LUCKNOW: Having suffered successive electoral drubbings and faced with defections and rebellion in its ranks, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is going allout to regain lost ground in the upcoming urban body elections in Uttar Pradesh.
For the first time in more than two decades, the party has decided to contest the civic election on its 'elephant' symbol and thrown its doors open to those who had deserted it earlier.
The BSP, which had been in power in the country's most populous state for four terms, knows that it has to perform well in the upcoming polls to keep its flock together.
Even though its base is stronger in the state's rural areas as compared to urban settlements, the party has decided to contest the civic election on its symbol to prove that it is still not a spent force, said a party leader.
Since 2012 when the party lost power in Uttar Pradesh to the Samajwadi Party, the BSP's electoral fortunes have been sliding. It failed to win even one seat, out of the state's 80 Lok Sabha constituencies, in 2014 and its tally in the 2017 Assembly polls was a poor 19 out of total 403 seats.
The party, which had faced several desertions just before the Assembly polls with its backward face Swami Prasad Maurya and Brahmin leader Brijesh Pathak joining the saffron camp, has lately seen the expulsion of its Muslim face Naseemuddin Siddiqui.
The party is now cautious to ensure that Siddiqui's expulsion does not boomerang on it.
Soon after his expulsion, Siddiqui has levelled corruption charge against BSP chief Mayawati and released audio evidence in support of his claims.
Siddiqui was the only prominent Muslim face and to fill in the vacuum created by his ouster, former UP minister Abdul Mannan of Sandila (Hardoi) and his brother Abdul Hannan, also a former legislator, were re-inducted into the party along with their supporters recently.
In 2016, then party general secretary Naseemudeen Siddiqui had announced the expulsion of the Sandila brothers, accusing them of being engaged in anti-party activities.
Soon after joining the BSP, Mannan, who had joined the Samajwadi Party after being expelled from the BSP, took the opportunity to blame Siddiqui for working against the interest of the Muslim leadership within the BSP and said that Siddiqui wanted that no other leader of his community should remain in the party hence he managed their ouster.
He also accused Siddiqui of misguiding Mayawati to damage the party in the state and strongly condemned Siddiqui's act of recording the conversation with the party's leadership, and said that such shameful act deserved him the punishment which he received from Mayawati.
Other prominent Muslim leaders who have returned to the party recently are former minister Anis Khan alias Phool Babu and former MLA from Pihani (now Sadabad) Asif alias Babu Khan.
Similarly, the party has also brought back its prominent leader in the Bundelkhand region, Daddu Prasad re-inducting him into the party fold.
A close associate of BSP founder Kanshiram and a former minister, Daddu had turned rebel against Mayawati accusing her of selling tickets to candidates. He was later expelled from the party.
Prasad also got associated with another rebel BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya who revolted against Mayawati in June last year, accusing her of selling tickets to the candidates.
Former MPs Eshan Singh and Reena Chaudhary and former minister Maya Prasad have also returned to the party fold along with their supporters.
The BSP had not fought the urban body polls on party symbol after 1995.
BSP chief Mayawati has already underlined the need to work with renewed vigour and missionary zeal through a new strategy to deal with new challenges before the BSP movement.
"Although the BSP movement is on a solid footing in the state but ever since the Assembly poll results which have not been in keeping with our hopes and preparations, casteist and communal forces are upbeat and are spreading rumours to demoralise our party workers," the BSP chief had told her cadres in a recent meeting.