Indian Express

Silently, like BSP

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In recent months, Mayawati has made efforts to convince the Muslim community that the BSP is a secular Dalit-based party with which Muslims have much in common. In recent months, Mayawati has made efforts to convince the Muslim community that the BSP is a secular Dalit-based party with which Muslims have much in common.

It’s been preparing a Dalit-Muslim-Brahmin alliance. Can it rock the BJP’s boat in UP?

While attention has been riveted on the shrill electoral campaign of the BJP and SP in UP, much less attention has been given to the BSP. This is surprising because it is the only party in UP whose vote percentage has remained more or less steady after it peaked, going up from 9.93 per cent in the 1989 national elections to 20.61 per cent in 1996.

After this, it has remained between 20 and 24 per cent. Moreover, apart from its core constituency, the Dalits, the BSP has added the support of other communities through its sarvajan strategy to capture power. Despite the centrality of the communal issue, Dalit votes will help shape the electoral verdict in UP. Also, the BSP could emerge as the party that a section of Muslims will support, particularly in western UP.

One reason for the lack of attention paid to the BSP has been the low profile maintained by Mayawati and the relatively few election rallies held by the party. The importance of the Dalit vote is evident from the fact that all political parties are attempting to gain a share of it. Following the 2012 assembly elections, studies had argued that a section of Jatavs, unhappy with Mayawati’s support to the Brahmins, had shifted loyalty to the SP. Following the Muzaffarnagar riots, there have also been reports that Dalits in western UP have shown sympathy for riot-affected Hindus and a segment of them may support the BJP.

Amit Shah’s recent communally-charged speeches also seem aimed at bringing Dalits into the “Hindu fold”. The Congress, unable to revive its Dalit base, made a discreet attempt, following its defeat in the five assembly elections at the end of 2013, to form a national alliance with the BSP. This would have helped the Congress obtain seats in UP and the BSP in states where the former has a strong base. The Congress hoped to persuade Mayawati and obtain a share of the Dalit vote as the BSP had lost considerable seat/ vote share in all the state assembly polls in December.

However, beginning her campaign in January 2014, Mayawati announced that the BSP would not ally with any party in UP or elsewhere. In a rapidly changing political situation, the BSP undoubtedly faces challenges from the ruling SP, the BJP under Narendra Modi and, to a smaller extent, from the Congress. But there are indications from the ground that the BSP is actively making preparations. The party is contesting over 500 seats across the country, though UP remains its main focus. The continued…

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