Poll-by-poll, Mayawati's appeal shrinking in UP (News Analysis)

Lucknow, Sep 21: Is former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati's stranglehold on her voter base dwindling? Having drawn a blank in the Lok Sabha polls and, of late, giving a walkover to her opponents by not contesting the assembly bypolls or the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat, the Dalit diva has been pushed to the sidelines of politics in a state where she held centrestage not long ago.

While the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) failed to hold on to its decade-old captive votebank of the Dalits during the Lok Sabha polls, where her party managed a duck despite fielding candidates on all 80 seats, non-participation in the assembly bypolls held last week, many feel, has only added to Mayawati's alienation from her vote bank which would have ideally liked 'behen-ji's' participation in the electoral exercise.

But the Dalit leader backed out early from the poll race, saying she did not consider them "of any consequence". She, however, failed to explain why, when in power between 2007 and 2012, the BSP not only contested such polls but also won most. Instead, Mayawati gave instructions to her vote bank and cadres to "transfer en masse" to independent candidates and oppose Samajwadi Party (SP), Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates.

This move, however, seems to have boomeranged; the party faithful did not obey her diktat and on the contrary, shifted towards arch rivals Samajwadi Party, for whom she has a pathological hatred.

A senior party leader admitted in private that the decision not to contest the bypolls, largely due to the fear of a Lok Sabha repeat, "had not gone down well with the party cadres". Participation in the bypolls would have at least cheered up the moribund party rank and file", the party leader told IANS, requesting anonymity for fear of inviting Mayawati's ire.

With the state assembly polls a good two years away and the Lok Sabha polls more than four years away, political observers point out that Mayawati, who held sway over the Dalit vote base - which constitutes 15-20 percent in almost all constituencies - has begun to wither.

Statistics of votes polled by independent candidates in the bypolls reveal the fragility of Mayawati and her diktats. The party had extended support to S.P. Singh, an independent in the prestigious Lucknow (East) seat. BSP had polled 28,040 votes in 2012 assembly elections and 14,615 votes in the Lok Sabha poll. The 7,115 votes secured by S.P. Singh clearly indicates that Mayawati's vote transfer strategy failed miserably.

In Saharanpur City, the BSP had garnered 36,140 votes in 2012, which dropped to 15,101 in the Lok Sabha poll. The independent candidate this time around got a meagre 132 votes. So where are the BSP votes?

In Noida, neighbouring New Delhi, the BSP got about 50,000 votes in the Lok Sabha polls and 26,000-plus in 2012. This time around, a BSP-supported independent got only 312 votes!

In Sirathu a BSP-supported independent got 2,266 votes, in Nighasan 1,235, in Hamirpur 1,412, in Charkhari 1,467, in Thakurdwara 2,449 and in Balha 3,799 - all a sharp drop from the many thousands of votes that the BSP candidates got in the earlier elections.

In Mainpuri, the lone parliamentary constituency where a bypoll was held, BSP-supported Ram Saran polled just 2,259 votes.

Mayawati has rejigged her party organization twice in the past three months in her bid to "set things in order", but things do not seem to be working for her. Samajwadi Party spokesman and senior cabinet minister Rajendra Chowdhary told IANS that "Mayawati's voters are fast inching towards the SP due to its policies", adding that the former UP chief minister will soon be marginalized by her own partymen.

Vijay Bahadur Pathak, the state BJP spokesman, too pointed to an alienation of Mayawati's once powerful votebank.

"The problem is that she does not have anything to do with the people, her leaders in both houses (of the state legislature) - Swamy Prasad Maurya and Naseemuddin Siddiqui - are under fire for corruption and stinging reports against them by Lokayukta are pending action. In such a situation how can they be even in a state of mind to contest and win elections," Pathak chuckled while speaking to IANS.

But while it may be too early to write off the 58-year-old leader who has braved many a storm in the past, the writing on the wall is certainly not the one she, her party or her supporters would like to read!


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