As the elections are approaching in Uttar Pradesh, it seems that the battle is between the BJP alliance and the Samajwadi Party alliance. Along with BJP and SP, two more parties operating in the state i.e. Indian National Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party are also fighting with each other. Both are not seen in the mainstream battle at the moment.
In an interview, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi expressed surprise at BSP leader Mayawati's political silence despite the elections being on the head, while BSP leader Mayawati tweeted one after the other, calling the Congress party 'Vote Katwa' and asking her voters to vote for her instead of appealing to vote for BSP.
The reason for this is that while the presence of BSP is still strong on the ground, that is, its dedicated electorate is still not looking away from it, but party leader Mayawati and other leaders are not looking as active in the election campaign outside.
At the same time, the grassroots organization of the Congress party has become fragmented and whatever the presence of the party is visible, it is visible only on the surface. Not only this, but the remaining leaders of the party are also leaving or they are being forced to go out of the party. But despite being very weak at the organization level, its activism is visible outside. This activism is visible not only now i.e. at the time of elections, but continuously for the last five years.
This is not the first time that the BSP has attacked Congress, but it is often in such an aggressive mood against Congress. And this is the situation when the Congress party is out of power in UP for the last three decades. The displeasure of the Bahujan Samaj Party is often seen against the Bharatiya Janata Party, but it does not have the bitterness that remains against Congress.
On the other hand, BJP is also often more attacker on Congress, whereas its main fight politically in UP is either with Samajwadi Party or Bahujan Samaj Party. However, five years ago, the condition of the Bharatiya Janata Party in UP was similar to that of the Congress party at that time. In the 2012 assembly elections, the BJP had won 47 seats and the Congress 37 seats.
BJP leaders are very attackers first on Rahul Gandhi and then Priyanka Gandhi becomes active and taunts that these people come to UP for 'political tourism'. However, the way the Congress party under the leadership of Priyanka Gandhi has advocated for giving tickets to 40 percent women and has given the slogan 'Beti Hun, Lad Sakti Hun', it is not only working on the ground but also on other parties. In a way, women have been pressured to get tickets in large numbers.
The Congress party, following this, has given 40 percent of the tickets announced so far to women, and especially to those women who struggled and achieved a position through struggle. These women include the mother of the rape victim girl in Unnao and Poonam Pandit, who was active in the farmers' movement.
The BSP is afraid of Congress that it may not pull its core vote bank i.e. Dalit vote towards itself. The reason for this is that before the political emergence of BSP in UP in the ’90s, this class mainly voted for Congress. But later this section became almost permanent voter of BSP and even in the event of its weakest political performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, due to this vote bank, BSP managed to get about 22 percent votes.
Starting from Ayodhya last year and through enlightened conferences across the state, when the BSP tried to woo the Brahmin community and attacked the BJP alleging oppression of Brahmins, it seemed that it might be fighting the BJP in the 2022 assembly elections. The fighting position would remain the same mainly because the prospect seemed strong due to the inclination of the state's angry Brahmin votes towards him.
But suddenly the Bahujan Samaj Party's activity decreased, the remaining leaders of the party also started turning to the Samajwadi Party and when the return of the leaders from BSP to BJP, instead of BSP, BSP started appearing out of the fight. Today there is no old and strong leader left in Bahujan Samaj Party except Mayawati and Satish Chandra Mishra. Many strong leaders of the party like Swami Prasad Maurya, Nasimuddin Siddiqui, Indrajeet Saroj, Ramveer Upadhyay are in other parties today.
As far as the core vote bank is concerned, there have been many incidents of Dalit atrocities in UP during the last five years, but BSP leader Mayawati did not go to meet the victims' families except to express her condolences on Twitter. Whereas Priyanka Gandhi became the first leader to reach after such incidents. Whether it was the incident of Sonbhadra or the incident of Hathras, not only did Priyanka Gandhi reach the first place, but during this time when the police administration tried to stop her, she also did Satyagraha. The people of the Dalit community started coming closer to the Congress party because of this activism of Priyanka Gandhi.
Apart from this, the activism of the Bhim Army in western Uttar Pradesh has also made BSP sleepless because Bhim Army has made good inroads in the Dalit class and especially the youth through struggle in the last few years. BSP leader Mayawati also looks at Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar with apprehension eyes and despite all the efforts of Chandrashekhar did not coordinate with his party.
There were also allegations against the BSP that it was not active on the ground due to the fear of investigation agencies of Central Government agencies like CBI and ED and its activities are not visible even though elections are near. In such a situation, the core voter of the party is also confused whether to stand with the BSP in this election or to turn to other parties. The BJP has made a dent in Dalit voters as well, but about 11 percent of Jatav voters still see the BSP as their first choice.
But if this time there is a dent in this vote bank of BSP, then the party towards which these voters will go, that party will benefit but BSP will suffer double loss.
Although the BSP has distributed tickets so far, a lot of attention has been given to the minority community and the minority community has also been a supporter of BSP, this time its inclination is not visible towards BSP. The minority community was also a supporter of the Congress party before the 90s, but after the temple-mosque dispute and the weakening of the Congress, they turned to the SP and the BSP.
That is, through the alliance of Dalit, Brahmin and Minority votes, the BSP has formed governments many times and has been making a strong presence in the Parliament, it is afraid of that vote bank shifting to the Congress.
There is also a discussion in the political world that Congress is preparing itself for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with its grassroots activism, taking the 2022 assembly elections only as a rehearsal. There may also be true in this and being a national party in the Lok Sabha elections, as an alternative to BJP, it can also get its benefit in UP.
But for the BSP, the 2022 assembly elections are going to be very decisive. BSP's political future may be bleak in the next elections if its dedicated voters change their minds this time. BSP is apprehensive that if these voters leave his side, then it will go towards Congress and Congress is also probably waiting that if this happens, then it will also have good days in UP.
Samiratmaj Mishra is a senior journalist and has been a correspondent for the BBC for a long time. He is currently associated with German public broadcaster DW and editor of YouTube channel 'The Ground Report'.
This analysis is the first article in the series being made about the UP elections. In this series, the review of the political equations of the UP elections 2022 and the public's trend will continue.