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Will Uttar Pradesh be ‘bellwether’ or exception again?

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New Delhi, May 20, 2019-

Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state that sends 80 MPs to the 543-member Lok Sabha, may be considered a political bellwether state as the government at the Centre has been formed 12 out 16 times by the party that got the maximum seats here.

With the mammoth seven-phase exercise to elect the 17th Lok Sabha coming to an end, the million dollar question is whether Uttar Pradesh will remain a “bellwether” state or spring surprises like the general elections of 1991, 1999, 2004 and 2009.

Out of the total 16 general elections held so far, the Congress formed its government at the Centre despite winning five and nine seats respectively in 1991 and 2004 in the state. In the 1999 and 2009 elections, the Samajwadi Party won the maximum number of seats.

The exit polls on Sunday predicted a fractured mandate in Uttar Pradesh, although they forecast the return of NDA to power.

It remains to be seen, once the counting of votes is taken up on May 23, what results come out of UP, where the BJP, the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance and the Congress were the main players.

BJP’s strong performance in the bellwether state is expected to boost Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances of getting a second term.

From the first general elections in the country in 1952 to 1971, the Congress won most of the seats in Uttar Pradesh and formed a majority government at the Centre with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi as country’s Prime Ministers.

After the controversial Emergency was lifted, the parties in the opposition came together under the Janata Party umbrella to fight the Congress and won the 1977 elections. Morarji Desai then became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India.

In those elections, the Congress failed to even open its account in Uttar Pradesh, while the Janata Dal won all the 85 parliamentary constituencies. Uttar Pradesh (UP) had 85 parliamentary seats till the creation of Uttarakhand in 2004, when five seats went to the new state.

After the failure of the Janata Party experiment, the Congress bounced back to power in the 1980 general elections winning 353 of the 529 seats on offer. The parties of the earlier Janata coalition could not repeat their 1977 performance, so much that in 1980, there was no Leader of the Opposition (LoP) because no party had the required numbers.

The Congress won 50 seats in UP in these elections and Indira Gandhi again became the Prime Minister.

After Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984 and the anti-Sikh riots that followed, the Congress got a landslide victory riding on the wave of sympathy. It won 404 of the 514 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made its electoral debut winning two seats, one in Gujarat and another in Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana). Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister.

Out of 85 parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress won 83, while rest went to the Lok Dal.

In the 1989 general elections, Janata Dal won 54 seats in Uttar Pradesh but no party could get a majority at the Centre. The Congress won 197 seats, the Janata Dal 143, while the BJP made impressive gains winning 85 out of 529 seats. The Janata Dal formed the National Front government with outside support from the BJP and the left parties. Vishwanath Pratap Singh became the Prime Minister.

The 1991 general elections broke the tradition of Uttar Pradesh becoming the bellwether state. The BJP won 51 seats, Janata Dal got 22 and the Congress just five seats.

And in a first — despite winning the least number of seats in the state, the Congress emerged as the single largest party in the country with 232 seats in its kitty, and formed a coalition government at the Centre. P.V. Narsimha Rao became the Prime Minister of a minority government.

In the next two general elections in 1996 and 1999, the BJP won the maximum number of seats 52 and 59 respectively in Uttar Pradesh and formed coalition governments at the Centre under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The 1999 elections were held in the backdrop of the Kargil war. The BJP again emerged as the single largest party with 182 seats, while the Congress could garner only 114. The BJP was able to form a more stable NDA this time around and this was the first time that a non-Congress alliance lasted a full five-year term. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the third time.

After 1991, it happened for the second time that the party winning maximum number of seats in Uttar Pradesh could not form its government at the Centre. The Samajwadi Party won 35 seats, while the BJP won 29 and the Congress garnered just 10 seats.

In 2004, the Congress won just nine seats while the SP got the highest (35) in Uttar Pradesh, and the Congress-led UPA formed the government at the Centre, with Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister.

The Lok Sabha polls in 2009 witnessed a four-cornered contest with the SP and Congress winning equal number of seats (22) followed by the BSP (20) and the BJP (10). The UPA returned to power again and Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister.

The 2014 general elections Uttar Pradesh again proved to be a bellwether state with the BJP and its allies winning 73 out of the 80 parliamentary seats.

With charges of corruption, UPA’s second term proved to be a disaster and Manmohan Singh’s silence cost the Congress heavily.

The BJP projected Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate. The saffron party won a majority with 282 seats on its own, while the Congress recorded its worst ever performance with just 44 seats. This was the first time since 1984 that a party won a majority on its own.  (Agency)

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