Mayawati ‘missing’, leaders leaving: The elephant in the room for the BSP this election

The party is going through its worst phase ever, with falling vote share, accusations of silence on Dalit issues, and a challenge for survival.

WrittenBy:Arun Kumar
Illustration of Mayawati with the BSP flag and two elephants.

Twenty-six days after the Lok Sabha polling dates were announced, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati finally embarked on her election campaign. 

Addressing a rally in Maharashtra’s Nagpur on April 11, she cornered the BJP on education, employment and rising prices. She also criticised the INDIA alliance and the Congress and brought up her own developmental work in Uttar Pradesh during her four terms as chief minister.

It’s a throwback to the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, where Mayawati again had kicked off her campaign only days before polling – an approach she’s followed for years

Except this time, the BSP is scrambling to find purchase. It’s been a baffling fall for the party – and for Mayawati – that once dominated politics in Uttar Pradesh.

In 2019, the BSP had contested the Lok Sabha polls in partnership with the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Lok Dal. The BSP won 10 seats but at least five of the MPs have left the party. Additionally, it has only one MLA, Umashankar Singh, in the UP assembly. This year, the party is going it alone, having thwarted several efforts by the Congress to join the INDIA alliance.

The 2022 assembly polls brought no succour to Mayawati, with the BSP winning just one seat. Meanwhile the party’s vote share fell from over 30 percent in 2007 to 22.23 percent in 2017 to 12.8 percent in 2022. C-Voter’s Mood Of The Nation survey suggests the party’s vote share will fall further to barely eight percent in 2024.

The BSP is also losing its core voter base – the Jatavs, which makes up 50 percent of the 66 Dalit sub-castes in India. Mayawati herself hails from this community but their support fell from 87 percent to 65 percent between 2017 and 2022. 

And so the BSP is going through an existential crisis, its worst phase in its 40-year-old history. With Mayawati designating her nephew, 28-year-old Akash Anand, as her political heir, where does that leave the party this election?

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