Uttar Pradesh - India's most electorally significant state - has witnessed a contest between Congress on one side and the much-vaunted SP-BSP-RLD 'gathbandhan' on the other fighting against the BJP and its allies in the state in a bid to overturn two successive election humblings. However, inspite of the gathbandhan's efforts, Republic's double exit poll has projected that the BJP will continue to be a major force in the state, potentially winning half of U.P's 80 seats if not more.
If the exit poll's results do indeed turn out to be true, there is sufficient reason to believe that the 'gathbandhan/mahagathbandhan' concept may have reached its expiry date, proving a number of hotly debated factors in the lead-up to the elections as essentially being hollow, including the provenance of the entire SP-BSP combine which was the successful by-elections to the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituencies.
In 2014, BJP-led NDA secured a massive 73 out of 80 seats in the state, and out of the seven remaining seats, two were won by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi at Raebareli and Amethi respectively, while the five others were won by the Yadav dynasty in the state. Compared to 2014 Parliamentary elections, in 2019, the BJP's seat-share is predicted to go down by at least 10 seats, which will benefit the SP-BSP 'gathbandhan', but will it be enough given that the two old enemies were contesting together and there was bound to be some amount of anti-incumbency in the state against the BJP which is in power in the Centre and the assembly..
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Seat share projection
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Bypolls were held in 2018 in Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies of Uttar Pradesh in which the Samajwadi Party(SP) and BSP alliance won. The victories were enormously significant for a number of reasons, including the seats having previously belonged to U.P CM Yogi Adityanath and Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya before they vacated the seats to join the state assembly. Based on the successful experiment, the SP and BSP made a range of choices that have culminated in their joint-outing in 2019.
The by-polls were the first time since 1995 that Mayawati-led BSP came together with Mulayam Singh Yadav's SP after the infamous 'guest house incident' had set off decades of vehement hatred between the two parties. Known to be Adityanath's bastion, the 2018 bypoll was the first time that BJP did not field a 'mahant' of Gorakhnath temple. The SP-BSP alliance fielded joint candidate Praveen Nishad who won from the seat. In Phulpur as well, the SP-BSP alliance won. Immediately after, the SP and BSP's top leaderships had made a lot of noise about how the bypolls were a referendum on the BJP. However, if the exit polls are correct, the results were of little more than symbolic importance and hardly a herald for 2019.
Moreover, Sanjay Nishad, president of Nishad (Nirbal Indian Shoshit Hamara Aam Dal) party, along with his son Praveen Nishad, a sitting Samajwadi Party MP from Gorakhpur joined the BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections 2019. The 'social engineering' that Akhilesh Yadav talked about during the by-polls seems to vanish in the air if exit polls are to be believed.
After winning 104 seats in the Karnataka assembly election in 2018, the BJP fell short of the majority mark. However, the Congress party that won 80 seats and the JD(S) that won 37 seats in the state assumed power after days of controversy, with the junior partner getting to name a Chief Minister. Nevertheless, since the time, there has been a strain in the alliance with Kumaraswamy breaking down a number of times and alleging that Congress has not let him work for the people of Karnataka.
At the time of Kumaraswamy's swearing-in there was significant talk of how the model could be replicated across states, and as a result, anti-BJP regional leaders from across the country made a major show of strength at the ceremony. However, in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati did not ally with the Congress saying that both the BJP and Congress are two sides of the same coin. She also said that the votes of Congress in the state do not get transferred to the Gathbandhan and hence it is of no benefit. This may have indeed come to pass, despite Priyanka Vadra's contention of the Congress would cut the votes of the BJP.
The Congress has similarly failed to be of any help to the RJD, as per the exit polls, with the Modi-Nitish combine projected to win a majority of Bihar's seats.
There was plenty of reason to believe before the 2019 elections began that both SP and BSP were contesting for their political futures. While the projected seat-shares will bring some relief to both, especially Mayawati who has been reduced to virtually no representation in the Lok Sabha as well as the assembly, three repeated losses for such big regional parties, the third despite them putting aside their enmity to contest together, doesn't augur well for the future.