The 2017 electoral debacle could be the beginning of the end for Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh.
This was the third successive defeat for BSP – it lost power to Samajwadi Party in the 2012 assembly polls and was left without a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections amid a Modi wave.
And another Modi wave now has sunk Mayawati.
The repeated failures have put a question mark over her ability to infuse energy into the party that formed a majority government in 2007 and bagged 20 seats in the 2009 parliamentary polls.
The 2017 election outcome also indicates that rivals have breached the upper caste-backwards and Muslim coalition that Mayawati had weaved since the BSP’s birth in 1984.
If the 20% vote polled by BSP in the 2014 Lok Sabha election is any indication, the blue brigade did not lose its core vote base – Dalits. But Mayawati felt the BJP might have eaten into her backward vote bank and tried to fill the gap with Muslims for the 2017 assembly polls.
The BSP chief realised the elephant (party symbol) cannot rely on Dalit votes alone to take on the lotus (BJP) and bicycle (SP).
Age too is catching up with Mayawati, now 61, and another five years out of power might be too long a period for a comeback.
Moreover, the BSP has not nurtured anyone to take Mayawati’s place just as party founder Kanshi Ram had nurtured her.
Rival parties, on the other hand, have been promoting young leaders. SP chief Akhilesh Yadav pushed himself as a youth icon and Rahul Gandhi led the Congress fight in UP. The BJP has also promised to make a young leader the CM if it comes to power in the state.
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Mayawati will also face the challenge of keeping her flock together. Often in the past, BSP legislators gravitated to the party in power. The BJP in 1997 and SP in 2003 had lured MLAs from BSP away to form the government.
Top BSP leaders such as Swami Prasad Maurya, Jugal Kishore, Brijesh Pathak, Dara Singh Chauhan and RK Chaudhary quit after the 2014 Lok Sabha rout and joined the BJP.
“Mayawati betrayed Kanshi Ram’s ideology by sidelining backward caste leaders and promoting upper castes in her party. She paid the price for this in 2012 and in 2014,” ex-BSP leader Daddu Prasad, who floated Bahujan Mujti Morcha, said.
“If Mayawati wishes for a comeback, she will have to go to the basics – regroup the Dalit-backward community and promote missionary soldiers in ticket distribution as an insurance against desertion,” Dalit ideologue AR Akela said.
“Akhilesh Yadav has already hinted at a backward-Dalit tie-up to prevent BJP from eating into the vote bank of both parties. Mayawati should consider the proposal seriously since the SP-BSP combine had captured power despite the temple wave in 1993.”