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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

BSP support base erodes as Dalit leaders join SP

cities Updated: Dec 02, 2019 19:40 IST
Pankaj Jaiswal and Manish Chandra Pandey
Pankaj Jaiswal and Manish Chandra Pandey

Over a dozen Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders, including former lawmakers, have joined the Samajwadi Party (SP) along with hundreds of workers since an alliance between the two parties ended following their dismal performance in this summer’s national polls.

The most prominent among them have been Dalits. Their inclusion in the SP comes as the party seeks to strengthen its base among the Dalits, who account for 21% of Uttar Pradesh’s population, amid the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s attempts to also woo the community.

Dalits have been the main support base of the BSP, while the SP is primarily seen as the party of Yadavs (around 9% of the state’s population) and Muslims (around 19%).

The ruling BJP has continued its dominance in Uttar Pradesh since the national polls. It won seven out of the 11 assembly seats to which by-polls were held in October. Apna Dal (S), a BJP ally, won one seat and the SP the remaining three. The SP retained Rampur and wrested one seat each from the BJP and the BSP, which could not even win a single seat.

Experts say BSP leaders have been joining the SP as it seems to have emerged as the BJP’s primary challenger in Uttar Pradesh. They cite the BSP’s performance even in reserved seats for scheduled castes, the mainstay of its support base, and scheduled tribes in the state to underline the significant loss of its base.

BSP leader Mayawati ended the alliance with SP in June, months after she buried years of acrimony to forge a seemingly formidable caste coalition with the one-time rival to take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The alliance did not have much of an impact; the won 62 of its 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP.

Mayawati ended the alliance even as the BSP improved its tally of Lok Sabha seats from zero in 2014 to 10 in 2019. The SP won just five seats, matching its performance in 2014.

Former BSP minister Ghura Ram, who had been with the party since its inception in 1984, was the first major leader to switch to the SP in August. “The BSP’s days are over,’’ said Ram as he joined the SP.

Within a fortnight, 17 BSP leaders from Pratapgarh, including former Patti assembly constituency in-charge R K Bhim, joined the SP along with hundreds of workers. A week later, former BSP state president Dayaram Pal and ex-Ballia district chief, Mithailal Bharati, followed suit, accusing their former party of deviating from the ideal of Bhimrao Ambedkar and its founder Kanshiram—social justice.

In October, former Mau BSP district president Ashok Gautam joined the SP. Former minister Kamlakant Gautam, who quit the BSP after its poor show in the 2017 assembly polls, merged his Rashtriya Bahujan Utthan Party with the SP this month. Daud Ahmed, a former Parliament as well as assembly member, is set to join the SP.

Four former BSP lawmakers from Basti region were expelled or suspended for indiscipline on November 23 for reportedly being in talks with the SP.

BSP coordinator Jugal Kishore, the party’s Other Backward Class face Swami Prasad Maurya, Brajesh Pathak, Mayawati’s second most influential Brahmin aide, and Dara Singh Chauhan have been among those who have joined the BJP.

The BJP’s focus on Dalits has paid off as it has of late done much better in the reserved SC seats. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won all 17 reserved constituencies in the state. In the 2017 assembly polls, the BJP won 70 of the 85 reserved seats. The BSP won two and SP seven.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BSP could win just two of the 17 reserved seats, while the BJP won 15. The SP could not win any. In the 2012 assembly polls, the SP dented the BSP’s prospects by winning 58 of the reserved seats. The BSP won 15.

SK Dwivedi, a former political science department head at Lucknow University, said BSP leaders had been joining the SP because of a perception that it has emerged as the BJP’s primary challenger in Uttar Pradesh. “The BSP does not seem to have a promising political future as of now. The BSP leaders are restive. Ideologies are a myth in politics. Mayawati’s move of breaking the alliance… is now proving counter-productive for the BSP. The fight for Dalit votes will become interesting in the 2022 polls.”

BSP legislative party leader Lalji Verma said, “The Dalit outreach campaign of the BJP is a sham. Let them do whatever they want. Our people won’t be misled. They (BJP) are trying to fool the innocent who however won’t fall for their machinations now.” The BSP leader, however, refused comment when asked why several BSP leaders had joined the SP. “What can I say to this?” Verma asked.

UP BJP leader Harish Chandra Srivastava said, “Ideally, we favour a casteless society and are working towards this. There are some who want community vote banks. So there is a Dalit vote bank; there is a minority vote bank; there is an OBC vote bank. But what have these parties given back to these communities who have loyally supported them for years? Nothing. The BJP, on the other hand, under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, has been constantly working for all sections of the society.”

The BJP has also stepped up efforts to woo the Dalits by launching a four-day outreach campaign on November 26. It has promised to develop 1,389 Dalit-dominated villages as model villages in Uttar Pradesh to improve their living standards.

Lalji Nirmal, the head of Uttar Pradesh’s Scheduled Caste Finance Corporation, said the organisations aims to help 100,000 young Dalits to become self-employed by offering them soft loans of up to Rs 15 lakh.