Leading in four Assembly constituencies at noon even as the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party stay locked in a neck-and-neck race in Madhya Pradesh on result day, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party has shown that it could be the pivot to forming the next government. The question now is: who will Mayawati’s candidates support, the Congress or BJP? Or will they choose to stay out of the power game entirely?
In the previous Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh held in 2013, the BSP’s vote share had declined significantly, as had the number of seats it won. This time around, Mayawati has made a comeback of sorts on the back of agrarian distress and conflicts in the state that have affected her primary voters, the Scheduled Castes. The key issue for Mayawati’s voter base was the recent watering down, by the Supreme Court, of the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act. The BJP restored and strengthened this Act earlier this year, but even that led to an upper caste backlash against the BJP.
It is against this backdrop that Mayawati’s next moves have to be considered. It also has to be kept in mind that Madhya Pradesh is a classic bipolar state. In pockets where BSP has influence, however, Mayawati can make the contest triangular. Should Mayawati support the BJP after this election’s results are fully announced, she risks losing it all in the 2019 polls. Already, young SC leaders are challenging Mayawati’s hold over her Dalit base in Uttar Pradesh, the primary state for BSP’s electoral politics. It is only in Uttar Pradesh that Mayawati is in a position to form the government independently as also bargain for better deals in the run-up to 2019 opposition alliance, which is still being thrashed out.
The recovery in Madhya Pradesh for the BSP will nevertheless inject Mayawati with new energy and also enthuse her supporters beyond the state. For instance, in the last election, the BSP’s influence had declined sharply in Chambal, her traditional regional base in the state. It had fallen by five percent in terms of vote share, the seat tally reduced by two from the four seats it had won in the 2008 polls. Notwithstanding the 30 percent vote share Mayawati garnered in the Morena area within the Chambal belt, another traditional bastion for the party, it could not score a single win.
In Satna and Rewa as well, which fall in the Mahakoshal belt of Madhya Pradesh, a BJP stronghold where Congress had also upped its vote share in the 2013 state election, Mayawati had got a 26 and 22 percent vote share. Her biggest decline was in Damoh, where BSP lost a massive 11 percent of its previous vote share.
The significance of the BSP’s decline is that the advantage from it in previous elections seems to have gone to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Now, to side with the BJP would be to alienate her voters, who have taken an anti-BJP position in Madhya Pradesh.
It is also significant to note that in Madhya Pradesh, the BSP had failed to come to an agreement with the Congress party. Now that Mayawati has surged ahead, she would be in a better position to prove her importance in 2019. Whether she manages to regain her pre-2013 position in the primarily agrarian state which has 57 seats where the population of Scheduled Castes is more than 20 percent is the big question.
In Chhattisgarh as well the BSP had won two seats in 2008 and one in 2013, while its vote share had declined from 6.1 percent to 4.3 percent. Its decline was evident even in the reserved seats of Chhattisgarh, where BSP did not win any seats again. Its vote share had declined by 5.5 percent in these seats as well. This, once again, seems to have helped the BJP.
In Rajasthan, BSP won only three seats in 2013, or half its previous tally, during elections 2008. The vote share of BSP fell by 4 percent in Rajasthan. Now, in Rajasthan as well, BSP is leading in four seats again while in Chhattisgarh Mayawati’s electoral ally, former Congress chief minister Ajit Jogi’s candidates, have taken leads over in five constituencies. The challenge now before Mayawati is keeping her flock safe from the Congress and BJP, one of which will stake claim to form the government.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Dec 11, 2018 14:53:25 IST