Lucknow: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday scored a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh in a major boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, halfway through his first term, and decimated rivals, the Samajwadi Party-Congress alliance and the BSP.
Riding on the Modi wave, the BJP swept to an unprecedented two-thirds majority winning a whopping 312 seats -- a never-before showing by any party in the country's most populated state entrenched deeply in caste, family and religious affiliations.
The BJP victory left the ruling Samajwadi Party with 47 seats, its ally the Congress with just seven seats, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) scored a pathetic 19.
"I give my heartfelt thanks to the people of Uttar Pradesh. This is a historic victory for the BJP; a victory for development and good governance," Modi wrote on Twitter.
Even in Amethi and Rae Bareli parliamentary constituencies -- long considered Congress strongholds -- the BJP won six out of 10 assembly seats, the Samajwadi Party two, leaving the grand old party gasping with just two.
A beaming Amit Shah, the BJP President, in his first media comments after the party's grand electoral success, drew specific attention to its performance in the twin Lok Sabha constituencies, held by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her deputy and son Rahul Gandhi.
"This is making us very happy. We didn't do well here (Amethi and Rae Bareli) in 2014. But from now, politics will take a new direction in Uttar Pradesh.
"The historic mandate given to the BJP... will end the politics of caste, dynasty (parivarvaad) and appeasement," Shah said.
Modi was central to the BJP's election strategy in Uttar Pradesh where the party had not announced its Chief Ministerial candidate. Modi promised growth, modernisation and rooting out corruption in the state.
Shah said the chief ministerial candidate would be selected on Sunday by the BJP Parliamentary Board and the legislature party in the state.
In his high decibel electioneering, Modi strongly defended his move to ban high-value notes last year, a move that was criticized by the opposition.
The previous best BJP performance in Uttar Pradesh was in 1991, at the height of the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid movement. It got a majority on its own, winning 221 of 425 seats in an undivided state.
In the outgoing assembly, the BJP had just 47 seats.
The BJP garnered nearly 40 per cent of the votes in this election, the SP got 21.8 per cent, the Congress just over six per cent, while the BSP garnered 22.2 per cent.
The results in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80, the largest, members to the Lok Sabha would help the BJP in presidential elections due in July. The BJP would now also be able to strengthen its position in the Rajya Sabha, where its reform efforts have been hampered by the lack of a majority.
The incumbent Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who is also the Samajwadi Party chief, met Governor Ram Naik and handed in his resignation. Yadav told a press conference here that he accepted the verdict and would do an analysis at booth level.
"I hope the next government will work better than the Samajwadi Party government."
Congress leaders expressed shock.
"It is a monumental setback. We are disappointed with Uttar Pradesh," party spokesman Sanjay Jha said.
But BSP leader Mayawati attributed the rout to the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which she said were manipulated. She urged the poll panel to cancel the polls and hold fresh elections.
The BJP victory also saw many members of the Uttar Pradesh's first family swept away, while the 43-year-old Chief Minister lost his chair.
The Yadavs, who were till not-so-long ago considered invincible, were routed in most seats that they contested. The younger daughter-in-law of the Yadav chieftain, Aparna Yadav, lost from Lucknow Cantt to Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who had switched to BJP from the Congress.
Anurag Yadav, elder son of Mulayam's brother Abhayram Yadav, contested from the Sarojini Nagar seat in the state capital but failed to make it to the 17th Vidhan Sabha.
Ram Prakash Yadav aka Nehru, a close relative of the SP founder, also lost from Shikohabad assembly constituency in Firozabad.
However, the only saving grace for the Yadavs was former state unit chief Shivpal Singh Yadav, who cruised comfortably to victory from the Jaswantnagar seat in Etawah. He won with a margin of over 50,000 votes.