Waiting for a miracle from Mayawati
She must realise the ground realities for revival of her BSP, dubbed the ‘miracle of democracy’ by former PM Narasimha Rao.
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Mayawati’s decision to quit the Rajya Sabha, after being asked by the deputy chairman to restrict her speech on recent atrocities on Dalits to three minutes, seems like a gambit to revive the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Her short speech saw continuous interruptions by other members, and her resignation is meant to reflect her frustration at her inability to raise a voice against the oppression of the marginalised section.
However, critics call her resignation a political gimmick aimed to save her from embarrassment, as her term was going to expire in eight months and, devoid of the requisite numbers, she was not optimistic about her re-election to the House.
Whatever the reason, the party has taken the resignation as an opportunity to revive its base and also announced its next step for large-scale protests led by Mayawati across Uttar Pradesh every month.
After defeat in the state’s Assembly poll earlier this year, a similar ambitious declaration was made by the BSP - to observe the 11th (day of result declaration in March) of every month as “black day” in protest of alleged EVM tampering in favour of the BJP, which now rules UP.
In 1995, the BSP was dubbed the “miracle of democracy” by former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and became a national party with an electoral base across India. Mayawati was appointed CM four times. But huge defeats in the last three elections in Uttar Pradesh have shaken the BSP’s confidence of remaining a major political entity at the national or even in Uttar Pradesh.
The BSP is also going through an existential crisis in other states, where its membership and vote share has shrunk to a low. Numerically, the party presently has zero representation in the Lok Sabha while it was the fourth largest party in the previous Parliament with 21 members.
Seats in the Rajya Sabha also dwindled from 12 in January 2014 to 5 at present, and in the coming years even these could go due to inadequate Assembly numbers after defeat in UP.
Prior to the general election in 2014, the BSP had 92 members with 5.68 per cent vote share across state Assemblies, which has now declined to 30 members with 4.73 per cent vote share.
Controversies over the Taj corridor, disproportionate assets case, extravagances in building statues for self-promotion and allegation of taking money in ticket distribution have maligned her credibility among voters.
Prejudiced media reporting and not being given an adequate slot for BSP’s election campaign worsened her winning prospects. Communal polarisation undertaken by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh also distracted caste-based voters. The role of EVM tampering in BSP’s defeat can also not be entirely ruled out.
Besides these external factors, internal introspection to find the root cause of failure is imperative for the transformation of BSP into a next generation party.
Since a party can’t hold voters in long-term on the basis of religious and caste-inspired emotional slogans, the BSP has to come forward with some solution and roadmap for socio-economic developments.
During the 2017 Assembly election, the BSP gave 100 tickets to Muslims without outlining any specific agenda for the community’s welfare, while rival SP promised to earmark a budget for the minorities in the state, apart from other schemes, and the BJP promised a ban on triple talaq.
Mayawati was attacked for her extravagance. Photo: India Today
Besides the dependency on caste engineering, the BSP has to formulate a comprehensive visionary document that would target the development of all sections of society. It doesn’t mean that development is not on BSP agenda but usually, the dominating reason to vote is promoted on the basis of the socio-religious matrix.
Showing fear of BJP victory has not enough attraction for voters, and causes polarisation of other community votes in favour of the saffron party.
The BSP also faced a setback due to its insistence on not forging pre-poll alliances. After the fall of the Congress from single party domination status, an era of coalition and alliances has come into existence. Mayawati also needs to nurture alliances with like-minded parties for better electoral prospects.
A pre-poll coalition with the Congress or SP in the last election could have changed the fate of the party. BJP gained seats in Uttar Pradesh due to polarisation of voters and by forging alliances with regional parties, while the rival parties contested the election independently.
BJP’s vote share was 40 per cent but it won 312 Assembly constituencies, almost 77 per cent of the total 403 seats. While the BSP was adversely affected with such polarisation, it won only 5 per cent of seats (19) in spite of securing 22 per cent vote share.
The core voter base of BSP is scheduled castes and of the SP is the Yadavs, comprising 20 per cent and 10 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s population, respectively. Both are unable to win the election on their own without the support of 19.26 per cent Muslims whose votes are generally split between these two choices. An alliance between the SP and BSP could have consolidated votes and increased the number of seats for both parties.
In spite of a parliamentary form of government, voters are enchanted by a charismatic leader like the BJP has in Narendra Modi. Dissidence and confused behaviour of Mayawati is irritating. Instead of backdoor entry through unpopular houses, she needs to adopt an aggressive stand to lead the party from the front via active participation in the electioneering process and by contesting direct elections.
After resignation from the Rajya Sabha, the best opportunity for her could be to contest the forthcoming by-polls for the Phulpur Lok Sabha seat, expected to be vacated by deputy chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Keshav Prasad Maurya.
Phulpur has everything favourable for Mayawati, as the scheduled castes constitute 23 per cent of total voters and the constituency was occupied by the BSP in the 2009 general election.
The BSP has to come out from the aforementioned limitations to bolster the morale of loyal voters and to survive in state politics. It is also imperative to design a multi-pronged strategy by nurturing a pool of next generation leaders.