The Lok Sabha results show that in western Uttar Pradesh anti-incumbency against the local candidates didn’t matter as people voted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. More than that, the caste arithmetic of the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance didn’t work on the ground.Initial assessments show that the farmers were won over by the Balakot strike, the businessmen were wooed by the fear of the minority, the poor felt that the rich suffered more during demonetisation and the rest voted because they could not find an alternative at the Centre. “Narendra Modi succeeded in selling his narrative of nationalism which had no place for Muslims. He managed to equate secularism with appeasement. In electoral democracy, it is the MPs who choose a PM, here it turned out to be the other way round,” said Asmer Baig, professor of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University.During canvassing, it appeared that it was only the BSP cadre that could stand up to the BJP’s well-oiled poll machinery on the ground. However, in the Yadav belt, the BSP’s grassroots worker had a sense of fear about the after-effect of transfer of vote. This was clearly underlined by a member of Bahujan Voluntary Force in Budaun. The result in the constituency shows that he carried his fear to the polling booth.The alliance benefited the BSP and left the SP and the RLD in the lurch. Mayawati’s party has won as many as five seats in the region and came a close second in Meerut. However, her promise to SP didn’t seem to have percolated down to the bottom. “The BSP votes didn’t seem to have transferred to the SP. It could be because of the grassroots realities where Dalits fear the OBCs more than the higher castes,” said Dr. Baig. He added that it would be “immature” to say that this election has put a full stop on identity or caste politics. “It is just that the BJP came up with its own ‘mandalisation’ of politics, winning over caste groups which were not nurtured well by SP and BSP.” Second chance Looking back, it appeared that people were eager to give Mr. Modi a second chance. In Meerut, shopkeepers would come up with excuses for him like “mistakes are made by only those who work”. In Bulandshahr, which appeared completely polarised, farmers admitted that not much had been done for them but they would still vote for Mr. Modi because he “taught Pakistan a lesson”. They hated their MP, in fact brought him down from stage during a Yogi Adityanath rally, but still voted for him. “Nobody has given us anything, but at least when he [Modi] speaks, he connects with our thoughts,” was the common refrain. And that ‘thought’ was invariably the fear of the ‘other’. “Modi and Yogi have taught Muslims to keep their head down,” said a medical store owner who runs a shop in Aligarh that connects the Muslim-dominated area with the Hindu one. Results show that these were not statements made up to mislead the media.Yogendra Solanki, manager of Janta VedicInter College in Baghpat, said were the elections held before the Balakot strike, the result would have been different in Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut. “In this election, they decided to put everything behind for nationalism. If things didn’t change, you would see a different result in the Assembly polls.” He said it was not the end of the road for RLD and Jat politics. “Both Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhary have lost by a very small margin,” he pointed out.Many observers thought that the Balakot strike would have the maximum impact on the first phase but the results show that it took time to sink in. Agreed Dr. P.N. Varshney, professor of Political Science at JV Jain College, Saharanpur. “The first phase has seen a close fight but as you move east, the margin of BJP victory increased.” Muslim voteFor a second election in a row, the BJP has proved that the Muslim vote has become redundant for it. “Even SP and BSP appealed for the Muslim vote in a roundabout way this time. The silver lining is that U.P. is sending as many as six Muslim MPs to Lok Sabha out of 10 fielded by SP and BSP. So there is no question mark on their winnability,” said Dr. Baig. The Congress was decimated in the region and its role as a vote cutter turned out to be overstated. It was only in Budaun that Congress’s Salim Shervani ensured the defeat of a prospective alliance partner. Mr. Shervani got over 50,000 votes when SP’s Dharmendra Yadav lost the seat by 18,454 votes to the BJP.