By Harihar Swarup
Uttar Pradesh which dominates national politics, has had an eventful history in the assembly elections as well. As the state heads for polls, a look at its frequently changing governments and CMs, and the role of key leaders shows its fascinating twists and turns among different political parties
With 80 seats out of the 543 in Lok Sabha, 403 in the Assembly, and 31 of the Rajya Sabha, besides a 100-member Legislative Council, Uttar Pradesh with its largest state wise voting strength carries more weight than any other state in the country’s politics. Yogi Adityanath, who took over as chief minister on March 19, 2017, will be third (after Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati) to complete their five-year tenure.
Of the 403 Assembly seats, 9 are currently vacant; out of the effective membership of 394, the BJP has 303, the SP 49, the BSP 15 and the Congress 7. As the UP heads for election across seven phases between February 10 and March 7, it will be interesting to recap the political developments in the last three decades.
2017: Yogi’s Emergence
The 2017 election marked the return of BJP—which swept the state with 312 seats, not counting its allies’ tally—and the emergence of Yogi Aditynath. The head of Gorakh Peeth in Gorakhpur, Adityanath was a Lok Sabha member when the BJP decided to install him as Chief Minister. The BJP had fought election without projecting a chief ministerial candidate. Then MP Keshav Prasad Maurya, who had come to BJP from VHP, was the state party President. Adityanath’s nomination surprised many in the party.
While the RSS and state BJP general secretaries (organization) Sunil Bansal are known to have influenced his government’s decision, Adityanath has managed to create a perception that his potential challengers within the party in UP are now on back foot. Today, his supporters see a bigger role for him at the Centre in coming years.
2012: Akhilesh Enters
Under Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Samajwadi Party had earned the reputation of being a party of musclemen. Akhilesh, his (Mulayam’s) engineer son, prevented the entry of some criminals in SP. That, and his promises of free laptops and dole for unemployed youth, worked in his favour. In 2012 polls the BJP brought Uma Bharti to contest Chitrakoot, and word emerged that Mulayam would make his son the CM. The SP won 224 seats, and Akhilesh was sworn-in as the youngest chief minister of the politically sensitive state at the age of 38.
Akhilesh’s regime was marked by internal problems. He was also seen as reducing himself to a leader of Yadavas, and a large section of Muslims. He hesitated to speak on reservation and other issues that are key to his party’s support base and the BJP spread the message that a number of candidates of his caste were being selected through Public Service Commission. He seized leadership of his party, sidelining his uncle, but lost the 2017 elections he once thought would be cakewalk.
2007: Mayawati Returns
Mayawati’s fourth stint as chief minister was historic because she won the first single majority since 1991. Her social engineering included Brahmins, whom her mentor Kashmi Ram had opposed, and the Dalit-Brahim combination brought her 206 seats. Mayawati became the first CM of UP to complete a full five-year tenure (2007-12). She and her aide Satish Mishra are trying the same caste-based formula in 2022.
2002-2007 First Mayawati and then Mulayam
Following a spell of President’s rule from March to May 2002. Mayawati became CM for the third time after the BJP extended support to the BSP. But some BJP leaders started campaigning against the alliance, and Mayawati resigned in August 2003. Mulayam was sworn-in with the support of BSP dissidents, and ran the government until 2007. While the NDA lost power in 2004 at the centre, the SP got 39 Lok Sabha seats. Mulayam was known to be under constant pressure from successive governments at the centre on account of a CBI preliminary enquiry on a complaint against his family.
1999-2002: Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh
Under the CM Kalyan Singh’s watch, the BJP in 1998 won 58 out of UP’s then 85 Lok Sabha seats. But in 1999 the tally fell to 29. Amid lobbying against him, Kalyan Singh refused to resign to make way for Rajnath Singh. The BJP elevated octogenarian Ram Prakash Gupta to CM’s chair; his government granted OBC status to Jats in UP. As Kalyan Singh—Kalraj Mishra leadership lost hold, Kalyan left the BJP while Gupta too fell out of favour, Rajnath Singh became CM in October 2000. And stayed 18 months as CM.. In 2002, the BJP finished in third place with just 88 seats, and Rajnath Singh returned to Delhi.
1996: Different Combinations
In 1996 elections, the BJP won174 seats, short of a majority, and the President’s rule was imposed. In April 1997, the BJP and BSP (67 MLAs) agreed to rotate CMs every six months. Mayawati had the first six months, and made way for Kalyan Singh, but soon withdrew support. The BJP responded by breaking the BSP and the Congress. New groups called Jantantrik BSP (headed by Chaudhry Narendra Singh) and Lok Tantrik Congress (led by Naresh Agarwal) lent support to the BJP and joined the government. On February 21, 1998, Governor Ramesh Bhandari dismissed the government, and Jagdambika Pal of the Congress was sworn as CM Kalyan Singh challenged it in the Allahabad High Court, on whose direction, he was sworn-in CM on February 23.
1993: Mayawati’s First Stint
Mulayam, who had formed his earlier government (1989-91) with the help of BJP and then taken Congress support when BJP had withdrawn support entered into partnership with the BSP in 1993. The SP and BSP won 109 and 67 seats respectively but the BSP walked out of the government in May 1995, reducing it to a minority. That resulted in the so called “guesthouse incident” in which several BSP legislators including Mayawati were reportedly assaulted by SP musclemen.
To counter Mandal forces, the BJP in 1991 projected Kalyan Singh, an OBC Lodh, as its CM face. The party won 221 seats in 425-member house. But his government was sacked along with three other BJP governments after Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. Kalyan Singh became CM again in 1997, but had to resign due to differences with the then PM A B Vajpayee. (IPA Service)