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.


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.


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).


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.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

Out of 403, the BSP has announced its 401 candidates for the 2017 assembly polls and according to Mayawati, the upper caste candidates are still the largest block of the candidates with 111 tickets given to them. According to a party release, candidates for the two remaining seats will be announced once the Election Commission decides about their reservation status.

There are 106 OBC candidates in the list. Muslims form the third largest block with 97 tickets given while, as in the previous assembly polls, Dalits remain under the hundred zone with 88 candidates in the fray. The party had given tickets to 89 Dalits in 2007 polls while the figure stood at 88 in the 2012 polls.

In 2012 assembly polls, the BSP had given tickets to the 117 upper caste candidates, 113 to the OBCs candidates and 85 to the Muslims candidates.

In 2007 assembly polls, the party break-up for its candidates was 139 tickets to the upper caste candidates, 110 tickets to the OBCs and 61 tickets to the Muslim candidates.

The trend since 2007, when India’s most populous state got it first government to complete full five years in office in Mayawati’s BSP, shows the rising prominence of Muslims in the BSP caste calculations.

Some months ago Mayawati had announced that her party would field around 100 Muslim candidates this time. In fact, Muslims are the only block of candidates that have seen consistent rise in the BSP’s votebank arithmetic since the 2007 assembly polls.

The number of tickets given to the OBC and Dalit candidates have remain more or less static since 2007 as the numbers say but the upper caste candidates have seen the biggest decline in their numbers, from as high as 139 in 2007 to 113 now.

The trend shows the BSP’s rising optimism with the Muslim voters and the declining priority when it comes to the upper caste population segments. The Muslim candidates have seen a whopping rise of 60 per cent from 2007 to 2017 while the number of upper caste candidates has come down by 20 per cent in the same period.



Because the OBCs don’t figure in this!

Though the opinion is divided on the possible impact of the exit of Swami Prasad Maurya, the OBC face of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) on BSP’s prospects, it is beyond any doubt that the prospects can prove detrimental.

It is further bolstered by the fact that Swami Prasad Maurya is yet to come clear on his future political plans.

On June 22, Swami Prasad Maurya, a BSP MLA and the Leader of Opposition of the party in the Uttar Pradesh assembly quit the BSP alleging Mayawati of being dictatorial and corrupt. He alleged that the OBC workers were being ignored in the BSP and Mayawati was indulged in open auctioning of the party tickets for the next assembly polls. Mayawati hit back and said Swami Prasad Maurya felt ‘suffocated’ in the BSP because she denied tickets to his son and daughter and that she herself was soon to expel Maurya from the BSP.

Two senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders, Shivpal Yadav and Azam Khan, rushed to praise Swami Prasad Maurya soon after it. They said he was a good person and a respectable politician. Azam Khan went on to the extent to say that he wanted Maurya to join his party. Akhilesh Yadav, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, found him a popular leader.

But next day he became a ‘mentally unsound’ and lowly fellow when Maurya said that there was no question of joining the SP, a party of ‘goondas and mafias’. And it was the same Shivpal Yadav who described him with these words.

So Maurya is not joining the SP. He also met with the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and there are chances that he may find a place there as the BJP is trying to strengthen its OBC plank – with an OBC president and Narendra Modi himself being an OBC.

But it doesn’t impact the BSP. If Maurya’s move can at all be any threat, it will for the SP, the party UP’s OBC voters traditionally have voted for.

Swami Prasad Maurya has been the BSP’s OBC face. He is an influential leader and can help strengthening the balance of the OBC votes in the favour of the BJP. The SP is trying to check the split in the OBC votes, an SP forte, in case of any threat presented by another influential OBC leader, Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, and his party JD(U).

Projections, surveys and political analyses have started predicting a lead to Mayawati’s BSP.

In a television opinion poll in March 2016, she was shown winning 185 seats in the 403 members UP assembly along with 31% vote share, while the SP was shown reduced to just 80 seats with 23% votes. The projection showed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) emerging as the second largest party with 120 seats and 24% votes.

Besides, Mayawati has also been cosying up with the Congress. Her decision to support Harish Rawat in the court monitored trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly was a clear signal to the Muslim voters that she is against the BJP.

Her projected 31% vote share would make a formidable alliance when taken together with the Congress’s 12% that it got in the 2012 UP assembly polls.

That is more than enough for the party to sail through given the fact that the BJP swept UP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls with a 42% vote share. The BJP along with its ally Apna Dal won 73 out of 80 UP Lok Sabha seats then.

Then there is another pillar of the BSP’s social engineering – the Brahmin votebank. Brahmins constitute around 13% of voters in the state and were an important factor in ensuring the BSP’s emphatic victory in the 2007 UP assembly polls.

These developments – coupled with the sky-high anti-incumbency against the Akhilesh Yadav government and a rock-bottom law and order scenario in the state – and with the BJP’s insistence on the OBC votes (the BJP made an OBC state president in UP by removing a Brahmin) gives the BSP an ideal platform to exercise its social engineering experiment – like it had done in the 2007 assembly polls that had sent Mayawati to Lucknow’s Secretariat with a complete majority in the UP assembly.

The Dalits constitute 20% of the state population and are seen loyal to Mayawati. They form a deadly alliance with the Muslims (18.5%) and the Brahmins (13%). That is a whopping 51.5% – more than enough to give the BSP an absolute majority.

And a Swami Prasad Maurya cannot do anything to hurt this prospect. Let’s see how the UP politics rolls out further. Let’s see if Mayawati can replicate her social engineering experiment of 2007 by building on the factors that again look in her favour.