By: Pradeep Chhibber and Rahul Verma
Recent elections have shown that the party has come down a long way from its high in 2007.
In the brouhaha over the Aam Aadmi Party’s electoral success in the recent assembly elections — and the subsequent takeover of the news agenda by the AAP government in Delhi — the Indian media and political commentators have neglected other consequences of the election results. The Bahujan Samaj Party was a big loser in the 2013 elections.
The BSP has been a riddle wrapped up in an enigma for political observers. It has survived amidst all predictions of doomsday in the past, and even bounced back with greater vigour. However, if the elections in various states since 2009 are any indicator, the BSP is in terminal decline. The probability that the party will return to the glory of 2007, when it singlehandedly won the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and announced its national ambitions, is low. The BSP may continue to be a major player in UP, but its ambition of becoming a pan-India party seems to be rather far-fetched on current evidence.
The data presented in Table 1 show that the BSP has suffered a setback in all assembly elections held in major states in the last few years. Its vote share and the number of seats it won in the legislative assemblies has declined in Bihar, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, UP, Gujarat, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The party could only partially improve upon its previous performance in the state of Uttarakhand. During the 2012 assembly elections in Uttarakhand, though the BSP added 1 percentage point to its vote share in 2007, the number of seats it won were reduced from eight to three.
The BSP’s debacle in the recently concluded assembly elections could be predicted after its premature calculations of acquiring power in Delhi during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. As Table 2 suggests, the BSP has not seen any significant increase in its national vote share for almost two decades. The marginal increase of 2 percentage points between 1999 and 2009 is merely a result of the party contesting twice the number of seats in 2009 when compared to 1999. Since the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BSP’s ambition of expanding outside UP has only seen setbacks. The upcoming Lok Sabha elections and subsequent assembly elections in the states of Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand later this year will probably put a final seal on the BSP’s prospect of becoming a truly national party with a significant electoral presence in multiple states.
The previous electoral performance of the BSP in states does not provide any real hope for it to be continued…