COLUMN: Seven points, observers undermined in predicting Uttar Pradesh

Written by: Nitin Mehta
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"Beyond Expectations" is the narrative that is ruling the media discourse since the numbers from the EVMs came out this morning for Uttar Pradesh. Some pollsters got the trend right, few got it horribly wrong while a couple of them werealmost spot on. On the other hand, most field journalist and ethnographers were way off the mark. However, if one closely analyze the campaign and its build up, there is a general sense that most observers missed some key points that will surely be spoken and written about in the days to come.

Bharatiya Janata Party members

Jatt desertion of BJP was not happening: The last leg effort of the party president Mr. Amit Shah meeting the Jat leaders before 1st phase seemed to have helped the party in picking up momentum for a long and tiring election. The initial reports of Jatt desertion of the party on being miffed with the BJP on handling of Haryana reservation agitation seemeduntrue if one goes by the result. The party seemed to have convinced the Jatts that they may be angry with the BJP but the alternative could be worse.

Upper Caste, Non Yadav OBC, Non Jatav Dalit Consolidation and split of the Muslim vote: The caste arithmetic was working very well for the BJP on the ground. The subtle counter consolidation of Non Yadav lower castes on the backdrop of social dominance of the Yadav community under the Samajwadi rule was working well for the party. On the other hand massive push of Mayawati to woo Muslim voters by giving a large chunk of tickets to Muslims, seem to have confused the minority electorate and led to a split vote.

Demonetization, a positive not a negative message: Irrespective of how the issue was reported in the media and the inconvenience caused during the process, PM was managing to convince its electorate that it was a step for the poor with "good intentions" and it will hurt those with black money. Opposition parties too paid a heavy price for campaigning against the issue.

Ujjwala - a hit: Distribution of free LPG connections to the poor has been a huge success in UP. The popularity of a scheme like this was helping the BJP to leverage a lot of votes, especially the poor household and women.

Prime Minster sensed it early: Even his worst critics appreciate his political wisdom. He was taking a calculated risk by staying the course for the final leg of Campaign in Banaras and capturing the entire media space that could have otherwise fragmented between other parties and its leaders. He sensed the momentum early and thereby shifted to fifth gear as campaigned moved forward. One could also see this in the number of rallies that were planned for him in early stages of elections versus the number of rallies he ended up doing.

Akhilesh - from confidence to nervousness: Akhilesh Yadav'ssheer confidence based on arithmetic after the alliance withCongress was visible in his rallies too. The campaign which stared largely on the narrative of Samajwadi pension schemeand highways gradually stared moving towards desperation with personal attack on Mr. Modi with Donkey remarks and finally defending and distancing at the same time from Gayatri Prajapati. Such desperation happens when one understands to have lost the plot.

BSP's fall is BJP's Rise in UP: The irony of election observation was clearly visible as most observers seemed to have captured the fall of Mayawati, yet with all common logic failed to understand that a minor transfer of its core vote towards BJP would result in a tremendous seat conversion in a three way contest.

(The author is a Managing Partner, Ranniti Consulting and Research)

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