BJP sweeps UP, Cong wrests Punjab

Saffron party gets three-fourths majority in U'khand; AAP punctured

BJP sweeps UP, Cong wrests Punjab

Surpassing all pre-poll Assembly election projections, the BJP on Saturday rode to power in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, securing three-fourths majorities in the two states.

The party, however, yielded Punjab to the Congress rival as it suffered one of the worst defeats of recent years in the state in the company of the Shiromani Akali Dal, its senior alliance partner in the northern state. The BJP also suffered a setback in Goa, which threw up a hung Assembly with the Congress emerging as the single largest party.

In another hung verdict, the Congress also emerged as the single largest party in the north-eastern state of Manipur, where the Congress is also the incumbent ruling party. Hitherto a fringe political party in the state, the BJP is perceived to have made rapid inroads in the state and hoped to wrest power from the ruling Congress.  

The BJP wave in UP swept away both its main rivals – ruling the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The BJP secured 312 seats on its own in the 403-member state Assembly, while its minor allies won another 13 seats. The Samajwadi Party’s alliance with the Congress could not help the Samajwadi Party to avoid its worst-ever Assembly election performance in over 25 years. The BSP too recorded its poorest performance since 1993.

The results in Punjab and Goa are not good for the AAP. Its ambition of emerging as an alternative to the BJP and the Congress at the national level suffered a setback. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP ended a distant second in Punjab and failed to open its account in Goa.

The BJP’s win was credited to Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led campaign and Modi’s ability to recreate the 2014 Lok Sabha election magic in UP (when it had won 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats). The last best showing by BJP in UP was in 1991, soon after the Ram Janam Bhoomi movement, when it got majority on its own winning 221 seats out of 425 in an undivided state.

The Assembly elections took place in the backdrop of Modi's biggest economic gamble, demonetisation, which was yet to give results that would be tangible to an average voter who had experienced its pain.

The elections had become a test for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who took charge as the national president of the Samajwadi Party just ahead of the polls after a bitter family feud. Defying his father and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, he joined hands with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi who too dumped his earlier efforts to resurrect the Congress on its own. The results, obviously, is a huge setback to Akhilesh. 

Gandhi, who led his party’s campaign in the absence of party president Sonia Gandhi, faces a lot of questions within the party. But the Punjab victory under former chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has somewhat softened the setback to him within the party from UP and Uttarakhand results. Amarinder Singh is the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

In Uttarakhand, a number of senior leaders had left to join the BJP. Rahul Gandhi is seen to have allowed the drift, standing by Chief Minister Harish Rawat. However, besides losing badly, the Congress also saw Rawat losing from the two seats he has contested.
In Goa, which was under the BJP rule for the past five years, the saffron party suffered acute reverse. It won only 13 seats in the 40-member house where the majority mark is 21.

It was a personal setback for Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar whose nominee and Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar lost badly in his own seat. Parrikar's problems with local RSS ideologue Subhash Velingkar split the Sangh set-up in the state, cost the BJP dear. As the results threw a hung Assembly with the Congress emerging as the single largest party with 17 seats, the BJP did not appear to be giving up its claims either. The key to the next government was held by the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), the Goa Forward Party and the independents who had won three each and the NCP that bagged one seat.

Similarly, in Manipur, where the house has 60 seats, it was a cliff-hanger. Beating anti-incumbency factors despite being in power for 15 years, the Congress bagged 28 seats. Putting up a creditable performance despite being a new player, the BJP won 21 seats.

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