Mayawati! Wake Up And Smell The UP!

Why the BSP performance has far reaching implications for Mayawati.

WrittenBy:Kunal Singh
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It was not Narendra Modi’s victory but the size of it that surprised one and all on May 16. Well, there were many surprises. Everyone was expecting Congress to score their lowest ever but to get all out on 44 was inconceivable. Apart from these two, there were some ducks scored by parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) and Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC). One of the most befuddling aspects of the results was Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati scoring a duck with arguably the most loyal political constituency in the country. The drubbing of BSP formed a major highlight of the unexpected scale of the saffron sweep in Uttar Pradesh, the melting pot of identity politics in India.

On the face of it, the results in Uttar Pradesh (more than any other state) signify the rise of non-ideological vote forming to swing votes. A deeper analysis seems to confirm this hypothesis. Before delving deeper, a brief look at the vote per cent of major parties in Uttar Pradesh.

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Mayawati’s party BSP has secured 19.6% of the total votes polled in Uttar Pradesh. Yet, she has not been able to convert these votes into a single seat. While the election results come as a big indictment for her kind of politics which is seen as antithetical to the politics of good governance and development, Mayawati insists that her loyal vote bank remains intact and that Dalits have not yet deserted her. If she is correct, we should look at the number of seats in which BSP candidates have stood second and what is the margin of loss for BSP candidates vis-à-vis losing candidates of other parties.

There were a total of 34 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh where the BSP candidates stood second compared to 31 where SP candidates came second. However, this is not a good indicator as SP won 5 seats in Uttar Pradesh while BSP scored a duck. A better indicator would be percentage of seats in which a party came second out of total seats the party lost. This indicator tells us that BSP and SP have fared almost equally well (or not) in this regard. The interesting point to note is that BJP candidates stood second in all seven constituencies which BJP lost.

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This does not give us a clear picture about the fidelity of Mayawati’s vote bank. If anything, it clearly points out that BJP has been ruthless in Uttar Pradesh. If they are not winning, they are in second place for sure. The second indicator would be the average margin of loss irrespective of the position they secured. The average margin of loss for BSP candidates is above 2.5 lakh votes, a tad too high for Mayawati’s comfort level. In this regard, it scores poorly compared to BJP and SP. There is an interesting observation for BJP here. While the average margin of loss for BJP candidates is lowest, it is still more than 1.69 lakh votes. However, it is due to the disproportionate margin of loss for BJP candidate Ajay Agarwal contesting against Sonia Gandhi from Rae Bareli. If we remove this loss of Ajay Agarwal by more than 3.5 lakh votes, the margin of loss for the remaining 6 losing candidates of BJP goes down to less than 1.4 lakh votes. Interesting to note that the BJP candidate from Kannauj lost by a margin of less than 20,000 votes against Dimple Yadav, the wife of Akhilesh Yadav.

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This clearly shows that the worry lines on Mayawati’s forehead should increase. If Mayawati still feels she has not lost her Dalit vote, let me drive the point home by talking about the vote per cent of BSP in the constituencies of Kaushambi, Sitapur, Hardoi, Unnao and Rae Bareli. What do these five constituencies have in common? According to the Census 2011, these five districts (which may not entirely overlap with the constituency as determined by the Delimitation Commission of India) have over 30% per cent of their respective populations made up of Scheduled Castes. In four of these five constituencies, BSP polled well below the percentage share of Scheduled Castes. In all of these five constituencies BSP polled significantly higher in 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The results are much more damning if we consider the following facts- 1) the Scheduled Castes voters turn up in greater numbers which implies their share in the voter turnout would be greater than their share in total population and 2) it is unlikely that no other caste and Muslims have not voted for BSP at all, which means that the Scheduled Castes have deserted Mayawati in much greater numbers than the statistics prima facie show.

(See graph below.)

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It is hard to see Mayawati winning seats if her loyal vote bank is depleting. It is absolutely essential to keep your winning coalition (a term coined by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith; the winning coalition is the group of people whose support is critical to the survival of the leader) intact if you want to keep winning.

The larger question – whether ideology based identity politics has become irrelevant in Uttar Pradesh – can only be answered after the 2017 assembly elections in the state. Mayawati has three years before the next assembly election to regain lost space, and to her extreme good fortune, the ruling party, Samajwadi Party, is good and consistent at delivering no-balls. All she has to do is hit them out of the park and do the same with the ensuing free hit. The BJP, on the other hand, will hope that their purple patch will continue and more importantly the magic of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine can be recreated in 2017.

Source of 2014 election results: Election Commission Website

Source of 2009 election results:


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