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.



2017 assembly polls have been announced and the model code of conduct has been put in place. The penultimate round has begun and the centre of attraction of this mammoth exercise is Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state with maximum number of Lok Sabha (80), Rajya Sabha (31) and assembly seats (403), that makes it the nerve centre of Indian politics.

The state has three major political forces:

The Samajwadi Party (SP), the ruling party of the moment with its chief minister Akhilesh Yadav looking to retain the UP power corridors after completing his five years in the office. He is facing huge anti-incumbency and an acerbic family feud to control power in his party and looks pitted against senior leaders of the party including his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the ruling party of the nation under prime minister Narendra Modi, has a mixed bag of credentials to go for in this election. While the party registered spectacular win in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, winning 71 out of 80 seats, it failed to capitalize on that and has lost every bypoll in the state after the feat of 2014 LS polls. Also, it has no CM candidate to project like the other two major parties.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the party that was in power for a complete five years before Akhilesh took over. Mayawati’s BSP has been in power in UP many times – including having power sharing arrangements with the BJP. In fact, the 2007-2012 Mayawati government was the first government in UP to complete five years in the office.

The electoral contest this time is going to be triangular and will be centred on these three political parties.

There are some minor political forces but they will not leave any impact apart from increasing the number of parties and candidates, making the elections thus more colourful. We can keep the Indian National Congress in this league. In spite of the intense efforts by Rahul Gandhi, the party is almost dead in a state that it ruled for some 30 years.

So, who is going to win these polls?