Lucknow, 8 July-2014,Ratan Mani Lal (FP): The silence of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as politics in Uttar Pradesh shifts from one big controversy to another without a break is intriguing. The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party government in the state is at its most vulnerable juncture at this point. This should be the ideal time for rival BSP to pounce on the opportunity to regain political ground. However, Mayawati’s party has been uncharacteristically low-key, displaying no sense of urgency or seriousness of purpose.
Kumari Mayawati. PTI
Other than very infrequent press conferences — which are in any case more of statement-distribution ceremonies — by the BSP supremo, the party seems to be in the sleep mode. The only occasions when the names of party leaders are heard include those when they make a point in the state assembly.
Political observers attribute it to the party’s pathetic show in the Lok Sabha election which has left its leaders in a state of shock. None of them ever imagined the party will fail to win even a single of the 80 seats in the state. All the social engineering formulae that were supposed to have helped Mayawati in the earlier elections fell flat. She expected to emerge as a power centre after the elections and asserted so with no hesitation while announcing the name of candidates. Her party did manage to hold on to most of its vote share but the results delivered a bruising blow to the ego Mayawati.
The historic win of the BJP also has hit the BSP where it hurts the most, its core Dalit vote bank which seems to have shifted largely towards the Modi-led BJP. The latter won even in core BSP strongholds like Basti, Misrikh, Sitapur, Ambedkarnagar/Akbarpur which the party had won both in 2004 and 2009.
A day after the election results was announced, Mayawati had appeared before the media in Lucknow not to explain the reasons for her party’s dismal show, but to claim that actually the BSP had done better than the 2009 elections in terms of number of votes. While she claimed that her’s was the third largest party in India, a recent analysis indicates that the BSP (along with CPI and NCP) stands to lose the national party status because it did not win any seat anywhere and failed to win six percent of the vote in each of four states, or win two percent of Lok Sabha seats (minimum 11 seats) from at least three different states, or be recognised as a state party in at least four states.
While Mayawati had alleged that the BSP loss was because of the “division of votes among upper castes and Muslims,” she maintained that her Dalit voters had not frittered away. Now the BSP has announced that it will not contest the coming by-elections in 12 Assembly constituencies and one Lok Sabha constituency (Mainpuri) in keeping with its principle. However, it is learnt that the BSP leadership is not quite sure if the party has managed to win back the confidence of its core Dalit voters so soon after the Lok Sabha rout.
“Nothing has happened so far to indicate that the party has regained the strength to face the electorate, even though we do not contest by-elections as a rule,” said a former state BSP office-bearer.
It is learnt that the BSP is focusing more on emerging as a major player in the state in view of the growing disenchantment with the Samajwadi Party government. While the BJP has been carrying on a noisy and highly visible campaign through protests and demonstrations in Lucknow and most recently in Moradabad, the BSP is quietly consolidating its supporters through informal meetings in districts.
However, this strategy has its own pitfalls as was evident in case of the recent incidents in Moradabad. The BSP’s stand happened to be the same as that of the BJP vis-a-vis the temple loudspeaker issue since the devotees in the Kanth temple mostly belonged to the Jatav community of the Scheduled castes.
The BJP also did not let go of the opportunity to be on the same page with the BSP in an emotive issue involving a temple. Its leader in the Legislative Council Hriday Narayan Dikshit expressed his support for the BSP when the latter raised the issue of “police high-handedness” in Kanth. “I am with the BSP on this issue and I demand an inquiry into the incident,” he said in the House. BSP’s Naseemuddin Siddiqui, RS Kushwaha and Lokesh Prajapati had raised the issue and condemned the police action against devotees.
“It is part of the BSP’s culture to withdraw from the mainstream whenever it is not in power in Uttar Pradesh and this has happened earlier also,” says Dilip Agnihotri, a professor in political science in a Lucknow University college. “Even Mayawati prefers to stay outside the state when she is not in power,” he added. Added to this is the fact that no leader in the party is authorized to speak to the media, leave alone take policy decisions.
“This partly explains the why the BSP is seen and heard so little in the political scenario,” he felt.
There also appears to be a view in the BSP that in western UP, where the BSP had won Lok Sabha seats in 2009 and 2014 from Muzaffarnagar, Kairana, Meerut, Saharanpur, Sambhal, Gautam Buddh Nagar, the BJP has managed to polarize the voters so completely that it will be some time before the Dalits of the region consolidate in BSP’s favour.
It is also learnt that the BSP would like to conserve its energy and resources to emerge as a strong contender to oppose the BJP in the 2017 Assembly elections. “Till then, some disenchantment with the Modi government would also have emerged and we would like to capitalize on that also,” said the BSP leader. Needless to say this strategy pre-supposes that the SP would not be in the reckoning in 2017.