LUCKNOW: If Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has a battle in hand for its survival, the degree of its success would depend much on the sixth phase of Lok Sabha election, where 27 seats of eastern Uttar Pradesh will go to polls on May 12.
The party is the dominant partner in the alliance, contesting 16 out of 27 seats, leaving 11 to its partner, Samajwadi Party. The division of final 27 seats seems to have roots in the outcome of 2014 results when BSP had finished runner-up -- with many close contests -- in at least a dozen seats. In 2009 also, it had won nine seats out of its tally of 20 from this region.
“In 2014 over 12 of 27 seats going to polls in last two phases, we were just a step behind the victory. This time we are armed with the support base of Samajwadi Party as well. In case of the transfer of Muslim and Yadav votes to our candidates combined with our own Dalit vote bank, we are sure to sail through on maximum seats,” says a senior BSP leader.
Owing to a solid base of Dalit voters in each of 80 constituencies (this chunk makes 20 per cent of the total UP population), a BSP candidate generally opens with nearly one lakh votes. If the upper-caste votes or minority votes add up to its base, the party tends to come out victorious. In the 2007 Assembly elections, the party romped UP with absolute majority.
But post-2014, BJP's caste experiment has managed to make a dent in Mayawati's Dalit vote bank, weaning away a large chunk of non-Jatav votes. Besides, upper castes -- especially Brahmins -- deserted her ship to join the saffron bandwagon. Since Jatavs, among Dalits, are still a supporting force behind the BSP supremo, the vote percentage of the party in both 2014 and 2017 state polls ranged between 18 to 20 per cent, but in absence of any add-ons, the party failed to convert it into seats. Hence, it drew a zero in 2014 and dwindled to 19 from 84 in 2017 UP polls -- its lowest-ever tally in three decades.
The challenge before the party remains to increase its vote base in the remaining two phases, with constituencies having huge Dalit and most backward population. Before the BJP won over MBCs, these two caste groups used to vote together. MBCs like Nishads, Kushwaha, Koiree, Rajbhars, Musahars besides Dalits consists of the large chunk of the population across 14 seats going to polls in the sixth phase on Sunday. Perhaps, which is why BSP is contesting 11 of them sans Azamgarh, Phulpur and Allahabad, which are left for Samajwadi Party (SP).
In the last phase, BSP has got five out of 13 seats in its kitty. On remaining eight, SP has fielded its candidates in consonance with alliance’s seat-sharing pact. Except for Shravasti, Basgaon, Pratapgarh and Ghazipur of the 16 seats in BSP’s kitty to vote in last two phases, on at least 12 seats, it had emerged victorious at some point of time. In 2009, when BSP bagged 20 seats, it had won Ambedkarnagar, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Deoria, Lalganj, Ghosi, Salempur, Jaunpur and Bhadohi.
Of the 11 seats, SP is contesting on, three—Azamgarh, Gorakhpur and Phulpur – the party has its sitting MPs. While Azamgarh was won by SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav, it wrested Gorakhpur and
Phulpur from the ruling BJP in 2018 bypoll.