The BSP is feeling increasingly threatened by the growing influence of the BJP on Dalits in UP, though recent poll surveys have shown the Mayawati-led party to be emerging as a front runner in the state.
“The only impact of the poll survey is that the clamour for Assembly tickets has increased, but the leaders are acutely aware that the BJP poses the biggest threat in these elections,” said a BSP insider. The BJP has been passionately wooing Dalits in Uttar Pradesh and its state leaders are working overtime to sustain the efforts made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi through a number of programmes.
“We are continuing with our ‘Hindu First’ campaign, which was initiated prior to the Lok Sabha elections. The campaign was a success and Dalits and Yadavs voted for us,” said a state BJP leader.
The polarisation of votes in western UP after the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 is another cause of worry for the BSP. The Muslim-Jatav combination has always proved a formidable challenge to the Jats in the region but after the riots, Jatavs turned Hindus with a vengeance and have aligned with the BJP. The Muslims, expectedly, do not trust the BSP and this could upset the party’s apple cart during elections, much to the advantage of the BJP.
Another factor—though seemingly minor at the moment—is the debut of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in Uttar Pradesh’s politics.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi has announced that his party will contest the Assembly elections on the slogan “Jai Bheem, Jai Meem”. The party is working on a Dalit-Muslim formula in constituencies where both the communities have a sizeable population and even if it manages to make a small dent in the BSP’s Dalit vote base, the damage to the BSP could be considerable.
The biggest factor that is damaging the BSP is the continuing dominance of Brahmin leaders in the party. Dalits are now getting increasingly vocal about Brahmins emerging as decision makers along with Mayawati. They see this as a betrayal of sorts.
“This is a complete deviation from the late Kanshi Ram’s ideology. Dalits are being used as vote banks by Mayawati but have no say in decision-making. Since 2004, we have been witnessing this change in the party structure where Brahmin leaders are getting importance. Our people have started talking about this and the anger may get reflected in the Assembly polls too,” said a party leader who confessed that he was planning to quit the party. He said that a number of old loyalists had already quit the party and many more were ready to do so in the coming months.
“We are sad as well as angry at what is happening,” the leader added.