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Mayawati's shrinking vote bank poses an existential crisis for BSP
Lucknow, March 20 - The recent poll drubbing has put a question mark on the future of the "once mighty" Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and its supremo and former Chief Minister Mayawati.
The Dalits, especially the Jatavs, used to stand firmly with the BSP. But with the party's decimation in the election, it seems to be splintering. If Mayawati does not save her core vote bank from slipping away, her troubles will only increase in the coming elections.
In Uttar Pradesh, Dalits account for 22 per cent of the total population. The BSP could garner only 13 per cent votes this year, the least after the 1993 elections. With just one seat in its kitty, the party has entered its worst ever phase in politics. It now faces the danger of losing its national party status besides the crisis of representation in the Assembly and the Parliament.
The Dalit vote bank has been the basis of the BSP's existence.
In 2007, under social engineering, Mayawati had succeeded in forming a government by bringing the Brahmins and Muslims into the party fold but apparently, their dominance led to the alienation of the Dalits and the backward classes. By 2014, the party lost more than 10 per cent of its votes. The party did manage votes in 80 Lok Sabha seats but it could not win a single seat even in the Dalit-dominated areas.
As the upper castes separated, she was out of power. Since then, the party's graph has only been witnessing a downward trend. Gradually, the prominent backward faces left the party, and with them went the vote bank. This vote percentage dropped to 19.6 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the party could not win any seat.
However, in the 2019 polls, though the poll percentage did not increase, the alliance with the Samajwadi party did boost its sagging morale and resulted in victory in 10 seats.
In 2017, the BSP was reduced to just 19 seats with 22.24 per cent votes. This time, the vote percentage was reduced to 13 and it could get only one seat.
Even in the reserved 86 seats, the BSP's performance is deteriorating. The party, which had bagged 62 reserved seats in 2007, could not win even a single such seat. In the last elections, where the party had got two reserved seats, in 2012 it won 17, 21 in 2002, 22 in 1996, 24 seats in 1993, the entire credit goes to the Dalits.
Had the Dalits continued to support the BSP, the party would not have slipped to the third position in the Dalit area of Agra.
According to senior political analyst Ratanmani, despite the poll debacle, Mayawati was very hopeful of coming back to power in 2017. But the electoral history of UP and excessive confidence in the traditional Dalit votes went against her. The BJP tried a lot to bring the Dalits into its fold. The anti-Dalit image of the SP continues. The 2007 Maywati government was dominated by the Backwards, Muslims and Brahmins.
At that time no efforts were made for any strong Dalit face as the BSP chief thought that she would enter national politics. On the other hand, the BJP has floated many schemes for the Dalits which reflected in 2014 and then in 2017.
With Mayawari entering into an alliance with the Samajwadi Party, in 2019 this dented its Dalit votes. Despite her all-out efforts in 2022, she could not woo back her Dalit vote bank which appears a difficult task now.
In the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Mayawati has removed non-Dalits from their posts. Besides, she has also roped in her family members and given them responsibility.
In the coming time, the responsibility of the party's general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra may reduce. Unless the BJP government is labelled as anti-Dalit, it will be very difficult for the BSP to regain its lost Dalit vote bank.
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