New Delhi: On Tuesday afternoon, as it became clear that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would return to power in Delhi with a brute majority, a different debate was brewing hot on social media. With a screenshot of vote-share of parties taken from the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) website, several people claimed that the NOTA (None of the Other) option, apparently, secured more votes than both the Left parties — Communist Party of India (CPI) and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) — combined in the Delhi assembly elections.
While the claim was indeed true, it had a faulty premise.
NOTA secured more than 43,000 or 0.46 per cent of the total valid votes polled in the Delhi elections compared with a combined vote-share of 0.03 per cent of the CPI and CPM. However, what was overlooked by many was that the two left parties contested just three seats each and, therefore, the comparison of their vote-share with NOTA votes was unfair.
The comparison, instead, should have been made with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Once considered a rising force and an alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress in Delhi, the BSP was reduced to 0.71 per cent of vote-share despite contesting 68 assembly seats in the national capital. While this is more than the total NOTA votes cast, the Mayawati-led party secured fewer votes than NOTA in as many as 32 assembly seats or nearly half the constituencies the BSP fielded its candidates in.
For instance, NOTA finished third in Palam constituency — the only seat where NOTA was in the third place — with 848 votes compared with BSP candidate Geeta who got 786 votes. Congress’ ally the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) received 552 votes in Palam. Moreover, NOTA received the fourth highest votes in at least 28 seats. The BSP ended up with an equal number of fourth-place finishes. In an election as bipolar as the Delhi was, where even the Congress, a party which ruled the city for 15 years, was reduced to less than five percent of vote-share, few people can blame BSP for how it performed. But the party has, indeed, seen better days. BSP has been a contestant in Delhi politics since the formation of the first legislative assembly in the capital in 1993. Over the course of four assembly elections between 1993 and 2008, the party expanded its footprint (read vote share) in the capital from 1.9 per cent of the total votes polled in 1993 to 14.05 per cent votes and two seats in 2008. This was largely on the back of significant support among Dalits as well as the burgeoning Purvanchali population in the city.
BSP was seen as the next big challenge to the duopoly of the BJP and the Congress in local politics. Then came the Aam Aadmi Party.
AAP’s debut in Delhi politics in the 2013 assembly elections following the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement came as a setback for the BSP. The newly formed AAP was received well by the people of Delhi. It won 28 seats in the 70-seat strong house and nearly 30 per cent of the votes in its very first outing.
BSP, on the other hand, was reduced to 5.44 per cent of vote-share and zero seats. The decimation continued in 2015 when it garnered just 1.31 per cent of votes and eventually to 0.7 per cent in the polls concluded on Tuesday.
Analysts argue that the Arvind Kejriwal brand of politics and the perception of AAP as a potent and viable alternative to both Congress and the BJP led to a majority of BSP’s core voters — backward castes — to shift to the AAP.
There’s no denying that the BSP’s fortunes have diminished across the country over the past few years. However, whether its abysmal performance in the 2020 Delhi assembly polls would prove to be an end of the BSP in the national capital is something only time will tell.