Although the Dalit queen Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party could not emerge as a spoiler in any of the recently concluded assembly polls in five states, but certainly the regional caste-based politics has gained some momentum, considering the recent performance of BSP. As national election is less than four months away, this marginal rise of BSP or any other regional party can be a worrying factor for both Congress and BJP.
In four of the five states, it was a usual battle between both the traditional rivals – Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); however, BSP with its “social engineering” formula has well improved its performance. The party, in Madhya Pradesh, won seven seats compared to the two in 2003 while in Rajasthan, national capital Delhi and Chhattisgarh, it made its presence felt with 6, 2 and 2 seats respectively.
Prior to elections, BSP was undoubtedly eager to gain more in vote share and seats with a clear purpose to force a hung assembly at least in Madhya Pradesh where Congress had only 57 seats. In Rajasthan, BSP won six seats with about 8 percent vote share, which was 3 percent in 2003 poll with only two seats in hand. Likewise, in Delhi, BSP has made a space for itself with two seats and 12 percent vote share as against the 5.7 and no seat in 2003.
Congress emerged victorious in three states: Rajasthan, Delhi and Mizoram while BJP retained its hold in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. However, in general, people have rejected the issues like terrorism, price rise over the pressing need of their own livelihood, as their local issues based on development and unemployment. Under such circumstances, parties like BSP and the newly formed Prajarajyam in Andhra Pradesh have the capacity to eat large chunk of any major party.
Taking into consideration Chhattisgarh, where BJP is set to form the government, BSP’s presence in all 90 constituencies has cost Congress dear. BSP has achieved 6.14 per cent votes with two seats compared to the 4.45 per cent and 2 seats in 2003. Here the difference between BJP and Congress in terms of vote share is just below 2 percent.
Thus, it is quite clear that after coming to power in Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati has been successful in expanding its base in northern and central India, at least as the numerical data show. This can be of two reasons: either the notion of a Dalit woman to power made the lower caste to come out and exercise their franchise more freely or there is larger erosion in the vote bank of both BJP and Congress due to various reasons; be it the developmental policies or simply a little more faith on BSP. Though it is not apt to come to any conclusion but the upcoming general elections can further imply to the rise of BSP.
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