The BJP's decisive win today in Uttar Pradesh's civic polls is 45-year-old Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's coming-out ball in his home state. Yogi ran a whirlwind campaign across the state and the results prove he was right to bet so big - the BJP has won 14 out of 16 corporations, two went to Mayawati in what suggests a ground-level resurgence of her BSP.
After Yogi Adityanath's surprise anointment as Chief Minister in March, these results further cement his status as the new "Hindutva" icon who was deployed earlier to Himachal Pradesh and now to Gujarat. Note his governance skills are still an open question, not least because of August's hospital tragedy in his constituency of Gorakphur, in which nearly 60 infants died. Another big headline from this civic election is - or should be - that the BJP's Maya Tripathi lost Ward No 68 in Gorakhpur, home to the Goraknath temple of which Yogi is the main priest.
Interestingly, his chief detractor and Amit Shah favourite, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, also suffered a setback with the BJP losing all six nagar panchayats
in Kaushambi, his home town.
The BJP has chosen, of course, to highlight (with union minister Smriti Irani leading the gloating) the big loss for the Congress in Amethi
, the constituency of Rahul Gandhi, where the BJP won the urban local body.
Essentially, the UP civic elections give BJP leaders such as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley a chance to say they were a referendum on the success of demonetisation and GST, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah can present them as a harbinger of the of the hotly-contested Gujarat result. Shah has already said that the UP civic polls are an indicator of his audacious "Mission 150" (of 182 seats) in Gujarat.
While the BJP gave the civic elections the sort of passion and attention that has become characteristic of its approach to polls of any sort, which much the other parties were slightly more laid-back. For the first time, the BJP had issued a manifesto for the civic polls, and other parties, following the BJP's lead, also allocated their symbols to candidates.
Mayawati who had been completely written off after the UP assembly election, can take some solace with a minor come back, winning two corporations. Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party should be worried - the voters of UP are still completely disenchanted with him. The Congress appears to be in terminal decline in UP, worrying for a party which fancies itself as the country's premier opposition party. There are barely 18 months to go for general elections and UP accounts for 80 seats and is the way to power in Delhi.
The nascent alliance which was being discussed between the Congress and the two regional parties, the BSP and SP, with Akhilesh Yadav publicly punting for a national election version of the same, seems to be a non-starter with the UP voter.
Yogi Adityanath has kept the BJP's vote bank of upper castes firmly with him as these results indicate. But they also establish that Yogi has not unraveled the winning combination of the state election - upper castes and a section of the non-Jatav Dalits.
Currently, the opposition and the BJP are back to debating whether Rahul Gandhi is a "genuine Hindu", how the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not want the Somnath temple in Gujarat, how Indira Gandhi held a handkerchief to her nose in Morbi. The Congress, which was taking on the BJP on economic issues and the 'Gujarat Model', appears to have got entangled in the "Janeu"
(thread worn by Brahmins) after senior Congress leader RS Surjewala said that "Gandhi is a Janeu-
wearing Brahmin". "We have allowed ourselves to fall in to the BJP's trap of who is a bigger Hindu. We cannot match the "Bhagua"
(saffron)-wearing Yogi Adityanath," rued a senior Congress leader.
It's quite strange that the Congress seems to think that trying to play the Hindutva games with the BJP is the way to electoral gain. Nobody is a better practitioner of this than Modi.
The UP civic results should be a wake-up call to the opposition: that whatever it is offering to the people as an alternative narrative has no selling points, apparently.(Swati Chaturvedi is an author and a journalist who has worked with The Indian Express, The Statesman and The Hindustan Times.)Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.