The mood of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) vote bank in this Dalit capital of north India continues to remain confused and wavering as the last few elections have marginalised the party.
The deep frustration in the BSP cadre is the result of the gnawing feeling of utter irrelevance of the party in the current political scenario, as well as that of party supremo Mayawati, who looks fatigued and spent out.
Local leaders of the BSP are particularly disenchanted with Muslim politics, and many feel the Muslim votes will again go to the Samajwadi Party.
Ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati has made new appointments besides restructuring the party organisation, but insiders say the ‘josh’ (enthusiasm) is clearly missing.
The voters are neither angry nor too happy with the Yogi Adityanath government in Lucknow, according to poll watchers in the city which has a sizeable population of Dalits, mostly engaged in the shoe industry.
At present, all the nine Assembly seats in Lucknow are with the BJP which has three MPs from the district, two in the Lok Sabha and one in the Rajya Sabha.
“The last four years have seen social tranquility, though vain efforts were made to flare up the Hathras gang-rape incident. But prompt intervention by the judiciary and the proactive approach of the Chief Minister helped defuse the tension,” observed a local Dalit leader.
Also to be noted is the fact that the number of beneficiaries of a slew of welfare measures taken both by the Centre and the state government has been continuously rising. Even during the Covid-19 first and the second waves, help poured in from all ends and cases of chill penury or acute deprivation were few, according to a social activist.
Naresh Paras, a prominent activist working for the downtrodden, said, “Chances are that a section of the Dalit votes would go to Chandrashekhar Azad of the Bhim Army, a chunk could go to the BJP, but the bulk of the conventional Dalit votes will remain loyal to Bahenji (as Mayawati is popularly known). Though the Congress too has been trying hard to woo the Dalit votes, it is doubtful if a swing in favour of the Congress could now be engineered.”
An analysis of the voting trends and figures points to a gradual decline in the BSP’s fortunes, after it swept to power in 2007, winning 206 out of the 403 seats with a vote share of 30.43 per cent.
In the 2012 Assembly polls, Mayawati could win only 80 seats, with BSP’s share of votes falling to 25.91 per cent.
In 2017, the BSP could win only 19 seats with a vote share of 22.14 per cent.
In the recent panchayat polls too, the party fared poorly, further demoralising its rank and file.
In Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh too, the BSP has failed to improve its performance and looks set for a total wipe out.
Poll pundits say that the BSP’s loss has been the BJP’s gain, as the saffron brigades operating at different levels have heavily dented the Mayawati vote bank which was estimated to be between 18 and 21 per cent.
Reports suggest that the BSP supremo has no option other than supporting the Yogi Adityanath government, in return for a Vice Presidential position, or maybe even as a new tenant of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
“For the BJP, it is more important to consolidate Hindu votes, bring all layers of the Hindu society under a common umbrella, than sharing power with any xyz,” a youth leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad said.
Political commentator Paras Nath Choudhary said that the BJP should definitely try to persuade Mayawati to ally with the NDA and if necessary should offer the Vice Presidential position to her.
“Given the challenges faced by India, it is necessary to strengthen the nationalist forces and bridge the communication gaps among different layers of the society. The need of the hour is to integrate the Dalits with the national mainstream and to work this out there is no harm in bargaining a deal with Mayawati,” Choudhary said.