Of the five election results announced on Saturday, none will be more closely watched than Uttar Pradesh, the largest state Assembly in the country. Polling for 403 seats was held in seven phases in the state from February 11 to March 8, with an average voter turnout of just over 60%. The electorate comprised 14.05 crore voters.
The polls are being considered a test of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s popularity after its decision to demonetise 86% of India’s cash in a fiercely debated move on November 8, 2016. The BJP is looking to dethrone the Samajwadi Party, which has tied up with the Congress in the Assembly polls this year. A win will give the BJP a significant number of seats in the Rajya Sabha, where it is still in the minority.
Meanwhile, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party is hoping it can manoeuvre its way back into power 10 years after it won its first elections in the state. But the biggest challenge lies before the Akhilesh Yadav-led SP, which has been fractured by a months-long family feud involving his father Mulayam Singh Yadav and uncle Shivpal Yadav.
The BJP fielded candidates in 384 constituencies and the Samajwadi Party in 298 of them. The Congress contested in 105 constituencies, while BSP candidates stood for the elections in all 403 seats.
Numerous Model Code of Conduct violations and a bitter battle of words among the party bigwigs marked the run-up to the elections.
The BJP counted heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popular appeal, hoping to recreate its landslide win in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Modi spent three days campaigning in his Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi, in addition to several others in various districts.
Akhilesh Yadav teamed up with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to rally extensively around the state. Both leaders consistently brought up the hardship the currency ban brought upon citizens. To counter them, both the BJP and the BSP focussed on the poor state of law and order in UP.
Seven exit polls predicted a win for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The figures showed the Congress-SP alliance trailing with a significant gap, and the writing appears to be on the wall for a change in government in the state.
As the numbers came in, incumbent chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said he was willing to go to any lengths to stop the BJP from forming the government. He said that he would even tie-up with the BSP if it meant it would keep the BJP in the minority.
The 2012 elections
The last Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections were held in seven phases from February 8 to March 3 in 2012. The Samajwadi Party had won with an absolute majority of 224 of the 403 constituencies.