DALIT-MUSLIM COMBINE: MAYAWATI’S SOCIAL ENGINEERING FOR 2017 UP POLLS

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has announced almost all candidates for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls due next month. Keeping her promise, she has given tickets to 97 Muslim candidates, almost one-fourth of the total 401 candidates announced so far. UP state assembly has 403 seats.

In the 2007 assembly polls, the BSP gave tickets to 61 Muslim candidates – 15 percent of the total BSP candidates in the elections. In the 2012 assembly polls, the count rose to 85 seats – 21 percent of the total count. And now it is at 25 percent.

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 – because the timing looks opportune.

WINNING NUMBERS

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 absolute majority in the UP assembly.

The BSP had got 30 percent votes in the 2007 assembly polls and won 206 seats. In 2012, the SP got 224 votes with a vote share of 29 percent.

So, a combine 38.5 percent makes sense to go for. And going by the prolonged Samajwadi Party (SP) internal power struggle that may alienate Muslims, who have traditionally voted for the SP, the timing looks perfect.

According to a CSDS report, 17 percent Muslims voted 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. That may come significantly down this time, especially when Mayawati has made it clear that it will not go for any pre or post poll alliance.

There are expectations that the ongoing SP feud may earn positive points for UP’s chief minister Akhilesh Yadav as he has tried to shape this power battle within his own family and party as a war being waged against corruption with an uncompromising attitude. But how far it can help Akhilesh only time will tell and time has already run out.

Add to it the Muzaffarnagar riots, its aftermath with the stories of a life like hell in the camps for the riots affected people and the Dadri lynching incidents have the potential to erode the credibility base of the SP among the Muslims like never before.

REDUCING CLOUT OF THE UPPER CASTE CANDIDATES

It’s natural corollary then that the number of the upper caste candidates has to come down.

And they indeed have come down. The party had given tickets to 139 upper caste candidates in the 2007 assembly polls which came down to 117 in 2012 and has further reduced to 111 this time. Though they are still the largest block of the BSP candidates, the trend from the 2007 high shows their reducing clout.

The 2012 polls saw greater jumps in the SP’s Brahmin and Rajput vote shares than the BSP – Brahmins from 10 to 19 percent and Rajputs from 20 to 26 percent, the CSDS analysis says. In fact, there was even a decline in the Yadav vote share – from 72 percent in 2007 to 66 percent in 2012. But it was compensated well with increase in more Kurmis/Koeris (17 to 35 percent), Jatavs (4 to 15 percent) and Balmikis (2 to 9 percent).

ADDRESSING THE DALIT VOTERS

Doing so will address the chances of Dalit voters slipping away from the BSP fold as happened in the 2012 assembly polls. According to the CSDS analysis, 86 percent Jatav voters voted for the BSP in 2007 which drastically came down to 62 percent in 2012. Even more telling was the reduction in the Balmiki vote share which came down by over 40 percent – from 71 percent in 2007 to 42 percent in 2012.

The major reason behind this then was ascribed to Mayawati’s increasing tilt to the upper caste voters. The alienating Dalit voters felt disillusioned probably.

Also, the upper caste bet did not play well for Mayawati in the 2012 assembly polls. Even if Mayawati had given tickets to 117 upper caste candidates in 2012, 22 less than 2007, they were still the largest block of the BSP candidates. But according to the CSDS analysis, there was only a small increase in the upper caste vote share of the party – Brahmins from 16 to 19 percent, Rajputs from 12 to 14 percent and the other upper castes from 15 to 17 percent.

Not at all anywhere near to compensating the huge loss the BSP got – of Jatav and Balmiki votes! Even the share of the other SCs in the BSP’s overall votes profile, too, came down by 13 percent – from 58 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2012.

Now if Mayawati goes full throttle behind this Dalit constituency and works to add more Muslims to her vote base, from the existing 20 percent, she will be having a winning combination then.

©SantoshChaubey

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