When Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati came together in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the national election, many assumed that both leaders showed remarkable political maturity in setting aside years of political animosity and putting a near-perfect combination in place against the BJP. In 2014, the BJP had won 71 out of 80 seats, its ally Apna Dal won two.
But hours after the result of the 2019 election is out, an analysis of voteshare percentages indicates how the BJP trumped the combined might of the UP gathbandhan.
According to latest figures available with the Election Commission, the BJP has won 62 seats in Uttar Pradesh this time. This is lower than the 71 seats in 2014, but the performance is remarkable because the SP, BSP, RLD fought the election in tandem.
The BJP has increased its UP vote share by about 7 per cent from 2014, ending at a figure close to 50 percent -- 49.56 percent to be exact. This means the party alone accounted for half of the votes in the state.
In contrast, the mahagathbandhan's combined vote share in the election is 38.89 per cent, almost 10 per cent less than the BJP.
All through the campaign, the Congress and the alliance leaders took swipes at each other -- Mayawati in particular attacking the Congress multiple times and calling them and the BJP two sides of the same coin. Analysis of vote share percentages reveal that even if the Congress has also allied with the alliance, their combined vote share would be 45.2 per cent, falling short of the BJP by almost five percent
Then, such was the dominance of the BJP and PM Modi in the election in UP, that even this grand combine may not have mattered.
Based on the vote numbers, the Congress and the alliance polled more votes on only 9 of the seats the BJP won in the state -- Badaun, Banda, Barabanki, Basti, Dhaurara, Faizabad, Meerut, Sultanpur and Sant Kabir Nagar. This means that even if the Congress were on board the Grand Alliance, the BJP would have still ended up with 50-plus seats.
"The issue is that we really did not offer a counter-narrative to the BJP and Mr Modi. They went on about nationalism, and Hindu-Muslim issue, exaggerated their development claims, but our leaders were smug about the alliance to the extent they thought it was unbeatable. Look what has happened," said a senior SP leader, who refused to be quoted.
Many more SP leaders and workers also blame party chief Akhilesh Yadav for a lacklustre campaign that only concentrated on joint gathbandhan rallies with Mayawati and bigger rallies even when campaigning solo.
"Look at how he campaigned in 2012 before the assembly election. He was about there on the ground. He was riding cycles, connecting with the people directly. This time, the entire gathbandhan campaign was impersonal with big rallies. At least Akhilesh should have been out there," said another SP leader.
Critics of the gathbandhan also point out how the only winner on that side seems to be Mayawati, who has gone from 0 in 2014 to 10 seats this time, while the SP remained stagnant at 5 seats.
Analysts say this could mean that while the SP and the RLD did manage a transfer of votes to the BSP, it may not have been reciprocated by Mayawati's core voter base.