UP Elections 2017: Mayawati’s Dalit vote base is slipping away fast

Mayawati is down but not out. It is too early to write off the BSP leader despite the many problems that she and her party face today

assembly elections Updated: Mar 14, 2017 12:41 IST
Srinand Jha
Srinand Jha
Hindustan Times
Uttar Pradesh assembly election results 2017,Mayawati,Bahujan Samaj Party
Bahujan Samat Party national president Mayawati addressing during a rally at Phagwara, January 30. Dalit intellectual Chandra Bhan Prasad believes it is too early to write off the BSP.(Pardeep Pandit/HT Photo)

Billed as a “silent player” and the strongest claimant to the Lucknow throne until a few months before the launch of campaign, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has been decimated like never before, logging an all-time low of 19 seats in the UP assembly.

Does the BSP performance mark a watershed moment for subaltern politics in India?

Unlike leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan, Ram Das Athawale or Prakash Ambedkar, who aligned with India’s mainstream parties, Mayawati, until some years back, had been considered a lone star among Dalit leaders.

In the 2014 parliamentary elections, the BSP failed to win a single seat, but drew consolation from the fact that the party polled the third highest percentage of votes after the BJP and Congress. This time, Mayawati can hardly conceal what is considered an open secret: That Mayawati’s Dalit vote base is slipping.

“Mayawati’s acts are finally catching up with her: her earlier compromises in aligning with the BJP to form governments in UP, the properties she and family members have allegedly amassed, her over-dependence on the “Jatav” vote bank at the expense of other backward castes such as Khatiks and Valmikis,” said PL Mimroth of the Jaipur-based Centre for Dalit Rights.

“In fact, Mayawati’s politics has been at complete contravention from the philosophy pursued by her mentor Kanshi Ram,” he said.

In the run up to the assembly polls, several desertions from the BSP happened. Swami Prasad Maurya, the party’s OBC face, quit after alleging that bribes were being taken from ticket seekers. A month earlier, the BSP chief had expelled 8 MLAs, including four belonging to the non-Yadav OBC castes.

“These developments have ostensibly helped the BJP consolidate the non-Yadav OBC bloc,” Dalit scholar Rajesh Yadav said.

According to Kaushal Panwar of the Delhi University, Mayawati’s decline has gradually happened because of her “blind pursuit for power politics”.

“Her mentor Kanshi Ram’s aim was to bring about Dalit consciousness. With that idea having been compromised, the BSP is today no different from other political parties. This is the reason that the BSP is falling off the political radar,” Panwar said.

Dalit intellectual Chandra Bhan Prasad believes it is too early to write off the BSP, explaining the UP verdict as the success of the BJP in “marketing Hindu religion”.

First Published: Mar 12, 2017 14:39 IST