Amit Shah, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttar Pradesh in-charge, swears by what Narendra Modi says. But he dismissed the latter’s obsession with Samajwadi Party by placing it behind Bahujan Samaj Party in the final poll tally.
“BJP will emerge as the largest party (in UP) with at least 20 seats more than nearest rival BSP,” Shah said before dismissing SP as just the ‘ruling party’.
Shah’s view is strategic, as SP is facing anti-incumbency that could work in BSP’s favour. The scenario is almost a replay of the 2009 polls when chief minister Mayawati was sailing on the same boat as her successor Akhilesh Yadav finds himself today.
Many feel BJP would want BSP to win more seats as Mayawati is a potential post-poll ally, which is not the case with SP. Though Mayawati has intermittently attacked Modi and his ‘communal practices’, she is not averse to post-poll alliance albeit on her own terms.
In the past, she had publicly derided senior BJP leaders, including present party president Rajnath Singh and Lal Krishna Advani before stitching up alliances with BJP in UP. This did not alienate her from Muslims, who believe she weakened the saffron brigade in the process.
The focus on BSP is also believed to be part of BJP’s design to confuse Muslim voters who do not want the saffron party to win, perhaps with more intensity than in the polls after the demolition of Babri mosque.
The electoral strategy of SP and BSP has been to hold on to their core votes and ‘plus votes’. Muslims are ‘plus’ for both parties with Dalits as core voters for BSP and Yadavs for SP. The fate of the two parties invariably depend on which way the Muslim votes swing as well as the floating votes, or in Mayawati’s case ‘anti-incumbency votes’.
But Mayawati has been uncharacteristically silent in the run-up to the elections compared to bête noire Mulayam Singh Yadav. The latter has energised SP across the state – riot-scarred Muzaffarnagar included – apparently to earn the trust of Muslims.
Senior BSP leader Brajesh Pathak did not read much into the contrasting approach. He said: “BSP does it homework at the booth level. The Dalit-Muslim combine constitutes 40-60% of the vote bank in several constituencies of western UP. Why would Muslims vote for a losing party like Congress or SP carrying the Muzaffarnagar blot?”
“Wait till she hits the campaign trail from April 3,” said BSP state president Swamy Prasad Maurya.
According to KS Rana, political analyst from western UP, the ground realities point to BSP doing better than SP. “It will be BSP versus BJP in most western UP seats as Dalits form 20-25% of the voters. If Dalits combine with the Muslims, who are keeping off Jat-supported Rashtriya Lok Dal, Mayawati is bound to have an upper hand,” he said, doubting the BJP’s claim of attracting the Yadav votes.
Mayawati has so far fielded 18 Muslim candidates underscoring their importance for her party. This could consolidate Hindu votes, and BJP could gain in such a scenario.