Despite the hype around Mayawati, she has many hurdles to cross before becoming a national leader. However, an emerging Third Front offers her a ray of hope.
While Mayawati’s national ambitions rest on consolidating her base in UP and spreading to other states, the latter depends on whether she can gain substantial Dalit votes in politically bipolar states like Rajasthan, Delhi, MP, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab. This has been impossible in the past and is tough even now. Political analyst Sudha Pai says the BSP is still likely to get squeezed out in bipolar situations outside UP, and the media hype may not lead to much.
MP and Rajasthan: Data here how the BSP’s vote percentage has slowly expanded in the last 10 years, but has not translated in a seat gain. In MP — with a 15 percent SC population, half of them belonging to Mayawati’s caste of leather workers — the BSP got 7.6 per cent votes in the 2003 Assembly polls, up from 6.3 per cent in 1998. But seats went down from 11 in undivided MP in 1998 to 2 in 2003.
Rajasthan: With a 17 per cent Dalit population — the BSP’s vote share went up to about 4 per cent in 2003 from 2 per cent in 1998, and it bagged two seats. While these are not substantial gains, they came at a time when the party was battling the fallout of the Taj Heritage Corridor case and a split in UP where 37 MLAs defected to the SP after the fall of the BSP-BJP government. This time, the buzz is positive, and may lead to vote gains for it.
Haryana: The INLD lost all nine seats to anti-incumbency in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, and a BSP-INLD tie-up can help the party regain lost ground, though Dalits may not like a Jat-BSP alliance.
Punjab: Both the BSP and the Communists have a steady following here but in the bi-polar Congress-versus-Akali polity this has not led to a strong electoral presence. “If the communists and BSP are projected together, it can be a cause for concern for the leading parties,” a former Union minister from Punjab said. Nearly 30 per cent of Punjab’s population is Dalit.
Andhra Pradesh: Here too, a TDP-TRS-BSP-Left alliance can be a force, if it comes through.
Delhi: The BSP seems set for gains in the capital, which may see the BJP sailing through due to erosion of the Congress’ Dalit vote. In the last MCD polls, the BSP bagged 17 seats, one up from the last time. Its vote in the 1998 Assembly polls was 3 per cent, which went up to 5.7 per cent in 2003 and 9.9 per cent in the last MCD polls. Delhi has substantial Dalit population — 17 per cent — in its central, southern and northwest parts.