Mayawati’s magic, it may seem, is wearing off.
Of the 17 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in Uttar Pradesh, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), India's largest Dalit party, won just two — Misrikh near Lucknow and Lalganj near Azamgarh — in this general election. Its candidates stood second in 13 of these constituencies. In the previous Lok Sabha election, the party had bagged five of these seats and was runners-up in 11. Overall, the BSP has won 20 seats in UP with a vote share of 27 per cent in this election.
The rest of the reserved seats were shared between the Samajwadi Party (10), the Congress (2), the Bharatiya Janata Party (2) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (1).
Barabanki was one of the crucial seats that the BSP lost. Here, the BSP's Kamla Prasad Rawat from the Pasi caste, the second largest Scheduled Caste in UP, was up against Mayawati's aide-turned-enemy P.L. Punia, a former bureaucrat belonging to the Jatav caste. Mayawati is herself a Jatav. The Jatavs account for more than half of U.P.'s 21 per cent Dalits. Punia won by 1.78 lakh votes on a Congress ticket.
The BSP's Barabanki calculation was that Pasis would vote for the Pasi (Rawat) and Jatavs would punish Behenji’s enemy.
“The BSP got only Dalit votes on reserved seats and other castes tactically voted to defeat it,” said an UP official requesting anonymity. “The reason: while Dalits vote for all BSP candidates, other castes vote only for BSP candidates belonging to their caste. This either shows the hollowness of the Sarv Samaj rhetoric or a growing anti-incumbency."
Another reason for the BSP's poor show in reserved seats could be that many Dalits don't think they have benefited from the 53-year-old Dalit Chief Minister. "She promised nothing exclusively for Dalits this time. The Sarv Samaj rhetoric may not enthuse Dalits, who are still poor and deprived."
"Identities get narrower on the ground. The BSP not fielding a Jatav may have made the Jatavs vote for the Congress Jatav," said Badri Narayan, who specializes in UP's Dalit movement.
In constituencies like Bulandshahr, Hathras, Mohanlalganj, Itawah, Jalaun, Kaushambi, Bahraich, Machhlishahar and Robertsganj, many of which the SP won, there may have been consolidation of OBC votes. Mulayam Singh Yadav had been looking for this. This is why he allied with Lodh leader Kalyan Singh despite Muslim opposition.