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BJP tide engulfs Mayawati stronghold

Lucknow, May 16: Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) drew a blank in Uttar Pradesh, her strategy of forging an alliance of Dalits and Muslims collapsing under an apparent polarisation in favour of a Narendra Modi-steered BJP.

The BJP bagged 73 out of the state’s 80 seats — including two of ally Apna Dal — Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ruling Samajwadi Party five and the Congress two.

The BSP had won 20 seats in 2009, and one in Madhya Pradesh. This time, the party fared poorly in almost the entire western Uttar Pradesh, Bundelkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh — so far seen as Mayawati strongholds. The BJP had snapped up most of these seats.

The BSP failed to win any of the 16 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes, areas in which Dalits are in a majority. The party had won three of these in 2009.

“Mayawati’s Dalit vote-bank has been breached by Narendra Modi. A large number of her voters shifted allegiance to the BJP. Out of 70-odd seats, we snatched 60 from the Congress, BSP or the Samajwadi. We had just 10 in 2009,” said state BJP spokesperson Vijay Upadhaya.

BSP leaders, including its spokespersons, were not available for comment. Some did not take calls. But BSP insiders blamed the wipe-out mainly on polarisation in western Uttar Pradesh after last year’s Muzaffarnagar riots.

Some believed the reasons for the terrible show of the BSP, as well as the Samajwadi, was the division in Muslim votes. Zafaryab Jilani, a member of the Muslim Personal Law Board, said the community’s votes split among the BSP, Congress, Samajwadi and the Aam Aadmi Party in the state’s west.

The picture was grim in eastern Uttar Pradesh too where traditional BSP supporters, including a section of the OBCs and Dalits, shifted to the BJP after Modi decided to contest from Varanasi, sources said.

Some BSP watchers speculated that Mayawati deliberately worked to a strategy of going slow in this election, hoping polarisation would damage rival Samajwadi so she could re-emerge as a stronger force in the 2017 state polls.

Others suggested the BSP chief may be down but not out. “You cannot rule out Mayawati. She appears to have worked out a strategy not to be involved in the polarising politics, so that it damages arch-rival Mulayam and allows her to regain ground later,” said A.K. Verma, professor of political science at Kanpur’s Christ Church College.