Why is BJP in trouble in UP even without a Grand Alliance

Three data points from Uttar Pradesh Lok Sabha Election that have emerged in the last 1 month that should worry the BJP

AXIS Poll with India Today

“In the first tracking poll done by Axis for India Today in September, Yogi Adityanath enjoyed a popularity rating of 43 per cent. Worryingly enough for BJP supporters, the latest round of polling done by Axis shows that Yogi’s popularity has fallen by 5 per cent in the last three months. In the third week of December, only 38 per cent of the respondents said that Yogi Adtyanath was their preferred choice for the next chief minister.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav who enjoyed a popularity rating of only 29 per cent in September has jumped 8 per cent points to 37 per cent in December. In this round there is only a 1 per cent gap between the incumbent UP CM and his principal rival. Mayawati’s popularity has declined from 18 per cent to 15 per cent between September and December “

CNX poll for IndiaTV

“According to India TV CNX Opinion Poll 2019, BJP may be restricted to just 40 seats as compared to the previous 71, which points at a significant loss for the saffron party even when there is no ‘Mahagathbandhan’ in Uttar Pradesh. BSP that had not won even one seat in 2014, appears to be grabbing 15 seats. SP, on the other hand, can get 20 seats. Voteshare of BJP may stand at 37%, BSP-10%, SP-23%, Congress-10% and Other Parties 11%.”

Google Trends

This is a more long term trend. It shows compared to 2013 December, SP and BSP (together) have clawed the gap with the BJP

Across the three data points, SP and BSP appear to be reducing the gap, whether together or separately

Why is this happening?

Let us borrow some ideas from the 2018 assembly elections and check the data in UP. First, let us see what were the top issues in these States (CSDS)


We start with jobs first (we consider EPFO data)

Telangana – 3.4 lakhs (6.9 lakhs eligible for employment in one batch, actual may be only 60%) ,Rajasthan – 2.3 lakhs (15.3 lakhs), Madhya Pradesh – 2.1 lakhs (15.2 lakhs), Chhattisgarh – 1 lakh (5 lakhs), Uttar Pradesh – 2.4 lakhs (43.5 lakhs)

The number in the bracket is the approximate number of youth who leave college/school every year. It is an approximation and it is not incorrect to assume that only 50-60% look for a job every year. Even assuming 50%, Telangana is employing almost everyone. On the other hand, in UP only about 10% are able to find decent jobs. It does not mean the rest 90% are unemployed, it only means they are getting low paid jobs or poor quality jobs and may be even unemployed. And if this shortfall has been there for the last two years, we are talking about 30 lakh homes affected in UP. This translates to about 2 % of the electors and if you include family members, about 6% of the electors. And this is just the base added post Yogi Adityanath became CM. There may be many others who may have voted for the BJP hoping for better jobs

Let us look at price rise. 

How much price rise did each of the states report in November?

Telangana – 0.36%, Madhya Pradesh – 2%, Rajasthan – 1.73%, Chhattisgarh – (-0.28%). Uttar Pradesh – 2.6%

Yes, amongst the 5 states, UP has the highest inflation. But one could argue that 2.6% is not much. But to valdiate this, one must look at it from 2 perspectives

a. Food Inflation is down but service inflation is up (probably due to higher GST on services)

In fact, it has not come down by much since the time of Manmohan Singh ( It did fall quite a bit after demonetisation). What this means is that prices of things like education, recreation etc are growing at a a faster pace now than under the final year of the UPA

2. Inflation is down but so is wage growth

Look at NREGA wage growth in UP. It is better than Chhattisgarh but far worse than Rajasthan and MP


So with services inflation remaining high and income growth reducing on top of lower job creation, the frustration is clear.

Upper OBCs+Non-Jatav Dalits who defected to the BJP in both 2014 and 2017 will be the first ones to return back to SP and BSP. The Jats too have voted for multiple parties across the region may consider returning to RLD. That leaves BJP with the core Upper caste and MBC vote which amounts to be about 53% down from the 60-65% base they were able to target in 2014 and 2017. Now, income growth has also slowed down in Urban India which is why urban voters defected in both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The reason why SP and BSP are not having an alliance with the Congress is because Congress will actively try winning many of the Urban UP seats they won in 2009.

The other new issue that has emerged is that the Prime Minister’s campaign bounce is not leading to higher preference  for him(CSDS). Important to note that the Prime Minister is quite popular but increasing exposure is not necessarily giving him a big bounce

With 3 months left to go, there is enough time for the BJP to recover. All will depend also on what the opposition offers voters. If they donot recognise that it is an issue of jobs and income and focus only on Farm Loan waiver, the opposition cannot consolidate those gains. As far as BJP is concerned, they will go back to beneficiary targetting which yielded good results amongst women in Rajasthan. That might reduce the losses in UP as well. The game has just begun!

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