Significantly, Modi contested the most famous Varanasi Parliament seat. Modi also contested a seat from Gujarat. But after wining Varanasi, Modi retained it. Varanasi is of great significance as it is the seat of Hinduism and a very ancient city. The great American writer Mark Twain visited India and Varanasi in 1895 and described Varanasi , “ as Benares, a city older than the ages”. Mark Twain meant that it is so old that it is older than history.
Narendra Modi selected Varanasi , as his parliament seat as he gave great importance to Uttar Pradesh and Varanasi is the holiest Hindu city. In 2014, Narendra Modi became prime minister and the BJP and its allies won 73 MPs out of 80.
In 2017, the Uttar Pradesh state election assumed great significance because in November 2016 , Narendra Modi introduced NoteBandi ,which caused economic chaos and huge un-employment. There were expectations that the people of Uttar Pradesh would defeat BJP. But the BJP won a record 320 MLAs out of 403 and Yogi Adityanath became the chief minister. The BJP did not expect such a huge number and Yogi Adityanath was made Chief Minister.
Amit Shaw found a good administrator in Yogi
Yopgi Adityanath has no prior experience in administration. Yogi was an MP for many terms . But Amit Shah who claims to have “ discovered Yogi as Chief Minister “ felt that Yogi would be a strong administrator. In last 5 years , Uttar Pradesh has seen many sides of Yogi . Yogi was personally not corrupt or had a dynasty. Yogi emphasized law and order and crushed mafia elements and land grabbers. There is unanimity in Uttar Pradesh that Yogi has succeeded in public safety.
Thanks to the Modi government, Uttar Pradesh received enormous funds for infra-structure development.In last 5 years, highways, roads, bridges, new trains, new airports were built. Free rations were widely distributed and other welfare schemes were implemented , including job schemes like NREGA.
Yogi also did not tolerate any dissidence in the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. There was also minimum political interference from BJP head office in Uttar Pradesh affairs. In fact, such was Yogi’s importance and power that he refused to make a trusted retired officer M.L. Sharma as a Minister in his cabinet and there was nothing Narendra Modi could do.
Yogi gave great emphasis to building the Ram temple and other Hindu religious activities. By these actions, Yogi secured the full support of Hindu voters. There is also the factor that Triple Talaq law has won over a big number of Muslim women, who now had their marriages strong as per Indian law.
We saw what happened in 2019
In the middle of Yogi Adityanath’s term as Chief minister, there were the Lok Sabha elections of May, 2019. The critics of Yogi Adityanath reasoned that the un-popularity or poor performance of Yogi Adityanath will reflect and damage Narendra Modi and the BJP in 2019. But here agin, the BJP won 62 MPs out of 80 MPs. But remember that BJP won 10 MPs less in 2019 than in 2014. Definitely, this raised alarm bells in the BJP.
Of course, there were the many failures during Covid Second Wave and the U.P Government handled it very badly. There is no doubt that the government machinery failed. But after second Wave, UP government improved their organization .
Was Yogi responsible for BJP victory in Uttar Pradesh ?
If the BJP had lost, then the blame would have been entirely on Yogi Adityanath . As Chief Minister, the blame would have fallen on Yogi. But as the BJP won, surely Yogi Adityanath can claim a share of the credit. But the question is how big a role had Yogi in BJP’s victory and what was the contribution of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ?
What was Narendra Modi’s role ?
However popular Narendra Modi is . a state government’s popularity depends on the Chief Minister. Narendra Modi is very popular in Bengal. Yet, the BJP did not win the elections. For a state government to win, it has to be a Double engine model. The State must have a good Chief Minister.
In 2018 December, while Narendra Modi was prime minister, the BJP lost the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. It meant that the un-popularity of the Chief ministers was more than the popularity of the Prime Minister and Narendra Modi could not pull them to victory. But a few months later in may, 2019, BJP and Narendra Modi swept the 3 States of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
Therefore, results in a state election largely depend on the local Chief Minister. But with regard to Uttar Pradesh, as it is a vast state, the impact of the prime minister Modi is there. But one aspect must be remembered. If the prime Minister is un-popular, he cannot positively affect a state. Since Narendra Modi is very popular, he has had a great impact on Uttar Pradesh.
Double engine theory of Narendra Modi :
In all state elections, Narendra Modi says that the people should vote for the BJP, as it will have a double-engine government. Double engines are more powerful and they pull bigger trains. So Modi says that with him as Prime Minister, a BJP State government will have many advantages. Modi points out to the various welfare schemes and the infra-structure developed by Government of India. There is no doubt that this is a great argument.
In the case of Uttar Pradesh, Narendra Modi is not only a BJP Prime Minister, he is also an MP from Uttar Pradesh. Modi has developed eastern Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi and surrounding districts.
Negatives for BJP in Uttar Pradesh :
Aside from NoteBandi, which affected the economy, there was Covid in Uttar Pradesh. Further, the 3 farm laws also created an image of being anti-farmer . Further, after 5 years, there is natural anti-incumbency affecting the Yogi government.
The Samajwadi party led by Akhilesh Yadav also managed to become the main opposition party and shunted the BSP and Congress aside. Those who were against the government went solidly behind Akhilesh Yadav. Though there were 4 parties in the election, it became essentially a BJP against the Akhilesh Yadav Party .Hence, the opposition votes were not divided.
Reduction in MLAs for BJP in Uttar Pradesh : The BJP had 320 MLAs in the Assembly. After the election, the BJP has about 260 MLAs. There was a reduction of 70 MLAs. Obviously, it was a close fight. If Yogi Adityanath had fought the election without the help of Narendra Modi, he would have lost. The double engine theory of Narednra Modi worked solidly here in Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanath maybe popular. But Yogi’s popularity was not enough to counter the Opposition. If Narendra Modi was not the Prime minister, the BJP might have lost the election.
Modi’s popularity helped : The fact that BJP could win with a reduced margin proves that only the popularity and stabilizing force of Narendra Modi won the election. The presence of Narendra Modi also ensured that there was no dissidence in the BJP. There is another aspect to Yogi’s election. The fact that BJP won Uttar Pradesh is no doubt a great achievement. But if the BJP got more than 300 MLAs, then Yogi Adityanath would have become the future of the party.
Now the BJP will have to study how much positive and negative impact yogi Adityanath had on the election. The BJP would also have to assess if Yogi Adityanath is the right man to continue till the May 2024 parliament election. The Opposition had barely 80 MLAs in the last assembly. Now they are reaching 150 MLAs. It is a victory for the BJP. But the victory is not total, as there was steep fall in seats.
In a way ,Narendra Modi and the BJP may be happy that the BJP won less number of seats than they did in 2017. Or Yogi Adityanath would have become a towering figure equal to Modi himself. Now BJP can guide and control Yogi Adityanath more than before and definitely, there will be many voices against Yogi in the party.
Any victory is better than defeat. But the victory in Uttar Pradesh by BJP also sends many messages . The BJP should not be over-confident in 2024 parliament elections . In conclusion, we can say that Yogi was popular. But not too popular, as he needed Narendra Modi to win! (Author is a prominent political analyst based at New Delhi)