The Assembly election of India’s most politically and electorally crucial state UP is just months away, and all major political parties are eyeing the vote bank. According to the recent Times Now-Polstrat UP 2022 opinion poll result, the BJP is expected to bag 239-245 out of the total 403 seats in the state, while Samajwadi Party will acquire 119-125 seats and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is expected to lose a significant share of its votes to both SP and BJP and finish third with approximately 30 seats.
Given the string of disappointing electoral performances of BSP in the last few years, coupled with the BJP’s spectacular performance in the state, the opinion poll result seems likely to come into life in the forthcoming UP Assembly election. For Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati, this Assembly election is do-or-die since the party has been witnessing one fall after another in the previous Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
In 2007, Mayawati stormed into the Indian political arena by winning 206 of the 403 seats with a 30% vote share in the UP Assembly election. In the 2012 assembly election, the party’s seats fell to 80 and the vote share to 25.9%, and by 2017, to 19 and 22.23%, respectively. One of the major factors that contributed to BSP’s victory in 2007 was a large number of tickets that BSP gave to the members of the Brahmin community. Under the banner of social engineering, BSP supremo Mayawati had given due prominence to the Brahmin community in her then government.
BSP’s major competitors, both BJP and SP, have already made aggressive forays into the Mayawati-led party’s core vote bank. Mayawati, who started with immense support from a broad Dalit base, and managed to marry that into a larger caste coalition, has merely been reduced to getting support only from the Jatav community in her constituency and a few Muslim regions. Meanwhile, BJP, the ruling party in UP, was able to woo the non-Jatav Dalit vote bank. Dalits constitute around 20% of UP’s population, with Jatavs comprising approximately 12%.
With Mayawati remaining more distant from the public, the BSP is in dire need of a good leader, and the only other BSP leader with some potential to carry BSP is the party’s Brahmin face, Satish Chandra Mishra. BSP is trying to go all in to present the party as a prime contender in the forthcoming UP 2022 election. A look at stats, opinion polls, and Mayawati’s image as an aloof leader rarely seen on the roads or hitting the ground makes BSP’s UP victory dream more distant than before.
The party has to cover a lot of ground if they intend to grasp power from the formidable BJP and increase vote share from 22.2%, which it got in 2017, to around BJP’s previous vote share, i.e., 40%. BJP is banking entirely on the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the work of CM Yogi Adityanath. The ruling party in UP has to perform disastrously to get a vote share below 30% in the upcoming Assembly election.
Another major contender Samajwadi Party(SP), is forming alliances and ties with regional parties such as Rashtriya Lok Dal, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, among others, to boost their chances of winning the election. Meanwhile, BSP supremo Mayawati has reinstated that the party will contest this election alone without any alliances; infact, BSP has rarely been part of pre-poll alliances. With SP trying to mobilize the Brahmin community in favour of them by promising to build a 108-foot statue of Parshuram, BSP needs to up their strategy game and go beyond conducting lowly attended Brahmin Conventions if they plan to woo Brahmin vote bank.
There’s no denying no matter how loud they talk about saving ‘Sarvajan’ takes place or how many unique caste coalitions that BSP tries to chain together, the core of BSP politics will always be Dalits. BSP has earned its place in the highly competitive UP politics sphere by positioning itself as a Defender of Dalit’s rights. Recently parties like Azad Samaj Party have ermerged and are seeking to establish themselves as a defender of the rights of Dalits and have already accused the Mayawati-led party of working against the principles of its founder Kanshi Ram. This indicates that BSP’s traditional vote base is slowly being preyed on and will eventually erode.
With the UP election only a few months away, the party needs to indulge in thoughtful planning of campaigning strategies to keep their base intact and conduct more groundwork than usual if they plan on not being on the verge of erasure from the Indian political arena in the coming years.