In 2007 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) gave tickets to 61 Muslim candidates – 15 percent of the total BSP candidates in the elections.
In 2012 assembly polls, the count rose to 85 seats – 21 percent of the total count.
And for the next year’s assembly polls (in 2017), the party has announced to field over 100 Muslim candidates – almost 25 percent of the 403 candidates that the party would field for the 403 assembly seats of UP – as Mayawati has announced that the BSP would not form any pre-poll alliance.
From 15 to 21 to 25 – this gradual increase in the Muslim candidates is a clever ploy and it can prove a winning element if it works as intended.
Mayawati’s focus is on the Dalit-Muslim combine this time. Dalits and Muslims are 38.5 percent in UP’s population – more than enough to give any party the absolute majority in the UP assembly.
The BSP had got 30 percent votes in the 2007 assembly polls and it had won 206 seats. In 2016, the SP got 224 votes with a vote share of 29 percent.
So, a combine a 38.5 percent makes sense to go for. And the timing is perfect. According to a CSDS report, 18 percent Muslims votes for the BSP in 2007 polls which rose to 20 percent in 2012. On the other hand, the Muslim votes to the SP saw a considerable decline – from 45 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2012.
And it the prevailing circumstances, it is expected to come down further and here Mayawati sees her prospects. The Muzaffarnagar riots, its aftermath and the Dadri lynching incidents have eroded the credibility base of the SP among the Muslims.
To give her social engineering a Muslim tilt this time, Mayawati has decided to field over 100 Muslim candidates, mostly in the areas of dense Muslim populations in the Western UP. And we should not be surprised the count goes up more.
It’s natural corollary is that the number of the upper caste candidates have to come down. And they have indeed come down. The party had given tickets to 139 upper caste candidates in the 2007 assembly polls which was reduced to 117 upper caste BSP candidates in 2012. Now, to consolidate her Dalit-Muslim plank, the BSP may decide to slash the tickets to the upper caste candidates even more.