With its rout in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) faces the worst phase in almost 33 years of its existence. BSP, one of the eight national parties, urgently needs to introspect and reinvent itself to remain relevant in Indian politics.
To that end, BSP supremo Mayawati has called party cadres to Lucknow on the 83rd birth anniversary of its founder Kanshi Ram today. The party cadres and supporters are likely to meet at Kanshi Ram Smarak on the VIP road where Mayawati may address them. Sources said she is also expected to preside over a meeting of the party's top office-bearers to devise a fresh strategy.
KANSHI RAM'S PRINCIPLES NO LONGER RELEVANT?
Ironically, BSP needs to deviate from some of the core principles of its founder Kanshi Ram on his birth anniversary. He floated the concept that an unstable government at the Centre was advantageous for BSP as it could derive maximum benefits to the deprived sections.
He had said, "I want a majboor (weak) government at the Centre and not a majboot (strong) one till we reach the Centre."
However, that phase is over with Prime Minister Narendra Modi presiding over a BJP-led majority NDA government at the Centre. In that sense, BSP is in no position to extract any benefits from the Centre for its votebank consisting mainly of Dalits.
Moreover, be it the 2014 Lok Sabha or the February-March Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, Dalits seem to have abandoned BSP, dealing the severest blows to it ever. They have apparently been successfully wooed by BJP.
While failing to keep its flock together, BSP also failed to win back the unstinted support of the Muslims and Brahmins who had catapulted it to power in UP in 2007. While Muslim votes have got divided between it and Samajwadi Party-Congress combine, Brahmins put their weight behind BJP, leading to the latter's victory with a three-fourths majority in the recently concluded state Assembly election.
Kanshi Ram's second popular concept, formulated after forming BSP, was that the party would fight the first election to lose, next to get noticed and the third election to win. That phase too passed long ago.
BSP's UNENVIABLE PHASE
For the first time in a couple of years, BSP is going through a peculiar and unenviable phase. While its vote share remains considerably high, it has failed to translate it into seats. This is what the party needs to contemplate.
For instance, in the recent Assembly elections, BSP garnered 22.2 per cent of the votes, winning 19 seats. On the other hand, SP got lesser votes (21.8 per cent) than BSP but bagged a much higher number of seats (47).
A similar pattern was observed in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. BSP got a decent 19.6 per cent votes in Uttar Pradesh, but failed to even open its account. On the other hand, SP got 22.2 per cent of votes, winning five seats. Congress got only 7.5 per cent of the votes and it won two seats.
The difference was starker at the national level. BSP got 4.14 per cent of the vote share and it did not win a single seat.
On the other hand, other national parties and even regional parties got a much lesser vote share but were successful in winning seats.
Sample some of them:
MAYAWATI'S POLITICAL CAREER AT STAKE
BSP needs to take concerted steps to correct this anomaly in the vote share and the number of seats won. But before that, Mayawati will have to take measures to save her political career from getting lost in oblivion.
Her six-year Rajya Sabha term ends in April 2018. She does not even have the required number of MLAs to get re-elected to the Upper House. She may have to depend upon SP or BJP to retain her Rajya Sabha membership. Even Congress, with seven MLAs, cannot bail her out.
Will such realignment of forces take place? Or will Mayawati devise some other way out? If these do not happen, BSP and Mayawati face the threat of going through a long, dark tunnel ahead, if not a dead end.