OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion through Blogs and Podcasts.

BSP chief Mayawati pledged on Monday to redouble her efforts to bring in the country’s first Dalit Prime Minister. She was speaking after performing the seventh day ritual for Kanshi Ram according to Buddhist rites. The ceremony became a political platform to declare her the inheritor of the Ambedkar-Kanshi Ram legacy and launch her bid for the PM’s post. Her immediate target is to oust Mulayam Singh and his Samajwadi Party from UP. She indicated that she may contest the UP Assembly elections next year.  The BSP has organised a massive rally in Lucknow on October 18 when she will charter a plane to fly his ashes to the UP capital.  So as Mayawati sounds the bugle in Uttar Pradesh to cash in on the Kanshi Ram sympathy card, Offstumped previews the fight for Uttar Pradesh and if the BJP stands a chance.

Elections in Uttar Pradesh in a way are a mini-general election with a whopping 403 assembly constituencies spread across 80 Lok Sabha seats. While 17 of the Lok Sabha seats were reserved, UP has about 11 crore voters. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections UP had a 48% voter turnout. Of the 11 crore voters SC/ST accounted for about 2.3 crores. Of this 2.3 crores only 1.03 crores of the SC/ST voters turned up to vote during the 2004 elections. The turnout especially low amongst SC/ST women. An aggressive Mayawati as she lit Kanshi Ram’s funeral pyre despite being a woman, invoked Kanshi Ram for not differentiating between boys and girls, clearly had her sights on this latent voter base of roughly 70 lakh women SC/ST voters who did not show up to vote in 2004. A segment with the potential for a 13% swing.

Mayawati’s BSP managed to win 19 Lok Sabha seats all in Uttar Pradesh polling approximately 2 crore voters across the country. 15 of these seats were open seats while 4 were reserved. The BSP’s vote share in UP was 24% with a 1.3 crore votes polled in its favor. UP with a 5.6 crore voter turnout is still virgin territory for Mayawati with its historically low turnout amongst SC/ST women. If Mayawati were to only focus her efforts on SC/ST women and improve their turnout by half of those who did not vote last time around, she improves the BSP vote share to a dramatic 30% which contrasted with the BJP’s measly 22% vote share in 2004 and the Congress’ pathetic 12% makes her a compelling challenger to Mulayam Singh Yadav’s SP which managed 30% of the vote share in partnership with Ajit Singh’s RLD. That folks is how this breaks down in Uttar Pradesh.

The question is can Mayawati pull it off on her own and get to the 30% vote share and if so where does this leave the BJP in Uttar Pradesh ?

Offstumped has analyzed the 2002 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections to get a sense of how the BSP BJP rivalry played out visa-vis the SP. In what appears to be a recurring theme in seat after seat in the 2002 election the SP seems to win whenever there is a nail biting triangular fight between the SP, BSP and the BJP. However when it comes to seats where the BJP or BSP are winning it is most often a straight fight with the SP coming a distant second. What this implies is that a potential BJP, BSP alliance does little to help either the BJP or BSP in the seats they are already winning as the SP is a minor factor in these seats. On the other hand the SP is able to capture power exploiting the bitter fight between the BJP and BSP in seats with a traditional yadav, muslim base. Given this electoral reality, a formal pre-poll BJP-BSP alliance will not be of much help. however a tactical arrangement in choice of seats or candidates could work to either party’s favour.

The BJP’s mascot for UP elections Kalyan Singh is a pale shadow of his former self and has not exactly set the state on fire. Rajnath Singh’s appointment as the BJP president has not made much of a difference. With George Fernandes’ cosying upto Mulayam Singh Yadav, old allegiances are being recast. The Muslim realignment being attempted by Imam Bukhari and the likes of Raj Babbar and VP Singh will further muddy the waters but do little to the BSP and the BJP.

Offstumped Bottomline: In the absence of a resurgence, or bold and fresh leadership the BJP would do well to tactically align with Mayawati while keeping its options open for post poll arrangements in Uttar Pradesh. The under-tapped SC/ST women vote bank is the catchment area they should aim for to recompute the arithmetic.

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