In the end Mayawati was right and everyone else was wrong. On Friday, she led her Bahujan Samaj Party to power with a clear majority in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly after promising to end goonda raj and restore law and order in the state.
The BSP's simple majority in the elections ended 14 years of unstable coalition regimes in the state marked by frequent defections and change of governments. “I will form the government after the Election Commission notifies the results. It will be before May 14, the day the term of the present assembly expires,” Mayawati said.
Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav conceded defeat soon after results started coming in and submitted his resignation to Governor TV Rajeswar. Later, he blamed the Election Commission for his Samajwadi Party’s defeat.
“The Election Commission made full efforts to ensure the defeat of the Samajwadi Party. And it succeeded. Moreover, it had the full backing of the Congress and BJP,” he told reporters.
The newly elected BSP legislators will meet in Delhi on Saturday to formally elect Mayawati as their legislature party leader, paving the way for her fourth term as chief minister.
For the record, the BJP came a poor third with 51 seats and Congress was in fourth position with 22. The BSP got 206 and the SP 97. The remaining 26 seats were taken by “others” such as the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh, other minor parties and independents. (All figures from PTI.)
How the BSP pulled it off
The BSP did very well in all regions of the state as well as in all seven phases of polling — be it the Yadav-heartland Doab region that is considered to be Mulayam’s bastion; saffron-dominated urban pockets or the Jat-dominated western UP where the RLD and BJP are considered strong. “This indicates popular resentment against the Mulayam government’s lack of will to tackle the deteriorating law and order situation,” said Lucknow university professor Aizaz Ahmed.
At her press conference, Mayawati said: “It was a vote against jungle raj (lawlessness).” Outside, her supporters danced, burnt firecrackers and competed for television bytes.
The BSP has been assiduously working at the grassroots level for the last two years on its inclusive caste formula 'Dalits, Muslims and Brahmins', a task Mayawati entrusted to her two lieutenants — former UP advocate general S.C. Mishra and former minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui.
“While the caste arithmetic did work to her advantage, it is the anger of the electorate against the Mulayam Singh government that helped her putting up an impressive showing. The decision to hold seven-phase polls, spread over 45 days and that too with elaborate security arrangements, did help Mayawati. After all, it is the poor and downtrodden who are terrorised by the criminals and the state police,” said social activist Surendra Mohan .
“It would be unfair to call her effort an experiment in social engineering. The results prove that she has broken the caste and community shackles this time,” said Ramesh Khanna, a doctor.
During her campaign, Mayawati drew tremendous response at all her public meetings when she told her audience three things: she would end goonda raj, she would not allow Mulayam Singh and his lieutenant Amar Singh to flee the country and she would restore law and order in the state. “The people want UP to be a peaceful state. She knows how to deal with the criminals and the police,” said Rashmi Bansal, a schoolteacher.
Mulayam missed the message
Mulayam Singh, on the other hand, failed to assess the electorate's mood. He was confident that his Muslim-Yadav vote bank would help him retain power. “The impression that he is hand in glove with the BJP and the talk about SP forging a post-poll alliance with the BJP to remain in power dented his image among the minority community,” said Maroof Ahmed, a Lucknow-based trader.
That he has logged a decent tally against the run of the play shows Mulayam Singh can't be written off as yet.
“The complete breakdown of administration on the law and order front caused his downfall. In his strongholds of Etawah, Etah and Mainpuri there were desertions from his own community as charges of corruption in police recruitment flew thick and fast. His largesse to his village Saifai made it an object of envy in the entire region,” says Rajiv Shakya a resident of Mainpuri.
BJP and Congress
The Congress and the BJP also failed to gauge the mood of the 11.27 crore voters of the state who account for 80 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. Notwithstanding the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's extensive campaign, the party has not made any significant gain in terms of seats.
The BJP logged its worst-ever electoral performance since it launched the Ram Temple movement in late 1980s. “It has played all the cards that it could have. The mother organisation — the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) — and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were pressed into action. The party distributed provocative CDs to polarise voters on communal lines. It did not work,” said noted author VB Rai.
“The BJP simultaneously tried to woo non-Yadav Other Backward Castes (OBC), it had projected Kalyan Singh, a Lodh leader, as its chief ministerial candidate. The RSS had even managed to persuade former BJP leader Uma Bharati to withdraw her candidates to avoid split of Hindu votes. The BJP had also tied up with the Janata Dal (U) and caste-based Apna Dal to mobilize non-Yadav OBC votes. “The party apparently failed in its strategy.”' said Kanpur-based Dalit activist Ravinder Pal.
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