The results of the UP local bodies poll last week confirm that the ruling BJP continues to enjoy the peoples’ trust. Eight months after it swept into power, winning 325 of the 403 Assembly seats, the party has retained control of the major cities in the State, winning 14 of the 16 mayoral posts. These towns with a population of ten lakh or more had returned the BJP even in the previous civic elections. In 2012 it had won ten of the 12 corporations. Now with the creation of four more corporations it has increased its tally to 12 mayoral posts, establishing the fact that the BJP base in urban areas remains strong.
Given the controversies surrounding the Yogi Adityanath Government, from love-jihad to cow vigilantes, etc., the trust vote in urban areas would be reassuring for the party. The generally more educated and politically aware voter in urban areas seems to have taken into his stride the discordant noises made by the Sangh Parivar fringe in order to give the Adityanath Government sufficient time to provide good governance in a State which was ravaged by the previous Samajwadi and Bahujan Samaj Party administrations. There can be little doubt that he has reduced political interference in the administration, particularly in the law and order department. The police thanas no longer are hostage to the arbitrary dictates of the SP goons who had openly indulged in land grab and extortion, etc. Yet, a lot remains to be done.
Healthcare and education are in a terrible state and need particular attention. Whether there can be a substantial increase in spending on these key areas remains in doubt but at least by trying to plug leakages of the existing outlay a perceptible change can be made in the quality of these two vital public goods. The recent tragedy in a Gorakhpur hospital which had resulted in the death of scores of children allegedly due to the non-availability of oxygen cylinder should not recur. The point is that the State Government is on test and should it squander the huge mandate it is bound to suffer a setback in the 2019 general election.
Also, the results do not indicate the total eclipse of the Opposition. Mayawati’s BSP surprised everyone by winning two mayoral polls in the minority-dominated towns of Aligarh and Meerut. In fact, the Samajwadi Party too has recovered some ground in the rural belt, with the BJP slipping in non-urban parts from the highs it had established in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll and the Assembly poll earlier this year. The BJP vote share in smaller town councils has slipped to below 20 percent which should be a cause for worry for the party, especially if it is keen to win a second term for Modi in the 2019 election.
The Adityanath Government has to also contend with the fact that in the Lok Sabha poll, both the main opposition parties, namely, the SP and the BSP, along with the Congress can team up to present a united challenge to the BJP. In short, unless there is a perceptible improvement in the quality of governance, and unless the people feel that change, it will be hard for the BJP to retain the huge support it had received both in the 2014 general election and the 2017 Assembly election. There is no time to lose for the UP Government.