4 Charts Show How Mayawati’s BSP Is Losing Ground Across India

BSP’s vote share fell to 17% from 23% in UP bypolls & it failed to win a seat in Haryana for first time in 20 years.

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Politics
4 min read
There is no denying that Mayawati happens to be a Dalit icon. But a section of Dalits has begun to move away from her.
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One of the less-noticed aspects of the recent Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra as well as the bypolls in over 50 seats across India is the weakening of Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The party performed poorly in Haryana and Maharashtra, two states where it used to be a force to reckon with, and it also lost ground in its main state Uttar Pradesh, failing to win even one seat out of the 11 where bypolls were held.

Smarting under the setbacks, BSP chief Mayawati blamed the Congress for her party’s dismal showing in Haryana, saying that the latter’s emphasis on non-division of Opposition votes cost her party. And on the UP debacle, she responded by accusing the BJP of “demoralising” BSP cadres.

However, it is clear that the BSP is facing a crisis across India. Here’s the full story in four charts.

Haryana and Maharashtra

BSP always had some presence in Haryana and Maharashtra, the two states where polls were held recently. In Haryana in particular, the BSP over the last couple of decades enjoyed significant support among Jatav Dalits.

The BSP’s peak performance in both these states was in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections – it secured over 15 percent of votes in Haryana and a little less than 5 percent in Maharashtra. That was also the BSP’s best-ever performance nationally as it had an impressive vote share of 6.2 percent nationally.

This performance wasn’t surprising. Mayawati was at her peak in terms of national popularity, having won a majority by herself in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh elections. She also became the de-facto PM candidate of the Left-backed “Third Front” in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

The prospect of Mayawati becoming the PM did seem to have mobilised Dalit voters in favour of the BSP even outside UP, as is evident from the BSP’s impressive vote share in Haryana.

However, the BSP began to decline.

The party had consistently won one seat in Haryana since 2000, but it drew a blank this time. It could manage just a little over 4 percent votes in Haryana.

Dalit voters in Haryana appear to have rallied behind the Congress in these elections.

In Maharashtra, it was reduced to just 0.9 percent votes both in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the recent Assembly polls. Clearly, the Dalits who used to vote for the BSP in Maharashtra in the past have moved to other parties.

But the root of BSP’s troubles lies in its main state, Uttar Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh

The BSP failed to win even one seat out of the 11 seats where bypolls were held recently. The BJP won 7, its ally Apna Dal won one, and Samajwadi Party won three seats. The BSP, which had won the Jalalpur seat in Ambedkar Nagar district in 2017, ended up losing the seat to the SP.

In terms of vote share, the BSP got 17 percent votes.

Many would see this result as a signal that the BSP, which won 10 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections partly because of its alliance with the SP, has suffered due to the break-up between the two parties.

On the other hand, the SP with 22.6 percent votes and three seats emerged as the main Opposition in the state. Even in the Hamirpur bypoll a few months ago, it was the SP that gave the BJP a tough fight.

The BSP’s performance is even more disappointing given that it has lost ground even compared to the 2017 Assembly elections, which itself was its worst showing in years.

If we combine the votes secured by the BSP in these 11 seats as well as Hamirpur with how the party had performed in these 12 constituencies in 2017, it shows a decline of 4.5 percentage points.

And the decline appears to be a state-wide phenomena as its vote share fell in 10 out of 12 seats and increased in just two.

Having said that, this decline could partly be because of the fact that the BSP usually doesn’t contest bypolls and its cadres may not have been as prepared as the BJP and SP cadres.

Revival in Punjab?

However, there appears to be a silver lining for the BSP in Punjab – the home state of its founder Kanshi Ram.

The party had contested one seat – Phagwara – and got over 15 percent of the votes. This was a fall from the nearly 25 percent vote share it secured in the Assembly segment in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. But it is still a significant achievement for the party which was dubbed as irrelevant in Punjab after the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 Assembly polls.

The respectable performance in Phagwara is in line with the BSP’s impressive showing in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Punjab, in which it performed extremely well in the Doaba region seats like Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and the mixed Malwa-Doaba seat Anandpur Sahib.

This indicates that that the BSP might be staging a revival among Dalit, particularly Chamar voters in Punjab, who had overwhelmingly backed the Congress in the 2017 Assembly polls.

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