Whatever happened to the "silent but solid" vote bank of the BSP this election? While the "bicycle" (the SP symbol) has been badly battered by the Narendra Modi juggernaut, the "elephant" (the BSP symbol) has virtually disappeared with the party failing to win even one of the 80 parliamentary seats of Uttar Pradesh.
Signs of the BSP's declining stock had been evident. In 2009, it won 20 seats, generating 6.17% vote share. This election, its vote share plummeted to 3.6%.
In the 2013 Delhi assembly polls, Mayawati's party ceded political space and vote share to the fledging Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The small gains witnessed earlier in Rajasthan had been offset in the pursuit of opportunistic policies by elected party MLAs, who merged 'en bloc' with the Congress.
As is evident in the electoral outcome in Kanshi Ram's home state of Punjab, the BSP's vaccum has been filled by the AAP. "Clearly, the BSP support base does not constitute a monolithic bloc any longer, as there is substantial amount of disquiet amongst caste groups different from the caste being represented by Mayawati", Dalit intellectual Ajay Navaria said.
BSP prospects in Uttar Pradesh were severely compromised because of the situation of communal polarisation following the Muzaffarnagar riots, and also due to Mayawati's perceived closeness to the Congress. In the run-up to the elections, Mayawati was perceived as batting for the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, when she had said that Modi ought to have contested his second seat from Amethi if he wanted to test his popularity. Her failure to relate to the aspirations of Dalit youth is being considered as another important factor contributing to the BSP's decline this election.
"Dalit youths are not only residing in mainstream localities in the cities, but also share the same concerns of mainstream youth. Technological advancement such as the use of smart phones and laptops has brought in rapid changes and old worldviews are rapidly changing. Leaders like Mayawati have been unable to come out of the old mould", said Chandra Bhan Prasad, mentor, the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.