The BSP supremo is looking forward to the support of Dalits and Muslims to seize the throne in Lucknow, writes Amit Shankar.
When it comes to electoral politics in Uttar Pradesh, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati is one stalwart who can steal the show even before the opposition ponders over what went wrong.
There is no doubt about the fact that the newly-formed alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress has attracted eyeballs, but Mayawati is one leader who can never be underrated or underestimated.
The BSP supremo, considered to be the messiah of the downtrodden, is looking forward to the support of Dalits and Muslims to seize the throne in Lucknow.
As per a 2011 census, Dalits constitute 21.1 percent and Other Backward Classes constitute 40 percent of Uttar Pradesh's population.
Mayawati may also enjoy the support of Muslims, accounting for 18-19 percent of the state population, this time, thereby giving a setback to the Samajwadi Party-Congress tie-up as reports suggest that the community is upset with Akhilesh Yadav government's handling of the Muzaffarnagar riots.
54 percent of Muslims voted for the Samajwadi Party in the 2002 assembly elections and if they do not impose their trust in young Akhilesh, the BSP stands at an advantage this time. Out of the 403 seats up for grabs, the BSP has fielded 97 Muslim candidates in a bid to win the community's trust.
Mayawati has so far in her election campaigns attacked both the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance and the Bharatiya Janata Party alike.
The BSP supremo had earlier said that the Congress' alliance with the Samajwadi Party shows its political bankruptcy and will be adverse to the party.
Mayawati has also left no stone unturned in attacking the BJP.
Condemning Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive, Mayawati had said that the BJP should be prepared for 'bure din' (bad days) in Uttar Pradesh.
The infighting in Mulayam Singh Yadav's clan may also give Mayawati an advantage. Mulayam's younger brother and former PWD minister Shivpal Singh Yadav had announced last month that he will float a new party after the results are declared on March 11. He, however, later made a U-turn and said that he was not forming any party.
If Netaji as Mulayam is fondly called is not able to settle the differences in his family, the Samajwadi Party may even lose its traditional voters this time. This again puts Mayawati in the driver's seat.
The BJP may be riding high on Prime Minister Modi's growing popularity but the electoral scene at the moment is quite different from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP's biggest win in 2014 came from Uttar Pradesh where the saffron party won on 71 out of the 80 Lok Sabha seats. However, what may put the BJP at disadvantage now is that the saffron party has not projected any chief ministerial candidate for the elections and has built its campaign around Prime Minister Modi.
It has almost been two and a half years after the general elections and the voters may switch their loyalties in the present political scenario. Moreover, demonetisation puts the BJP's prospects in dark as one cannot deny the fact that the people indeed faced problems post the November 8 decision to demonetise high-value currency.
In addition, the BJP's loss at the hands of Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance in Bihar may also not go in favour of the saffron party in Uttar Pradesh as a section of the voters here claim that the fight here is about development and not saffronisation.
Moreover, Mulayam and Congress president Sonia Gandhi missing from the political scene may also benefit the BSP as traditional voters may not impose their trust on the newly-formed alliance.
What's more interesting is that the Samajwadi-Congress alliance and the BJP have traded charges at each other in most of the election rallies and not kept their focus on the BSP. This latest war of words between the two camps may also go in Mayawati's favour as none have in true sense exposed the BSP's flaws before the voters.
Photograph: PTI Photo