Nearly eight months after pulling off a landslide mandate in the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP has some lessons to learn from the recently-concluded municipal elections. The outcome has been a mixed bag for a party that touted development as its main poll plank. While the saffron party has swept the municipal corporations, which are largely urban bodies, bagging 14 of the 16 mayoral seats and the remaining two going to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), its performance in the semi-urban and rural areas has been far below expectations. The municipal polls were seen as the first litmus test for the Yogi Adityanath government, which had promised to usher in an era of clean and corruption-free administration. There was an initial burst of celebrations in the BJP camp over mayoral victories. However, a closer look at the three-tier local body elections reveals that the ruling party’s winning streak has not been consistent across the State. In fact, there is a considerable erosion of the support base in the rural areas as compared with its robust performance in the Assembly polls. The urban-rural divide is clearly visible as the BJP has retained the faith of the voters in big cities but fared rather poorly in the hinterland. On the other hand, both the Samajwadi Party and the BSP appear to be showing signs of revival after a comprehensive drubbing in the Assembly elections. There appears no respite for Congress from electoral miseries as it stood last in the race. It suffered a major embarrassment of losing Amethi Nagar Panchayat to the BJP. Amethi is the Lok Sabha constituency of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and is considered a bastion of the party.
The BJP won 596 out of 1,300 municipal corporation wards, 70 out of 198 nagar palika parishad chairman posts and 100 out of 438 nagar panchayat chairpersons. It conceded considerable ground to the independents in rural areas. The SP, with 45 posts of Nagar Palika Parishad chairman and 83 posts of Nagar Panchayat chairman, and the BSP, with 29 and 45 posts respectively, are clawing their way back. The Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) opened its account in the politically crucial State bagging 26 seats in the lower two tiers of the civic bodies. Adityanath, the monk-turned-politician, had led the BJP’s campaign from the front and addressed as many as 34 rallies. In the run-up to the polls, there was an attempt by some State BJP leaders to rake up a divisive narrative over heritage structures like Taj Mahal. It is time the Adityanath government desisted from getting bogged down in frivolous issues and, instead, focused on development, law and order, job creation and resolving farmers’ problems.