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Wednesday, October 5, 2022


The Elephant In The Room


The amalgamation of identity politics and Mayawati’s image of a no-nonsense administrator has propelled BSP as the frontrunner for the polls, Sagar Gaur reports from the heart of Uttar Pradesh
SAGAR GAUR | Issue Dated: May 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : BSP | Mayawati | Dalit | Uttar Pradesh | Janta Dal | Rashtriya Lok Dal | Kanshiram | BJP | Rajnath Singh |

You can always trust Bahujan Samaj Party and its supremo Mayawati to dazzle you with their unconventional politicking. And dazzled they have. While other parties are busy finalising rudimentary things, Bahujan Samaj Party looks all set to gain a head start over the others. While the initial surveys have put the Bahujan Samaj Party ahead of all the other parties in the polls, it is expected that the polls will not merely be a showdown between Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party.

Mayawati has used identity politics to her benefit like none other and this has propelled her to the post of Chief Minister as many as four times. However, it appears that the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party is using development as the poll plank this time around. She has publicly announced that she will no more construct statues and memorials and rather would focus on development alone.

The development plank is the fad from the times when a certain section of youth was not attracted by caste- or religion-based politics. Basic amenities and infrastructural developments are something that is now favoured by every section of the society and these issues cannot be put on the back-burner anymore. Apart from the surveys, political pundits in the state to are placing Bahujan Samaj Party ahead in the race, and expect it to emerge as the single largest party if not the outright winner to form the government. There are two major reasons behind this prediction. Firstly, the voters of Uttar Pradesh have traditionally juggled between the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party; ergo, with SP down, this time it seems to be the Bahujan Samaj Party’s turn. Secondly, apart from Bahujan Samaj Party, no other party can claim to be Samajwadi Party’s counterweight.

Sensing the victory, Mayawati has already started electioneering. She has finalised candidates for all 403 seats that will go for polls in Uttar Pradesh. While the names have not been announced publicly, the information about the selected candidate has been passed on to grassroots workers in every district in order for them to work in a coordinated way. It might happen that she’ll change some of the names in the run-up to the polls, but more or less, that names released now are expected to remain the same.

We’ll Form The Government On Our Own

Dr. Bali Ram, Senior Leader BSP

Where do you see BSP in the next assembly polls?

We’ll form the government on our own in 2017. People of Uttar Pradesh are fed up with the deteriorating law and order situation and they have started to look back fondly to the reign of Behen Mayawati. As a citizen of this state, I can say that the state needs the BSP government. All the developmental works initiated by the Mayawati government have been left in a limbo by the present dispensation. The SP government has actually pushed the state backward with its stark inefficiency and misgovernance. The eyes of the entire state are set on Mayawati.

What will be your strategy to win this election?

Development is our core agenda. We want multifaceted development of Uttar Pradesh. The projects that are stalled will be restarted. The issue of unemployment will be tackled. We’ll create more opportunities for the youth. But our priority will be to improve the deteriorating law and order situation. As you would have seen in the last tenure as well, none of the police officers could afford to ignore their duty during our government.

Will there be anything new in the distribution of tickets?

We have given the final touches to the list. Behen Mayawati is closely scrutinizing the list now. In accordance with the social equation, the party will distribute seats among all the communities. BSP believes in “Sarvajan Hitay, Sarvjan Sukhay,” and we aspire to follow it this time too.

What will be on priority: development or physical representation of identity politics?

Our leader has already promised that no new statues or memorials will be constructed. Development is our core agenda.

How confident are you about winning the elections?

People are fed up with SP and they want BSP to come. We’ll form the government with absolute majority. BJP and Congress are not even remotely in the contest.

Like in the past, the list has numerous Brahmins, Muslims and lower OBC candidates apart from a majority of Dalits. Mayawati has realised by now that forming the government only on the basis of Dalit votes might not be enough, and that she needs to stitch some sort of social alliances. She has seen the consequences during the 2002 assembly elections as well as during the 2014 general elections. After 2002, she might have been in and out of the government several times, yet, there has not been any marked improvement or reduction in her vote percentage. In the last general elections, the party failed to win even a single seat, but her vote percentage was 4.9 percent, which was the third highest in the country after Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party. In Uttar Pradesh alone, the Bharatiya Janata Party polled 42.6 percent of the votes and won 71 seats, whereas Samajwadi Party won five seats with 22.5 percent votes. Bahujan Samaj Party, which failed to open its account, still had close to 20 percent votes. Even in the 2012 assembly Elections when the party lost the state, she had polled over 25 percent of the popular vote.

The Dalit population in Uttar Pradesh according to the last Census was close to 20.5 percent. While Bharatiya Janata Party managed to win all the 17 reserved constituencies in the 2014 polls, Bahujan Samaj Party’s poll percentage did not dip below 20 percent. This indicates that her core voters remain united behind her.

One has to also remember that the Bahujan Samaj Party did spring back in the 2015 District Panchayat elections. Cadres who were crestfallen after two consecutive losses suddenly felt energised. Bahujan Samaj Party-supported candidates won massively in most of the districts. The worst humiliation was reserved for Prime Minister Modi, whose adopted village, Jaipura, elected a Bahujan Samaj Party-supported candidate. BSP also managed to win Agra, Azamgarh, Hatras, Saharanpur and Aligarh among others. This has really boosted the confidence of the party workers. This is also indicative that even if the party manages to wean away a fraction of votes from other communities apart from Dalits, it will be in a position to win the election.

At several places in Uttar Pradesh, it will be the Bharatiya Janata Party that will challenge Bahujan Samaj Party, apart from Samajwadi Party. Bharatiya Janata Party has thrown its entire weight in Uttar Pradesh this time. Since Modi himself is an MP from Benaras, it will be his personal prestige that will be on the line. Also, since Janta Dal (United), Rashtriya Lok Dal and Peace Party have planned to fight the election together, they might create a dent in Muslim votes as well. The BSP strategy behind finalising the candidates well in advance is that the party does not want factionalism to appear at the last moment. The candidates will also have ample time to prepare for the elections. In the second phase of the strategy, Mayawati has constituted committees at the district level, which will directly canvas for votes. It has also been decided that Mayawati will start the election campaign well in advance. She’s a one-woman show any which way. It is a well-known fact that BSP gets its core votes in the name of its leaders and not in the name of any particular candidate; except of course the votes from other communities, which do depend on the choice of the candidate.

Mayawati has already started her election campaign on the 14th of April, the birthday of Babasaheb Ambedkar. In her very first speech, she promised that she will build no more memorials or statues. She had spent crores in her last tenure to build several such statues of Babasaheb, Kanshiram and herself, both in Noida as well as in Lucknow. This drew lots of criticism and she had to face people’s angst. This did not reflect well on her vote share in the 2012 polls.

She wants to alter this image understandably. In her speech, she maintained that the reason behind such memorials and statues was to offer tribute to these personalities. And that task apparently has been completed. In defence of her own statue, she maintained that she was only fulfilling Kanshiram’s wishes which he had laid out both verbally and in written documents. She again stressed that the days of statutes are over and that she will focus on eradicating corruption and improving law and order now.

People across party lines admit in private that Mayawati’s tenures in the past have seen marked improvement in the law and order situation. She was very particular about this issue and was known to conduct surprise visits to police stations. She rarely thought twice before suspending any police officer or jawan who was found lax in his duty. This used to keep police on their toes. The situation started to deteriorate since the day of the advent of the Akhilesh government.

In a recently done pre-poll survey by a channel, Bahujan Samaj Party was shown as the single largest party with 185 seats. Bharatiya Janata Party had 120 seats while the incumbent Samajwadi Party had just 80 seats. In terms of the most popular Chief Ministerial face, Mayawati with 31 percent barely beat Akhilesh Yadav who was the first choice of 30 percent voters. BJP’s Rajnath Singh polled a paltry 18 percent in comparison. BSP seats were shown to be from across the state. To its credit, BSP also appears to be winning the perception war as voters seem to believe that the Samajwadi Party-led governments are more corrupt generally than the Bahujan Samaj Party-led governments.

However, this is not to say that the game is over. There are still over seven months to the polls and many new issues might crop up in the days leading to it. Inflation, load shedding, lack of drinking water, unemployment etc will also figure as popular issues. And who convinces the voters of taking care of these will have an upper hand on the day of the poll.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017