Voter Turnout Holds Key in UP Assembly Polls


All depends upon voter turnout; high voter turnout means advantage BJP while low voter turnout would mean Akhilesh-Rahul cycling back to power corridors in Lucknow

By Asit Manohar

The pre-poll alliance between the ruling Samajwadi Party and the Indian National Congress has made the UP Assembly Poll more interesting as the incumbent CM has been preferred as most favoured chief ministerial candidate in majority of the opinion polls. Thus, the alliance is expected to boost Akhilesh Yadav’s bid for second term in Lucknow. Poll pundits are expecting polarization of the Muslim votes behind this new alliance as it has more chances to oust BJP from the power fray. Since, Yadavas are expected to remain behind Akhilesh like a solid rock, SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadava’s M-Y equation is expected to scale new peak in this poll. However, psephologists are having their fingers crossed when they come across mutual vote transfer of the alliance partners in the UP. These poll experts are confident of the SP vote transfer to the Congress party but when they are asked about the Congress’s vote transfer to SP, they are giving reserved opinions.

“In 2007 and 2012, UP saw a predominantly two-way contest and the party which secured 30 percent of the votes won. However, in 2017 there is three-cornered contest and 30 percent vote share may not ensure victory for a party. That’s where the Congress’ vote share (paltry as it may seem) is crucial,” an article in Quint says. It goes on to say that SP is considered as an anti-Brahmin party and hence Congress would find it hard to transfer its Brahmin votes in favour of the Samajwadi candidates. Similarly, it would find hard to shift its Dalit votes in favour of the SP as these voters are shy of going with SP. Congress’s vote bank that would automatically get transferred to SP be Muslim vote. Since, Congress has a vote bank of around 6 percent, around 1.5 to 2 percent votes are expected to get transferred into the SP due to this alliance and Akhilesh is banking upon this vote share along with negating the chances of split in Muslim votes.

However, while discussing about the mutual vote transfer of Congress and SP, we need to understand that the grand old party has a voter bank but it’s not the first choice of these voters. They vote for Congress, when candidates of their first choice party are found out of fray. For example, Congress party has support base in Brahmin community but these voters vote for the grand old party when they found BJP candidate out of race. Similarly, Dalits vote for Congress in those constituencies where BSP candidate fails to make any winning impression. Muslims too are following the Dalit foot print but in different name. They vote for Congress when they find either of SP or BSP being able to keep BJP at bay. So, by adding Muslim (18 percent) and Yadav (8 percent), Samajwadi Party is banking upon the strong 26 percent vote bank. Since these two castes have shown tendency to vote for this alliance by near 75 percent of the turnout, SP-Congress combine is sure to get around 19.5 percent of the net polled votes of Muslims and Yadavas. Apart from this, SP and Congress receive Bhumihar, Thakur and OBC votes too. Adding these votes into the alliance, the SP-Congress combine is standing at around 24 percent solid vote bank and to get absolute majority, the alliance needs 6 percent votes from the floating voters whom the alliance is expecting to get from the Bhumihar, Thakur, OBCs and SCs category.

Coming to BJP’s strength, the ‘party with difference’ has strong base among the Forward Caste votes which is to the tune of 22 percent of the net voters. Since, the forward caste has shows a tendency to press for lotus to the tune of around 65 percent of the net turnout, BJP stands to receive around 8.6 percent of the net poll turnout from the forward caste category. Apart from Forward Caste, BJP has strong support base among the other than Yadav OBCs who constitute around 32 percent of the net voters. Castes like Kurmi (3.5 percent), Lodh (2.5 percent), Vaishya (2 percent), Koeri-Kachchi (3.5 percent) and Kashyap Nishad (2.5 percent) have been traditional vote bank for the ‘party with difference’ and these communities presses for lotus to the tune of around 60 percent of the net poll turnout among the OBC voters. After Kalyan Singh’s ouster from the BJP, these communities had shifted to Mayawati but they came back to BJP fold in 2014 and have remained with the BJP in the local body polls post 2014. Hence, BJP stands to get around 19 percent of the net polled votes of the other than Yadav OBCs. BJP receive votes among the non-Jatav SC votes (9 percent). Castes like Khatik, Passi and Dhobi, who constitute around 7 percent of the net vote together, vote for the BJP as they feel Mayawati being Jatav is biased towards Jatav and hence vote for BJP as they are shy of voting for SP. BJP receives around 2 percent of the non-Jatav SC votes and hence its net tally into the coming Up assembly polls stands at around 29.5 percent.

However, this figure may see a huge slide if the voter turnout is low because it has been found that BJP registers thumping majority when the OBC come out in large numbers. It happened in 1998 Lok Sabha polls and it happened in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls too. If the BJP wants to repeat its 2014 performance, it would require the OBC voters to come out in large numbers because Forward Caste doesn’t come in large number to cast their votes. Generally, total turnout among the Forward Caste voters remains around 50 percent and it scales to near 60 percent when they go aggressive. But, even when the poll turnout is high, the BJP would need around 3 to 3.5 percent additional votes in coming UP Assembly Polls.

BJP also has a risk factor involved around other than Yadav OBC voters. They vote for BJP when it’s a strong political force in the state, else they vote for Mayawati’s BSP because Mayawati’s BSP is another stronger pole which has strong support base among the SCs, other than Yadav OBCs and Muslims. Since, Mayawati attracts around 70 percent of the SC votes (22 percent) and the category has a tendency to register around 85-90 percent poll turnout, especially in the Eastern and Western UP, the party is expected to register around 13 percent of the SC votes which includes dominant Jatav votes which is almost half of the total SC voters. Mayawati receives around 25 percent of the Muslim votes too. Since, this community too registers high poll turnout, the expected Muslim votes for the BSP is to the tune of near 4 percent. Apart from this, Mayawati has following among other than Yadav OHCs too. It attracts around 30 percent of the other than Yadav OBC votes which has an average rate of poll turnout of near 75 percent. Hence, BSP stands to log around 7.2 percent of the other than Yadav OBC votes. Means, BSP is expected to register around 24.2 percent of total poll turnout, leaving Mayawati to do the social engineering to garner votes either from the Upper Caste which she did successfully in 2007 or from the Muslims, whom she has been luring in the wake of recent Samajwadi feud. But, it’s for sure that either BJP or BSP would gain on the expense of others. SP-Congress would maintain its position.