One of the factors that significantly contributed to the BJP’s resounding victory in the state Assembly polls was its strategy to field candidates from the same caste as their counterparts from BSP in nearly 50 seats.
This drastically reduced the chances of Mayawati’s party getting a substantial amount of votes even from its traditional votebank.
Hence, the BSP’s formula of combining its core support base of Jatavs with votes from its candidates’ castes failed miserably.
As part of its gameplan, the BJP named its nominees towards the end of January, while BSP had already announced its candidate list in the first week of the month.
In the Tindwari seat of Banda district — which has about 30,000 members of the Prajapati caste — the BSP chose Jagdish Prajapati as its candidate for polls.
From the same seat, BJP fielded Brajesh Prajapati, who got 82,197 votes as opposed to Jagdish, who managed just 44,790, much lesser than the total number of Jatavs who are considered traditional BSP voters.
In the Chitrakoot seat, the BSP named Jagdish Prasad Gautam, a Brahmin, as a nominee. The BJP also fielded a Brahmin, Chandrika Prasad Upadhyaya, who got 90,366 votes and won, while Jagdish stood third with just 47,780 votes.
In neighbouring Manikpur, where the BSP nominee was sitting MLA Chandrabhan Singh Patel, a Kurmi leader, the BJP decided to field RK Singh Patel, a former BSP leader of Kurmi caste. Singh won with 84,988 votes, while Chandrabhan was relegated to third place with just 32,498 votes.
In Lalitpur, Santosh Kushwaha was chosen as BSP’s nominee. BJP fielded Ramratan Kushwaha, who secured 1,56,942 votes, while Santosh got just 55,549 votes and stood third.
“This way we tried to give the caste group the choice of choosing between our party and the other party. BJP emerged as the preferred choice for most of them. Then we could add the floating votes which were supporting us because of our party and because of Modiji. BSP suffered more because of this as most upper castes and OBCs sided with us,” said a BJP leader from Bundelkhand.
BSP had fielded 62 Brahmins, but only four of them won; four-term MLA Ramveer Upadhyaya from Sadabad in Hathras, seven-time MLA Shyam Sundar Sharma from Mant in Mathura, Vinay Shankar Tiwari from Chillupar seat of Gorakhpur, and Ritesh Pandey from Jalalpur seat of Ambedkar Nagar district.
Of the 36 Kshatriya candidates the party had fielded, only three could win; Uma Shankar Singh from Rasra in Ballia, Anil Singh from Purwa in Unnao and Bandana Singh from Sagri in Azamgarh district.
Similarly, only five of BSP’s 106 OBC nominees could win. They are state president Ram Achal Rajbhar from Akbarpur and former minister Lalji Verma from Katehari in Ambedkar Nagar district, former speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar from Didarganj in Azamgarh, Hakim Lal Bind from Handia in Allahabad and Sushma Patel from Mungra Badshahpur in Jaunpur district.
“We failed to get support from the OBC groups and upper castes where our candidates belonged to the same caste as the BJP nominees. Not just the upper castes, even the OBCs preferred BJP to us,” said BSP coordinator, seeking anonymity.
The party also failed to get any success from the two groups it tried to woo the hardest: Muslims and Dalits. While the party won only two of the 84 seats reserved for Dalits, only five of its 100 Muslim nominees could win.
While the BJP managed to puncture BSP’s caste arithmetic on most of the seats where it had fielded OBC, Dalit or upper caste candidates, it was the Samajwadi Party that beat Mayawati’s party on the seats where both had fielded Muslim candidates. On most such seats, the BSP candidate was relegated to the third position, an indication that the SP-Congress alliance was the first choice for the Muslim community. Gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari is the only BSP nominee who won a seat where SP had also fielded a Muslim nominee.
“The Muslim vote was divided between the BSP and SP-Congress. But Muslims voted for the SP-Congress candidates even on the seats where the alliance had not fielded a Muslim nominee,” said former MLA Sultan Beig, who lost as a BSP nominee from Meerganj in Bareilly district.