Data Dive: Five Messages UP’s Voters Conveyed in the Urban Local Body Polls

Analysis shows that the results of the recent urban local body elections should worry the BJP.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. Credit: Reuters

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath. Credit: Reuters

There are five distinct messages the people of Uttar Pradesh have conveyed through the results of the recent urban local body elections in the state. Perhaps none as significant as the fact that the Muslims and those who are ideologically neutral can combine to vanquish the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This should indeed worry the ruling party.

This is linked to the second message – the vote share of the BJP has declined in comparison to its performance in the assembly elections in early 2017. Three, the BJP remains strong in big urban sprawls and can triumph in a multi-cornered contest. However, even in such areas voters are showing increasing disquiet with the party.

Fourth, despite the BJP’s method of polarising voters along religious lines, the faith of Muslims in the democratic process hasn’t dampened. They consolidated and voted, notching significant victories for their candidates. Fifth, the Samajwadi Party (SP) remains the first preference of Muslims.

These messages should worry the BJP because the local body elections were held just eight months after the party won a landslide victory in the assembly elections, bagging 39.7% of votes cast. This decline comes even though chief minister Adityanath campaigned extensively and declared that the results of local body elections were no less than a referendum on his government’s performance. Again, the BJP issued a centralised manifesto for the elections, a first ever.

By contrast, both SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati didn’t campaign. The district units of their respective parties managed the campaign. It is a delicious thought to contemplate what the results would have been had Yadav and Mayawati campaigned. Remember, the local bodies elections were fought on party symbols for the first time. Their participation would have likely impacted the final tally.

Also read: If UP Civic Poll Results Reflect the Nation’s Mood, It’s Good News For the Opposition

Here are some figures to chew upon. The elections were held for 16 municipal corporations, 198 municipal councils and 438 town areas. BJP candidates won the post of mayor in 14 municipal corporations with a vote share of 41.4%. The BSP won two seats with a vote share of 17.3%. Neither the Indian National Congress (INC) nor the SP won a mayoral contest. The INC polled 16.6% and the SP 15.9% of votes.

However, if a comparison is made between the municipal corporation and corresponding assembly areas, the BJP’s vote share decreased an average of eight per cent in all 16 municipal corporation areas, except Gorakhpur, since the assembly elections. This decrease was more than 10% in Bareilly, Jhansi, Mathura and Varanasi.

Seven women candidates were elected as mayor, but six of them won from reserved seats. The lone Muslim candidate elected as mayor won from Aligarh on a BSP ticket. Aligarh is a general seat.

The results indicate that the BJP enjoys support in big cities and can easily win in a multi-cornered contest. But the dip in its vote share indicates disenchantment among urban voters with the party.

Municipal councils cater to towns generally having a population of one lakh and above, though there are exceptions. Elections were held for the 198 posts of chairman and for 5260 ward members of municipal councils. From this analysis, ward elections have been excluded because the size of their electorate is too small to draw conclusions that could apply at the state-level.

For a better understanding of regional political trends, the state is divided into four parts – (1) western UP, comprising 26 districts from Saharanpur to Bareilly, which has 151 assembly seats, 30 Lok Sabha seats and contains 97 municipal councils and 182 town areas; (2) central UP or Avadh Pradesh comprising 21 districts from Etawah to Ambedkar Nagar, with 70 assembly seats, 14 Lok Sabha Seats, 50 municipal councils and 106 town areas; (3) eastern UP or Purvanchal, containing 21 districts from Pratapgarh to Mirzapur, having 150 assembly seats, 32 Lok Sabha seats, 33 municipal councils and 121 town areas; (4) Bundelkhand encompasses seven districts from Lalitpur to Jalaun, 32 assembly seats and four Lok Sabha seats,18 municipal councils and 31 town areas.

Below is the data on the election for the post of chairman in municipal councils (nagar palika parishad):

Municipal council (198)

Political Party BJP SP BSP INC IND Others
Candidates Contested 194 189 186 163
Ticket Ratio (Hindu/ Muslim) 191/3 99/90 105/81 107/56




Seats Won


(Total seats = 97)

36/1 4/18 5/9 4/2 8/11 01/00

(Total seats =50)

13/00 7/8 3/5 1/01 8/4

(Total seats = 33)

15/00 1/3 3/3 0/1 5/2

(Total seats = 18)

5/0 4/0 1/0 2/0 5/0 1/0
Total (Hindu/Muslim) 69/1 16/29 12/17 05/04 27/16 02
Total Seats won 70 45 38 09 43 02
Vote share (%) 28.6 21.7 14.3 6.8 28.6

Sixty-eight Muslims were elected to the post of chairman posts, that is 34.34%, and after exclusion of 23 posts falling in the reserved category for SC/ST, where a Muslim candidate is not eligible to contest, then Muslim representation is 38.85%. However, as per the 2011 census, the Muslim population in UP is 19.26%.

The highest representation of Muslims was in western UP, where they won 42.26% of chairman posts despite their population, as per the 2011 census, being 26.21% here. This could be because of several factors – migration of Muslims from villages to towns, allocation of more tickets to them, and transfer of votes from SP to Muslim candidates, as 82% of winning candidates of this party in this region are Muslim.

However, Muslim representation is highly skewed and concentrated in several districts of western and central UP. Despite the Muslim population of 7.1%, not a single Muslim candidate won on 18 seats in Bundelkhand.

File photo of Mayawati. Credit: Reuters

The other striking feature is that Muslim women candidates outstripped men. Out of 68 Muslim chairmen, 35 are women. However, 30 of them were elected from seats reserved for women, four from OBC and one from general seats. By contrast, out of 33 males, 18 were elected on general and 15 on OBC seats.

As far as ticket allocation goes, Muslims bagged 1.5% of all BJP tickets, 47.16% of SP, 43.54% of BSP and 34.5% of the INC. The strike rate for the community varies from party to party – 33% of Muslim candidates on the BJP ticket won their election. It was 33.33% for the SP, 20.98% for the BSP and 7.1% for the INC. Given that the BJP assigned only three tickets to Muslims, their 33% strike rate is statistically irrelevant.

Town areas or nagar panchayats have a population ranging from 20,000 to 100,000. These are areas in the process of transiting from village to town. They provide excellent settings for studying and understanding the dynamics of ground politics, largely because their population has a greater diversity in terms of caste and religion than what is found in a village. There is also greater job and livelihood diversity, including farming as well.

The elections were held for the chairman of 438 town areas (nagar panchayat) and 5,433 members. The latter has been excluded because they are chosen by a small electorate.

The following table presents information on the election of town area chairman (nagar panchayat):

Town Area (438)

Political Party BJP SP BSP INC IND Others
Candidates Contested 414 380 357 266
Ticket Ratio (Hindu/ Muslim) 401/13 298/82 276/81 147/119
Seats Won Western(Hindu/Muslim)

(Total seats = 180)

38/0 09/19 11/16 2/5 47/28 1/4

(Total seats =106)

23/0 12/15 3/2 1/2 30/18

(Total seats = 121)

29/0 16/7 4/6 4/1 39/10 4/1

(Total seats = 31)

10/0 5/0 2/1 2/0 10/0 1/0
Total(Hindu/Muslim) 100/0 42/41 20/25 9/8 126/56 6/5
Total Seats Won 100 83 45 17 182 11
Vote Share (%) 19.8 16.6 10.9 5.3 47.4

Muslims were successful in 135 seats or 29.45% of all seats. Leaving out the 36 seats reserved for SC/ST, their effective representation in Nagar Panchayats was 33.58%, which, again, is higher than their population. The probable explanation for this high representation is the transfer of non-Muslim core votes by the SP and the BSP to Muslim candidates, whether contesting as Independent or on party tickets.

This is borne out by the fact that 56 Muslim candidates won as independent, nearly half of them (28) in communally polarised western UP alone. This means that despite the communal polarisation, Hindus and Muslims do vote for candidates not belonging to their community.

The Muslim woman dominated in the town area election as well – 81 of them were successful. Of them, 62 won from seats reserved for women, seven from OBC and 12 from general seats. As for Muslim men, 34 won from general and 30 from OBC seats.

As far as ticket distribution of different parties to Muslims, 3.1% in BJP, 21.57% in SP, 22.68% in BSP’s, and 44.73% in INC. The strike rate for Muslims across parties was as follows: BJP-0%, 50% for the SP, 30.86% for the BSP, and 6.3% for the INC. Given these figures, it is obvious that the SP still remains the first choice of Muslims.

Sudhir Panwar is a professor in the University of Lucknow and a former member of the Planning Commission.
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