The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) hopes to wrest at least one or two of the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi in Thursday's election. For now however, it is the BSP's super-wealthy candidates who are causing waves.
After wresting power in Uttar Pradesh in 2007 by dramatically expanding its support base, the BSP is confident of a good showing in Delhi, having won an incredible 17 seats (out of 272) in the 2007 municipal elections. It also bagged two of 70 Delhi assembly seats in 2008.
Dalits, the core support group of BSP everywhere, form 16.9 percent of Delhi's 16 million people. It increased its vote share from 5.7 percent in the 2003 assembly elections to 14.5 percent in 2008.
But a Lok Sabha poll is another matter, says veteran politician Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which along with the Congress has dominated Delhi's politics for decades.
"If you look at previous elections in Delhi, you will find that the BSP manages to get some votes in local elections. But when it comes to larger elections, they not only score blank but there isn't any substantial increment in their vote percentage. So, to say that the BSP will end the dominance of two major parties would be a fallacy," Malhotra said.
The BSP's vote share in the 1999 parliamentary polls in Delhi was 2.24 percent. It rose marginally to 2.48 percent in 2004.
The Congress, which won six of seven seats in 2004, did not seem to take the BSP challenge seriously either.
"I don't see any probability of the BSP winning any seat in Delhi. None of their candidates is from the grassroots or has worked among the people," Congress candidate in Northeast Delhi and the city's Congress unit chief J.P. Aggarwal told IANS.
But the party's nominee in Chandni Chowk, Mohammad Mustaqeem, told IANS: "With the policy of sarvajan of Behenji (BSP chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati), we are hopeful of winning more than four seats.
"Till now the fight has been mainly between the Congress and BJP. These elections will witness the emergence of BSP in a much stronger way and end the bipolar polity in Delhi."
Added BSP general secretary Shahid Siddiqui: "The BSP is one of the fastest growing political forces in the country. We are not cutting into anyone's base. It is the policies of the BSP that are attracting every section of the society. Our party will change the political scenario of India, not just of Delhi, after these Lok Sabha elections."
Zoya Hasan, professor of political science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University here, does not agree but says whatever votes the BSP manages to get will affect the Congress more than the BJP.
"The increase in BSP vote percentage between the last two assembly elections has been quite substantial. If this is repeated in the Lok Sabha election, then it will certainly play a spoiler for both the Congress and BJP. But it will hit the Congress more as both parties target the same voters," Hasan told IANS.
So far, however, BSP candidates are more in the news for their wealth than anything else.
The party's nominee in West Delhi, Deepak Bhardwaj, is the richest candidate in the country with declared assets worth Rs.603 crore (Rs.6.03 billion). Its South Delhi candidate Kanwar Singh Tanwar is also among the richest with declared assets worth over Rs.150 crore (Rs.1.5 billion).