The Uttar Pradesh assembly elections are still a year away but the political climate in the state has started to heat up. Though opposition parties and the liberal media outlets continue to manufacture fake scams and try to flame communal riots (Read: Loni assault case), the Yogi Adityanath government goes about its business unperturbed. And while Congress and Samajwadi Party are still making their presence felt, albeit minuscule, it is the absence of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that has surprised the poll pundits.
Losing Dalit seats
Once touted as the next big national party that could have solely been the face for Dalits, the party has now lost touch with its core voter base. Dalits comprise about 20 per cent of the population in UP and are a crucial voting bloc in elections. Seventeen of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP are reserved for Scheduled Castes.
However, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Mayawati-led BSP could win only two seats (Nagina and Lalganj), while the BJP swept 15, including the Hathras seat. Meanwhile, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP won with an even bigger margin, sweeping all the 17 reserved constituencies. Safe to say, the statistics point that BSP fell out with the Dalit voters of UP a long time back.
Turncoats propelling BJP to victory
What has supposedly worked in BJPs favour is the fact that several tall Dalit leaders have switched camps to the BJP from BSP. The lack of party leadership from Mayawati has hurt the party’s cause. Routine news stories of BSP top brass offering electoral tickets to the highest bidders did not resonate with the party loyalists and they eventually deserted the sinking ship of BSP. As many as 9 out of 17 candidates that won on the BJP ticket were previously BSP leaders.
And while people have only started working from home after the pandemic struck, a visionary in Mayawati has been doing so for the last seven years. The party got only 19 seats in the 2017 assembly elections.
Courtesy of the unholy alliance with SP, the party managed to go from zero to ten seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections by eating Akhilesh’s vote share, but since then, it has all been downhill for Mayawati and her archaic party.
Only 8 MLAs remain, a repeat of Chirag Paswan but with Mayawati?
It hasn’t helped Mayawati’s cause that she has now expelled 11 party legislators in the last 18 months with Lalji Verma and Akbarpur MLA Ram Achal Rajbhar being the latest casualty. Senior OBC leaders had considerable sway over the community but by showing them the doors, it appears that ahead of the assembly polls, BSP is disintegrating.
Another development that shows the turmoil within the party ranks is the routine chopping and change of the Party president. Bhim Rajbhar was appointed the party’s new UP president in November last year and became the fourth person to hold the post since the 2017 assembly elections. The other three being Munquad Ali, R.S. Kushwaha and the now-expelled Ram Achal Rajbhar.
Meanwhile, only 8 MLAs remain in Mayawati’s fold, and it doesn’t augur well for the voters who will not be willing to cast their votes for a party that cannot get its house in order. If few other MLAs desert BSP, Mayawati could risk losing her party as they can claim to be the BSP top brass with the numbers backing it up. A similar incident that happened in UP’s neighbouring state where Chirag Paswan was booted off his father’s party has already served as the precedent.
Remaining dormant on Dalit issues
While several opposition parties tried to use the Hathras rape incident to milk the Dalit vote bank, BSP supremo Mayawati remained dormant on the issue either. When people questioned the absence of the BSP cadre on the ground, Mayawati was forced to clarify twice that she had sent a delegation to meet the family in Hathras.
Wooing minorities but losing Dalits
In the pursuit of retaining influence over the minorities, Mayawati has completely sidelined the Dalits and the OBCs. There was a reason Mayawati was barred from campaigning in the run-up to the 2019 Elections for 48 hours over her appealing directly to Muslim voters in Saharanpur and Bareilly districts.
When the then BJP President Amit Shah took charge of Uttar Pradesh under the leadership of Narendra Modi, he focused on this section and results immediately followed. After laying the foundation stone for the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust delivered the first prasad to the house of a Dalit Mahaveer in Ayodhya, which explains the shift in the Dalit votes to the BJP.
As reported by TFI, according to an ABP-C Voter survey conducted in March earlier this year, if elections were to be held now, BJP would storm into power once again. The BJP is projected to win 289 seats in the 403-seat Uttar Pradesh Assembly in March 2021. Meanwhile, SP is projected to be the second-largest party with 59 seats followed by BSP with 38 seats but not posing any real challenge to the BJP.
Mayawati is the old, overworked derby horse that has seemingly reached the end of its career. And unless she makes a concerted effort to turn the wheel and reinvent the party machinery, develop a second line of leadership, and create a credible political message, the Dalits and the other lower-caste votes will continue to evade her. It is high time for Mayawati to make the necessary changes or her party could be lost in oblivion, only to be referred to by the future generations as the Dinosaur of Indian politics.