Uttarakhand Election 2017: In two-horse race between BJP and Congress, BSP may spring a surprise

The Samajwadi Party's bicycle may run faster than the Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) elephant, and even overtake it in the race to electoral success in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh assembly elections. However, the hills of Uttarakhand still remain difficult for them to surmount.

In the plain belt of Uttarakhand, BSP has constantly been making its presence felt, while SP's support base has been eroding. Moreover, BSP also played the role of kingmaker after the 2012 Assembly election, helping the Congress party form a government.

BSP is contesting all 70 constituencies in Uttarakhand. AFP

BSP is contesting all 70 constituencies in Uttarakhand. AFP

For the 2017 Assembly polls, SP has fielded 25 candidates, most of them from the minority communities. The problem for the SP is that its votes have been dropping steadily in Uttarakhand constituencies ever since the state came into being. Before 2002, which is when Uttarakhand came into being, the hilly region used to be considered a valuable source of seats for the SP.

But the fact that it is contesting only 25 seats in the upcoming Assembly polls suggests that its focus on Uttarakhand is decreasing. This is the same SP that had won the Haridwar Parliamentary seat in 2004, but has never managed a single Assembly constituency victory in the 17 years of the state's existence.

Regarding the BSP, meanwhile, it is often said, "Hathi pahad nahin chad sakta (an elephant cannot climb a mountain)." It's a clear reference to the BSP's inability to perform well in the hills of Uttarakhand.

In the plains, however, things are better for Mayawati's party. It bagged seven seats in the 2002 polls, eight seats in 2007, and three seats in 2012. But while the number of constituencies it won reduced, its voteshare still increased. Using the same Dalit-Muslim combination it used so effectively in Uttar Pradesh, BSP has fielded candidates for all 70 constituencies. There are over 24 seats where BSP candidates are making their presence felt. BSP will vie with Congress for the Muslim and Dalit vote. So while BSP may not actually win many seats, their candidates could spoil Congress' prospects by splitting the minority vote.

The trouble for Congress' chief minister Harish Rawat is that BSP has fielded Mukarram Ansari against him from the Haridwar (rural) seat. Considering BSP has expanded and strengthened its organisational support-base in Haridwar, it could be worrisome for Rawat. This is one district which also has a considerable Muslim and Dalit presence, and falls in a district that demarcates Uttarakhand from its parent state, Uttar Pradesh. The BSP's organisational work has yielded good results in the past, and the party has done well in both constituencies Rawat is contesting: Haridwar (rural) and Udhamsingh Nagar.

BSP candidate Anju Mittal is also up against political heavyweights from Haridwar, including Madan Kkaushik of BJP and Brahamswaroop Brahamchari of Congress. The party has given special focus to seats where Dalit and Muslims voters matter. Such seats are Jhabreda, Bhagwanpur, Jwalapur, Piraan Kaliyar, Manglore, Haridwar (rural), Khanpur, Laksar, and Ranipur.

The party has also tried to expand its presence in the state's Kumaon region. In 2012, BSP was runner-up in Champawat and Bhimtal and was at third position in Bageshwar. But it had done enough to suggest its presence was being felt in the plains. Especially in the Jaspur and Sitarganj constituencies, in which it came second in 2012. It had also won the Sitarganj and
Pantnagar-Gadarpur seats in 2002 and 2007.

Updated Date: Feb 03, 2017 20:32 PM

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