With BSP chief Mayawati announcing on Wednesday that she won’t tie up with the Congress in Rajasthan, her party would be hoping for a repeat of its feat in the 2008 Assembly election, when it managed to win six seats. This was the only instance in the past two decades in Rajasthan when both the Congress and the BJP fell short of majority.
The BSP tally of six in 2008 upset the Congress’s plan and the party fell five short of the majority figure in the 200-member Assembly. The Congress formed the government under Ashok Gehlot with the support of Independents. Interestingly, within four months of the results, all six BSP MLAs joined Congress.
The BSP has been contesting Assembly polls in Rajasthan since 1990 and has won seats only in the eastern districts, which have a considerable Scheduled Caste population.
All its 57 candidates in 1990 and 50 in 1998 forfeited their deposit. It first tasted success in 1998, when it won two seats.
In 2003, it won a seat each in Dausa and Karauli districts, but importantly, its influence became the difference between the BJP and the Congress vote share.
In 2008, when Mayawati was CM of Uttar Pradesh, the BSP’s influence spread to Jhunjhunu and Sawai Madhopur districts and it won six seats.
In 2013, the BSP won the Sadulpur, Khetri and Dholpur seats. Its Dholpur MLA B L Kushwah was convicted in a murder case, leading to termination of his Assembly membership in 2016. His wife Shobharani Kushwah then contested the bypoll as a BJP candidate and won.
The 2013 elections also saw the BSP’s vote share declining for the first time since 1993.
Curiously, the BSP has never managed to retain a seat and has always won a different Assembly seat in each election. The BSP’s winning candidates are usually local, influential leaders who corner the SC votes in a constituency. In seats with considerable SC votes, the BSP is the preferred vehicle for a non-Congress, non-BJP candidate.
Apart from eastern districts, the BSP has influence in Ganganagar and Hanumangarh districts, which have considerable SC population. The BSP’s decision to go alone will certainly harm Congress but the extent remains to be seen.
State BSP chief Sitaram Meghwal said, “This time, we will contest all 200 seats.”