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BSP gets third-largest vote share, but no seat

Sahil Makkar  |  New Delhi 

Mayawati

Call it the travesty of the first-past-the-post system India follows. The (BSP) recorded the third-largest share of votes across the country, but didn't win a single seat. The party's vote share stood at 4.2 per cent (22.8 million), after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s 31.3 per cent (170 million) and the Congress's 19.5 per cent (105 million).

This was the BSP's worst defeat since the party's inception in 1984. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, party chief had played kingmaker, with 21 parliamentarians (20 from Uttar Pradesh and one from Madhya Pradesh).

Exit polls by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Cvoter, Cicero, Nielsen, ORG and Chanakya had predicted the would win 3-14 seats.

"This is the biggest shock of the elections," says Ram Kumar, a Dalit activist who runs a non-profit organisation, Dynamic Action Group, in Lucknow.

Before the elections began, many political pundits had thought the would emerge as the single-largest party in Uttar Pradesh, followed by the As it stands now, the leads with 71 seats, followed by the (SP), with five seats.

Due to strong anti-incumbency, the SP was expected to win fewer seats; this was more so due to a spate of communal clashes in the state in the past two years.

The Congress won two seats - its bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli.

What went wrong
The secured 19.82 per cent of the votes in Uttar Pradesh, against 27.42 per cent in the 2009 elections. This shows a clear dent on the party's core voter base, the Scheduled Castes. Also, many have abandoned the party to join the upper castes and Other Backward Classes (OBC) in rallying behind the

Analyst Jai Mrug and writer Chandrabhan Prasad say Dalits have seen an economic elevation; now, they are looking for leaders who can connect them to the mainstream. "The BSP's loss is an indication of the declining identity-based politics in the country. If and her leaders do not re-think their strategy, they are looking at a complete wipeout," Prasad warns.

This was also evident in the 2012 Assembly elections in the state, when Mayawati's party lost five per cent of its vote share, which led to a loss of 126 seats. Though the BSP was ousted, maintained her Scheduled Caste voter base, which accounted for 16.66 per cent, or 204.1 million, of India's population, was intact.

Of the country's Scheduled Caste population, Uttar Pradesh is home to 20.5 per cent. Along with the OBC segment, sections of which favour the BSP, they account for 41 per cent of Uttar Pradesh's population.

"The caste-based rhetoric is over. The BSP's voters were feeling isolated. So, they did not think twice before jumping the fence to join Modi," Mrug says.

Another reason behind Mayawati's defeat is her failure to unite the socially-ostracised with the upper castes. "In this quest, Mayawati ignored her core voters. She took them for granted. Their leaders would simply ignore Dalits to favour Muslims. The disenchantment was growing and Mayawati completely failed to read the undercurrent," says Ram Kumar.

BSP leaders did not respond to calls for comment.

First Published: Sat, May 17 2014. 00:45 IST