(Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP)
(Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP)

Lucknow: The BJP and its allies may see a loss of up to 38 seats, and a minimum of 6 seats in the Lok Sabha election results, according to the numerous exit poll projections. The BJP and its allies had won 73 out of UP’s 80 seats in 2014, while the Samajwadi Party was restricted to 5, followed by 2 for the Congress and none for the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The exit poll projections indicate that BJP may lose in as many as 50 seats or as little as 8 seats, depending on the agency that conducted the poll. The maximum loss for the BJP and allies has been indicated by the ABP-AC Nielsen exit poll, which has predicted 45 seats for the SP-BSP alliance, and a mere 33 for the BJP and allies.

However, Republic C-Voter exit poll survey says the NDA will win a total of 38 seats in UP, while the SP-BSP alliance may win 40; its prediction diminishes the Congress’ UPA alliance to only 2 seats. Times Now- VMR has given 58 seats to BJP and allies, followed by 20 to the SP-BSP combine. The News24-Today’s Chanakya has suggested 65 seats for NDA and 13 for SP-BSP.

The election in UP was marked by the coming together of two bitter rivals — Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party — after more than two decades of antagonism. The acrimony remained bitter with Mulayam and Mayawati using unpleasant language for each other for years.

It was only in 2019 that Akhilesh Yadav took the initiative to extend an olive branch to Mayawati – again to unitedly fight the BJP – and the SP-BSP alliance took shape. The two parties put up candidates keeping in mind the caste and community factors in all places except Amethi and Rae Bareli.

The alliance did pose a tough challenge to the BJP which seemed to ride on a strong wave of Modi’s popularity. The two parties had agreed on a 37-38-3-2 seat sharing formula (seats for SP, BSP, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Congress). There was confusion over whether the Congress was part of this alliance.

The Congress campaign, bolstered by the appointment of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as general secretary in-charge for east UP, floundered on several occasions when Priyanka asked her party workers to be ready for the big battle in 2022 Assembly election, or said her party was in the fray to “cut votes”, or indicated that she might contest from Varanasi.

The failure of Congress and SP-BSP to arrive at some understanding saw triangular contests across UP. The SP and the BSP have grown strong roots across the state and have been in power alternately since 2003. They have dominated the state and their workers and supporters too have become bolder and more aggressive over the years.

Both SP and BSP have derived their strength from the association of caste groups at the core – the Yadavs, some other OBCs and Muslims for the SP, while the BSP flourished on the support of Dalits and some Muslims. This caste combination was demolished by the BJP in 2014 with Modi emerging as a favourite across all barriers.

But by the end of five years, the caste preferences came to the fore again even though Modi retained his popularity across many sections. This erosion is Modi’s support base is what the SP-BSP combine and the Congress have tried to exploit in their favour.

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