BSP’s Decline: Has Mayawati’s Social Engineering Strategy Failed?

Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections 2017 has been a tough one for Mayawati. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is leading in only 18 out of 403 seats in the state, with the four-time chief minister’s social alliance strategy between Dalits and Muslims not bearing fruit.

In 2012 assembly elections, BSP had won nearly 26% of the vote, winning 80 seats, lagging behind Samajwadi Party (SP) by 4%. In 2017, BSP’s vote share is at 22%.

Vote share of BSP in Uttar Pradesh. (Photo: Election Commission of India)

In Uttarakhand, the situation is not much better with BSP halving its vote share in the state. It has gone from 12% in 2012 to 6.9% in 2017. What are the reasons for this decline, and more importantly, what does this say about Mayawati’s political fortunes?

Vote share of BSP in Uttarakhand. (Photo: Election Commission of India)

1. Non-Jatav Vote Deserts Mayawati?

Mayawati has used a Dalit-Muslim and Dalit-Muslim-Brahmin alliance in the past, and she sought Dalit and caste Hindu votes in the assembly elections based on this. The question arises, how did she fail?

BSP had fielded Muslim candidates in 97 seats, OBCs in 106 seats and caste Hindus in 117 seats. So, it can be estimated that while Jatav Dalits have always been favourable towards BSP, non-Jatav Dalits might have sided with the BJP.

2. Tiff with the OBCs?

Despite being supportive of the BSP in the past, the OBCs seem angry with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh – especially at Mayawati for ignoring them.

OBCs constitute nearly 40% of the vote in UP and has been conventionally dominated by Yadavs – a community which has been at odds with the BSP. The party’s decision to give fewer tickets to members of the Kushwaha community is also a factor.

One of the reasons why the OBCs may have moved away from BSP is their disagreement with the Dalit leadership of the party. The impact of the break-up of the BSP-SP alliance in 1995 still lingers among the OBCs, which is why they are not an easy fit for Mayawati’s social engineering formula. BJP took advantage of this by making Keshav Prasad Maurya BJP president in the state. The results are there for all to see.

3. Ignoring Big Politicians Proved Costly?

The exit of notable politicians like Swami Prasad Maurya and Babu Singh Kushwaha – both notable OBC names – also proved to be costly for the BSP. With Swami Prasad Maurya’s exit, Saini and Maurya votes are also being seen to go towards BJP.

4. BSP’s Weak Presence on Social Media?

Social media is an important element of every election. Where BJP and SP had experts to cultivate a powerful social media presence, BSP was dependent on the Dalit middle class who had been campaigning for the party. From ‘jansabha’ rallies to social media, Mayawati has not let any other leader emerge in the party. Judging from the results, it looks like this has been a negative for the BSP.

5. Mayawati and BSP Sidelined in UP

Loss after loss means Mayawati and BSP are marginalised in state politics now. Mawayati’s wish to become the chief minister for the 5th time has been thwarted and these results will prove to be a lesson to Mayawati to strategise a better form of social engineering. From the results, it can be estimated that non-Jatav Dalits are moving away from the BSP and to survive, Mayawati needs to bring them back in the fold.