Mayawati is now gearing up for a fresh start for the 2019 general election. Unconfirmed reports from the BSP camp suggest she has already reached out to arch-rival Akhilesh Yadav, reports Sahil Makkar.
The result of the Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly election gave two important lessons to the Bahujan Samaj Party and its chief, Mayawati.
The BSP now believes that entering the poll fray with around 100 Muslim candidates was a grave mistake. The move alienated its already disillusioned Dalit vote and the party's social engineering plank was rejected by all castes.
Mayawati had announced the names of her party candidates two years before the election, to get enough time to recover from the party’s drubbing in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Her plan was to begin early and win the state on the combined strength of Dalits, who are 20-21 per cent of UP voters, and Muslims who are 18-19 per cent.
Mayawati believed another four to five per cent from upper castes (who helped vote her to power in 2007) and some backward castes (OBCs) would seal the ballot boxes in her favour. Like Muslims, she gave over 100 tickets to upper caste candidates.
However, she didn't get enough support from either Muslims or upper castes. And, lost a chunk of her core vote bank. The BSP vote fell from 25.9 per cent in the 2012 assembly election to 22.3 per cent.
Its seats went down from 80 to 19.
"The BSP lost because its tactics to include Muslims voters backfired. The move resulted in counter-polarisation. As a result, the party didn’t get votes of upper castes and OBCs. A floating population of Dalit voters also went with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Muslims, too, didn’t vote BSP," says Raj Kumar, a Delhi University teacher who's associated with the party.
Mayawati is now gearing up for a fresh start for the 2019 general election.
Since the 2014 general election, when her party drew a blank and registered one of its worst defeats, Mayawati has lost a significant number of core voters and senior leaders. The latter include the party's Muslim face, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, and OBC face, Swami Prasad Maurya.
"It is clear that minorities preferred the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) in the 2017 election. A majority of them will still not vote for the BSP. And, it is almost certain that Dalits would not go with the Congress and SP. So, the thinking in the BSP rank and file is to join hands with these two parties to defeat the BJP in the state," Kumar says.
Unconfirmed reports from the BSP camp suggest Mayawati has already reached out to arch-rival Akhilesh Yadav.
There could be an alliance or some understanding between the two parties just before the 2019 election.
BSP and SP have fiercely contested against each other in the past two decades. Earlier, though, in the 1993 assembly poll, BSP founder Kanshi Ram and SP patriarch Mulayam Singh had joined hands against the BJP. This was in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992. The BSP and SP jointly got 29 per cent of the vote and 176 assembly seats; the BJP got 33 per cent of the votes and 177 seats.
In the 2017 assembly election, had the BSP, Congress and SP fought together, they combined voter share would have been 50 per cent. The BJP’s was 39.7 per cent.
The analysts are also drawing hints of a pre-poll alliance from Mayawati’s speech at a mega rally on the outskirts of Uttar Pradesh last month.
She has blown the trumpet for the 2019 general election in advance and would be holding similar rallies in the state.
In her speech, she lambasted the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre and the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in UP, carefully avoiding the Congress and SP.
Anil Kumar, a Faizabad-based political analyst, says a BSP revival in the state is difficult.
"There is disillusionment among its core voters. They believe Mayawati has strayed from Kanshi Ram's ideology and politics," he said, adding, "And, it would be difficult for Mayawati to forge an alliance with the SP because of pending CBI cases against her."
Ram Kumar, teacher at Jawaharlal Nehru University and BSP acolyte, says Dalits don’t have options and still believe in Mayawati.
"But, she needs to prepare the second rung of leadership, evident during Kanshi Ram time," he says, believing voters would return to the BSP after getting fed up with the BJP and its performance on ground.