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Why Mayawati Made a Strong Appeal to Muslims to Not Split Votes Between Congress, Gathbandhan

The BSP’s strident line for minority votes can possibly be traced back to the party’s experiments in the past to build a social coalition between Dalits and Minorities in UP.

Sumit Pande | News18.com

Updated:April 8, 2019, 12:01 PM IST
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Why Mayawati Made a Strong Appeal to Muslims to Not Split Votes Between Congress, Gathbandhan
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati, RLD chief Ajit Singh and his son Jayant Chaudhary wave during their joint election rally in Deoband on Sunday. (PTI)

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati’s call to Muslims to ensure there is no split of community votes between the Gathbandhan and Congress has baffled many. With Samajwadi Party lending the necessary heft and credentials to the grand alliance among the minorities in Uttar Pradesh, the alliance by dint of the social base and arithmetic appears as a strong claimant for a majority of the minority votes in the upcoming elections.

Elections are contested and won broadly on two delicately balanced factors — ability of a party or group to mobilise its support base and split the adversarial votes. This can more plainly be explained as mobilisation of one’s vote while ensuring there is no counter mobilisation.

The BSP chief’s speech at Deoband on Sunday is ostensibly aimed at ensuring Muslims stay firmly behind the alliance. But it is also fraught with risks to counter polarise.

In the first three phases of polling in UP, it is only in less than half-a-dozen seats that Congress candidates seem to be in any position to wean away or split minority votes. In Saharanpur and Moradabad for instance, the fight could be genuinely triangular with the Congress fielding strong minority faces Imran Masood in Saharanpur and Imran Pratapgarhi in Moradabad. Apart from these two seats, Congress candidates do not seem to be in a position to inflict substantial damage to the alliance.

The BSP’s strident line for minority votes can possibly be traced back to the party’s experiments in the past to build a social coalition between Dalits and Minorities in UP. The DM factor, as it is called, is most effective in western UP where the two social groups make up almost 50 per cent of the electorate in some seats and more than 40 per cent in nearly half of the constituencies.

When Mayawati became chief minister with a clear majority in 2007, she was successful in getting 28 Muslim MLAs elected to the state assembly of the 58 the party had fielded in the elections. That’s a success rate of nearly 50 per cent.

Two years later in the Lok Sabha polls, and in the backdrop of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s overtures to Kalyan Singh, there was a high possibility of minorities switching over to the BSP. Instead, a large chuck in the national elections went to the Congress, which helped the party win more than 20 seats in UP.

The BSP in subsequent assembly polls in 2012 and 2017 fielded more than 80 faces from the minorities. The strike rate, however, in both elections remained abysmal, 18 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.

The party’s ability to win minority votes amidst two other claimants — SP and Congress — has posed real challenge to the Dalit czarina’s prospects in successive elections after 2007. Perhaps, the BSP’s short-term alliances with the BJP in UP for power has had a much lasting sedimentary effect on Muslims.

At least in its campaign on the ground for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress has sought to create some doubts in the minds of voters about post-poll prospects and re-alignments if the elections throw up a hung House.

In her speech at Deoband on Sunday, Mayawati seems to have attempted to address any doubts on precisely these issues.

The grand alliance in UP is as much to challenge BJP’s electoral hegemony as it is to tackle Congress’ own ambitions. The BJP is a political adversary and the Congress a competitor in the race for the same Muslim and Dalit votes. The Congress in UP will claim these votes from the common kitty if it demonstrates ability and intent to emerge as a prime challenger to the BJP.

The Congress by its success in three state assembly polls last year had sent a strong message to the minorities. For both the SP and BSP, the current alliance and its strike rate in UP is to emerge as a strong alternative. That is to stand up and most importantly, be counted.

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