From being written off to finishing third on the three seats it contested, doing better than even the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the CPI and the CPM, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has written a story of emergence in Punjab in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The party that had been on a constant decline in Punjab since 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when it secured 1.9 per cent votes, it has been a turnaround with its candidates garnering 3.49 per cent of the total votes polled. The party could secure only 1.5 per cent votes in the 2017 state Assembly polls.
The BSP polled 4.79 lakh votes in the three seats it contested from this general election. This is nearly double of the 2.63 lakh votes the Mayawati-led party polled in 2014 elections when it had contested on all 13 seats in the state.
The BSP, under a seat-sharing pact, had fielded its candidates from Anandpur Sahib, Hoshiarpur (reserve) and Jalandhar (reserve) parliamentary constituencies. The party contested as an alliance member of the Punjab Democratic Alliance, a conglomeration of several political outfits including the Punjab Ekta Party, the CPI, the Lok Insaf Party of Bains, the CPM and the RMPI.
BSP’s Jalandhar candidate Balwinder Kumar got 2,04,783 votes or nearly 20 per cent of total votes polled, though he could not win. In Hoshiarpur, BSP nominee Khushi Ram secured over 1.28 lakh votes, while in Anandpur Sahib constituency, BSP’s Vikram Singh Sodhi secured 1.46 lakh votes and finished third.
Together, the trio got 4,79,439 votes. In 2014, the party had got only 1,56,535 votes in these three constituencies.
On all the seats it contested this Lok Sabha polls, the BSP contestants finished third, as per the election results. The candidates of the AAP, which is the main opposition party in Punjab, finished fourth on these seats.
In 2014, the BSP was on fourth spot on seven seats, sixth on two seats and ranked fifth on two seats.
“In so far as total votes are concerned, we have registered an increase of one and half times (over 2014),” said BSP state president Rachpal Raju. He attributed the rise in vote numbers to hard work at the booth level and party contesting the polls in an alliance.
“Doaba region is our strong hold and the results too proved so,” he said, adding that they had done a similar experiment in last year’s zila parishad and panchyat samitis election when party won 50 seats across Punjab by entering into a strategic alliance with various parties including the AAP, Congress and even the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Balwinder Kumar said that the increase in vote share has infused a new life in the party and there is a big hope of its revival in state “which badly needs a third front especially when the SAD and the Congress have failed on all the fronts during their respective rules”. The people have shown that AAP is no more wanted in state, he said.
According to the data sourced from the Punjab Election office, in 1992 Lok Sabha polls, BSP had 15 per cent vote share share. It reduced to 7.67 per cent and 4.13 per cent in 1998 and 2004 general elections, respectively. In 2009, the party’s vote share was pegged at 5.75 per cent but it came down drastically in 2014 to just 1.9 per cent.
In Assembly elections too, the BSP had recorded 4.7 per cent share in 2012 polls. It reduced to party’s worst ever ever 1.4 per cent in 2017 Assembly election.
There was a time, in 1998, when the BSP had 41.74 per cent vote share in the erstwhile Phillaur Lok Sabha constituency, which is now part of Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency. Even in Hoshiarpur seat, the BSP had 40.41 per cent share till mid 1990s. BSP founder Kanshi Ram had won from Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat in 1996. BSP chief Mayawati too had unsuccessfully contested from Hoshiarpur in 1992.