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 (organisation) 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 Kanshi Ram had opposed, and the Dalit-Brahmin 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.