|Source: Politicalbaaba (PB) research based on CSDS data.|
Strengths of Mayawati’s BSP:
1. She commands a strong vote share
The BSP has gradually and steadily increased its influence in the state starting with a benign vote share of 9.4 per cent in the 1989 state elections to a peak of 30.4 per cent in 2007 when it acquired a simple majority on its own. It managed to form a social combination of upper castes, Muslims and Dalits and bagged 206 out of 403 seats in 2007.
Since then its vote share has steadily declined to as low as 19.8 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. This was similar to its vote share in the 1996 state polls when it began to emerge as a potent force. I feel its vote share has bottomed out and it will bounce back from here. In the 2014 general election, Mayawati managed to get a respectable 20 per cent vote share despite a strong Modi wave and heavy consolidation of Hindu votes. In fact, the BSP lost 16 per cent of Jatav and 35 per cent of non-Jatav Dalit votes compared to 2009 and the BJP got them virtually en bloc in an election were national issues got priority over local issues.
In fact, many believe Mayawati, in order to puncture Mulayam’s prime ministerial ambitions, covertly ensured the transfer of Dalit votes to the BJP, especially in constituencies where it was in direct fight with the SP. This has also been mentioned in the CSDS post-poll report on the Uttar Pradesh elections.
|VS – Vidhan Sabha, LS – Lok Sabha.|
2. She holds the keys to Dalit votebank and has a decent Muslim support base
Dalits account for 21 per cent of the population of Uttar Pradesh. The traditional supporters of the Congress, this vote bank shifted to Kanshi Ram’s BSP in the late 1980s and has stayed with it. Jatavs account for 56 per cent of the Dalit population (12 per cent of the total state population) and Mayawati belongs to this sub-caste. The majority of Jatavs (over 60 per cent) supported Mayawati even in the 2012 state polls when the SP swept the polls, and in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when the BJP swept the state. The non-Jatav Dalit support deteriorated significantly in the Lok Sabha election to 29 per cent from 50 per cent in 2012.
Crimes against Dalits are on the rise in Uttar Pradesh under Akhilesh Yadav’s rule and Dalits may come back to the BSP’s rescue in 2017 (Incidents against Dalits recorded under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act has increased from 1,752 in 2012 to 1,860 in 2014).
The party also has a loyal Muslim support base (17 per cent-20 per cent) which was maintained in 2012 despite a sweep by the SP and even in the last two general elections. In a highly polarised election, SP recorded a 28 per cent increase in Muslim votes in 2014. However, Mayawati is capable of making a dent into this vote bank as well if she emerges as a frontrunner to defeat the BJP (in case she doesn’t end up having an alliance with the party).
|VS – Vidhan Sabha, LS – Lok Sabha.|
3. She has a proven track record of being able to transfer votes to alliance partners
A dedicated vote bank of Dalits and Muslims ensures that Mayawati is capable of transferring votes seamlessly to its alliance partner. In 1996, the Congress fought state elections in alliance with the BSP. The BSP was able to transfer votes from its support base to the Congress. The Congress’ vote share on seats contested nearly doubled from 15.1 per cent in 1993 to 29.1 per cent in 1996. The BSP’s vote share on seats contested actually declined from 28.7 per cent in 1993 to 27.7 per cent in 1996. So from the looks of it, the BSP didn’t gain much. This will be one of the important factors in determining whom Mayawati sides with, if at all.
4. She has a strong presence across all regions of the state
The BSP is the only party after the BJP to have a strong support across the state (as evidenced in 2014 Lok Sabha election). This is also one of the reasons for it not being able to win a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha election(decent presence in 80 seats but not significant enough to win a single seat). This makes the BSP a cadre-based party like the current BJP and the old Congress.
The difference between the low and high range of vote shares across seven regions according to the CSDS is the lowest, at four per cent for the BSP (17 per cent-21 per cent), while it is over 12 per cent for other parties. The SP received its highest support in Rohilkhand (31.4 per cent) and the lowest in Avadh (15.9 per cent). The case with the Congress is just the opposite of the SP – highest in Avadh and lowest in Rohilkhand. The BJP received its highest support in western Uttar Pradesh (50.2 per cent) and lowest in (37.6 per cent). The BSP’s support was consistent across regions with highest support in eastern Uttar Pradesh (21.7 per cent) and lowest in Rohilkhand (17.7 per cent).
The SP received a vote share of 22.3 per cent in the last Lok Sabha elections. It won the five family stronghold seats of Mulayam. The SP won all these seats by big margins. While on each of these five seats, the SP got 4.9 lakh votes, in other seats it got an average of 2.1 lakh votes. So the SP’s vote share was positively impacted by votes recorded in these five seats. Excluding these seats, the SP’s vote share would be similar to the BSP’s range of 19.8 per cent.
5. She also enjoys support of the poor class
Apart from the Dalits, who form Mayawati’s hardcore support base, the BSP leader is the preferred choice also of the poor class (people below poverty line accounting for 30 per cent of the population). Though her support has declined over the past four elections from 41 per cent to 32 per cent, she has maintained her lead even in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls despite a strong Modi wave in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP was supported by 31 per cent of the poor class.
To sum up, who will win UP in 2017 is a million dollar question. One thing is for sure, reading too much into the Lok Sabha performance of Mayawati will be fool hardy. The main battle is between BSP and BJP due to strong anti-incumbency faced by Akhilesh SP govt. Maya is clearly ahead as per initial opinion polls. Congress is trying hard to woo her and coax her into an alliance. Maya looks uninterested at this moment. However, as things heat up, an alliance cannot be ruled out and she would only decide about this 3 months before the polls.