Zero Lok Sabha seats, 19 State Assembly seats and six Rajya Sabha seats – this is what remains in the kitty of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Kanshi Ram pioneered the party to raise a voice for the welfare of the Bahujan class and that’s why the party enjoys the Dalit electoral trust.
But, going by the results of the recent election, this electoral trust is seemingly swaying towards neophyte Dalit politicians or Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The biggest setback that the BSP suffered was in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Back then, it contested on all 545 Lok Sabha seats but did not manage to win a single seat. Subsequently, BSP’s performance was poor in the 2017 UP assembly elections. It bagged only 19 out of the 403 seats. It could not even manage to win in Dalit-dominated areas like Agra and Mathura. Out of the 86 seats, BSP won a mere two seats.
The roller-coaster political ride of BSP is presently at its worst phase. Dalit voters are the bricks of the BSP and they have helped the party in past elections too. After all, they helped Mayawati to come to power in Uttar Pradesh four times.
But, in recent times, this Dalit electoral trust has swayed to other parties like the BJP. In the 2017 UP assembly election, BSP gave 12.50% of their seats to Jatavs but were not able to bag a single seat there. In contrast, 7.12% of BJP’s winning candidates were Jatavs. Additionally, the rise of neophyte Dalit politicians like Jignesh Mevani and Chandrasekhar has also adversely affected the BSP.
This year, Mayawati also resigned from the Rajya Sabha apparently because the Chairman did not let her speak. At that time, there were rumours that she would contest the Lok Sabha by-election from Phulpur. But, even these rumours were disproved.
The biggest challenge for Mayawati is changing votes into seats. In the 2017 UP assembly election, BSP received 22.2% votes, which translated to a mere 19 seats. This share was 3.70% less than what the party gained in 2012. But, the corresponding drop in seat share is 76.25% – down from the 80 seats it got in the state assembly election prior to the one in 2017.
The BSP had come to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2007. In that election, the party had bagged 206 seats with a 30.43% vote share. The party should re-strategise its plan so that it can address this mismatch between vote share and vote seats.
The allegations of Mayawati demanding money from party members should also be a cause of worry for her. The exit of party stalwarts like Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Swami Prasad Maurya, Indrajit Saroj has only made her political journey more bumpier. After all, these politicians were also big faces among the backward castes in UP.
Mayawati also needs to expand her base among the castes. Today, the BSP has a negligible presence among the more than 40 Dalit castes in UP. In contrast to this, the BJP-RSS is not leaving any chance to appease these castes.
The interesting thing is that Mayawati did not attend Lalu’s “BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao” rally. This probably signified her disinterest in the Grand Alliance for 2019 election, as she stressed more on the need to discuss seat sharing than anything else.
It will be interesting to see whether Mayawati changes her orthodox Dalit appeasement politics or not. But if Mayawati really wants to come into the mainstream of Indian politics again, she needs to ponder upon these challenges.