DESPITE GUJARAT witnessing Dalit uprising post Una atrocity case in 2016, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which sees the community as its core constituents, has seen its vote share go down to 0.86 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, lowest in the last three Parliamentary polls in the state. However, the party leaders in the state blame the “Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)” and “the BJP and RSS” for the debacle.
The BSP had contested 25 out of 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The party was not in fray for Surat Parliamentary constituency as papers of the BSP candidate had been rejected during scrutiny. But, the BSP’s vote share of only 0.86 per cent in the state is even lower than 0.94 per cent votes, the party had garnered in the 2014 Parliamentary elections. While 0.86 per cent vote-share was higher as compared to 0.69 per cent the BSP had managed in the 2017 Assembly elections in the state, it was lower as compared to the 1.25 per cent votes the party had received in the 2012 Assembly election.\ In the 2009 General elections, the BSP had polled 1.62 per cent votes.
Of the 25 Lok Sabha constituencies where the party was in fray in the 2019 election, the BSP candidates could secure two per cent or more votes in only one seat (Junagadh – 2.56 per cent) and one per cent to two per cent in nine seats ? Rajkot, Valsad, Chhota Udepur, Surendranagar, Dahod, Amreli, Porbandar, Banaskantha and Ahmedabad West. In the remaining 15 seats, its vote share was below one per cent. Overall, its vote-share was lower than NOTA .
Of the 25 seats, the BSP was number three in only six seats ? Jamnagar, Junagadh, Navsari, Porbandar, Surendranagar and Ahmedabad East. It came fourth in 11 seats and fifth in five. It was sixth in Bharuch and Patan. Worse, its candidate could manage only 3,905 votes or only 0.36 per cent of total votes polled in Panchmahal seat and stood last among seven candidates.
As compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BSP could negligibly increase its vote-share in six seats ? Ahmedabad East, Ahmedabad West, Amreli, Kheda, Vododara and Valsad. Despite the improvement, its total vote-share this election was below one per cent in half of these seats ? Ahmedabad East (0.82), Kheda (0.68) and Vadodara (0.61). Its candidates could cross the 10,000 mark in only nine seats.
Deven Vanvi, the BSP candidate for Junagadh Lok Sabha constituency, which covers Una, led the chart with 25,710 votes. Junagadh was followed by Ahmedabad West (10,028), Banaskantha (11,088), Chhota Udepur (14,964), Dahod (11,339), Porbandar (10,092), Rajkot (15,388), Surendranagar (12,860) and Valsad (15,359).
Ashok Chavda, president of Gujarat state unit of the BSP, blamed the EVMs and the BJP-RSS for the poor show of his party in the state. “As our national president Mayawati has said the BJP has won this election by tampering with the EVMs. We have no confidence in these machines. To ensure that the BSP loses its status of a national party, the BJP and RSS are influencing the polls,” he alleged. Chavda added that his party had laid the groundwork for this Lok Sabha election, but it did not show in the results. “In Junagadh, we were expecting to get between 80,000 and one lakh votes. We were expecting more than 50,000 votes in other constituencies like Surendra-nagar, Banaskantha, Valsad etc. Now it turns out that we have got only 12,860 votes in Surendranagar. This certainly makes us suspicious,” he said.
Surendranagar, Kutch and Junagadh seats have significant number of Dalit voters. The party has never won an Assembly seat or a Lok Sabha seat in the state. However, presently it covers Chhota Udepur municipality and has 47 elected members in local bodies in the state. “Despite the setback, we are focusing on the local body polls due in 2020 and making efforts to do well in the Assembly elections in 2022,” said the state unit president. Vanvi, also a Dalit activist, said his objective to fight the Lok Sabha poll was to spread awareness among his community members. “The number of votes, I polled is much below my expectation of around one lakh votes. I was under an impression that the community has learnt its lessons and would shun Congress. But the tally of votes suggests they have not. Nonetheless, my job is like a teacher. I wanted to demonstrate to Dalits how a Lok Sabha election can be contested,” Vanvi told The Indian Express.
Asked if he ever thought that he could win and if not then wasn’t he helping the ruling party, Vanvi said: “Victory or defeat are secondary. Fighting is important. As far as helping or harming other political parties is concerned, it is their lookout. Why did Congress not extend support to the BSP in UP? Had it done that, we could have supported the Congress here,” said Vanvi.
Chavda added, “We have a voters’ base in every constituency and we fight every seat except those spared for allies. If we do not contest, then our supporters may turn to other political parties.”