In a setback for the Opposition ahead of the presidential elections, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on Saturday announced that it would back the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) candidate and former Jharkhand governor Droupadi Murmu who might become the first Adivasi person to occupy the post. The party took the decision with an eye on tribal votes in not only Uttar Pradesh but also states such as Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh where it is trying to gain a foothold.
BSP president Mayawati’s announcement boosts Murmu’s already significant chances of winning against the Opposition’s consensus candidate and former Union minister Yashwant Sinha. Mayawati hit out at Opposition parties for not inviting the BSP to the meetings on June 15 and June 21 at which the names of probable candidates were discussed before all the parties agreed to field Sinha. “As the Opposition’s anti-BSP and casteist attitude is continuing, now the BSP is free to take a decision in any matter,” she said.
The BSP chief also claimed that the decision to support Murmu was taken not to favour the NDA. “Keeping in mind the party and its movement, the decision has been taken to make a hardworking and qualified woman from a tribal community the President of the country,” she added.
The BSP has 10 MPs in Lok Sabha and will have one Rajya Sabha MP on July 18 when the presidential polls will be held. The BSP has one elected MLA in the UP Vidhan Sabha. The party had six MLAs in Rajasthan but all of them joined the Congress in 2019.
In Uttar Pradesh, voters from Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities make up a significant portion of the electorate in Assembly segments such as Obra, Duddhi, and Robertsganj. For the party, the “Adivasi samaj” is an important part of its movement and future electoral strategies.
A BSP functionary said the party was not going to gain anything by staying with the Opposition in the presidential elections given that these parties had ignored it and their past associations. The BSP contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh in alliance with the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Lok Dal but Mayawati broke the alliance a few days after the election. In the Assembly elections earlier this year, the SP lashed out at the BSP, labelling it a “B-team” of the BJP.
Sources said at present Mayawati herself was monitoring the party’s organisational activities in states such as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where the party has had some measure of success in the past. In Rajasthan, the BSP chief’s nephew and the party’s national coordinator Akash Anand is frequently touring to prepare for the polls. In Chhattisgarh, the party won two seats in the 2018 state election while in Madhya Pradesh it got a 5.11 per cent vote share but failed to win any constituency.
“Winning seats and maintaining vote share in states outside UP is essential for the BSP to maintain its status of national party and significance in national politics,” said a party leader. “By supporting Murmu, the BSP is trying to win the trust of tribal voters of these states. Had the BSP supported the Opposition candidate, it might have caused a loss of tribal votes to the BSP not only in other states but also in UP. Also, that could have sent a message among tribals that the BSP — whose foundation is another oppressed section, the Scheduled Castes — was against them. Other parties can make gain from such perception against the BSP.”