The most surprising part of the 2014 elections was the overwhelming performance of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh — it won 71 out of 80 seats. But why was the BSP completely wiped out? It did not win a single seat even though it has a strong Dalit, most backward and sarvjan base.
In 2009, the BSP won 27.42 per cent of the votes and 20 seats. This time, it garnered 19.6 per cent votes — nearly 8 percentage points less — and didn’t win a single seat. In UP, just the support of Dalits, who comprise 21.6 per cent of the population, would not have won Mayawati many seats. For Dalit votes to be converted into BSP wins, other social groups have to be on board. When Mayawati realised the low probability of getting backward caste votes, she started her “social engineering” campaign by bringing Brahmins, upper castes and traders into the BSP fold. This strategy was successful in the 2007 assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha elections. In this election too, she gave tickets to 20 Brahmins and 19 Muslims in order to woo their communities. But this did not work. Apart from upper castes, nearly 60 Dalit and most marginalised communities, which felt neglected by the BSP, voted for the BJP. But Mayawati succeeded in retaining her Jatav vote base, which comprises 12 per cent of the Dalit population.
In its first phase, the BSP under Kanshi Ram had tried to bring together the most marginalised, backward and Muslim communities under one party. But because of the social conflict between backwards and Dalits, this did not work.
There was a conflict between dominant Dalits and the most marginalised Dalit castes, which the RSS had been trying to bring into the BJP fold through its “social harmony campaign”. By giving tickets to Pasis, Sonkars and Rawats, the BJP tried to woo the most marginalised Dalit castes away from the BSP. The BJP tried to convince voters that Mayawati had not done anything constructive for Dalits. It also invoked Ambedkar and other Dalit heroes, promised a Bharat Ratna for Kanshi Ram and organised political meetings in Dalit hamlets with the help of RSS-affiliated social organisations.
Other BJP-RSS strategies for making inroads into the BSP vote bank included participating in the caste associations of the most backward castes and stoking Hindu polarisation in the wake of the Muzaffarnagar riots. The BJP also portrayed Mayawati, who was seen as a beneficiary of Muslim consolidation, as unsympathetic to Hindus. In addition, the most backward castes were also promised that the social justice committee report prepared by the Rajnath Singh-led BJP government in UP would be implemented and reservations in education and jobs would be granted.
The BSP was also unable to keep up with …continued »