UP Elections 2017: Will Mayawati’s `Elephant` puncture Akhilesh’s `Bicycle` this time?

Out of power since 2012, Mayawati is hugely depending on Muslim and Dalit votes to win UP Elections 2017.

By Kamna Arora | Last Updated: Feb 02, 2017, 15:32 PM IST

The electoral atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh has generated a huge interest among observers. Incidents such as the feud within the state’s first family, i.e. the Yadav clan, the emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as the new party president, and then the alliance between Akhilesh-led Samajwadi Party and Congress have been making headlines. Amidst all this, one party which is looking forward to reaping electoral benefits out of the Samajwadi Party tussle is Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Out of power since 2012, Mayawati is hugely depending on Muslim and Dalit votes to win elections.

The BSP has this time allocated a big chunk of tickets to Muslim candidates. In the 2007 UP Assembly Elections, the BSP had given tickets to 61 Muslim candidates and in 2012, the number increased to 85 seats. This time, the BSP has nominated 97 Muslims, the party’s biggest ever.

Also, this time, the BSP has decreased the number of Brahmin candidates to 66; it was 74 in 2012. Not only this, the party has cut the number of tickets allocated to backward caste candidates. There is just a slight increase in the number of Kshatriya candidates.

Going by the statistics, it is clear that the BSP is trying to use Muslim voters as oxygen for the party. The strategy could prove to be its winning ticket. Dalits and Muslims account for 38.5 percent of Uttar Pradesh's population. And if Mayawati manages to win over Dalit-Muslim combine, the BSP could very well gain majority in the UP Assembly.

A Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) report suggests that 17 percent Muslims voted for the BSP in 2007 Assembly Elections. In 2012, the figure rose to 20 percent. However, the Muslim votes to the SP registered a notable decline from 45 percent in 2007 to 39 percent in 2012.

The reason behind decreasing the number of tickets to upper caste can be attributed to the fact that the BSP got less Dalit votes last time.

The CSDS report says that in 2007, 86 percent Jatav voters voted for the BSP as against 62 percent in 2012. There was a huge decrease in the Balmiki vote share too - 71 percent in 2007 and 42 percent in 2012.

The internal tussle within the Samajwadi Party has given a wonderful chance to the BSP to woo Muslim voters in its favour. The induction of murder-accused mafia don Mukhtar Ansari by Mayawati suggests the BSP’s desperation.

After Ansari’s induction, the BJP changed the BSP’s slogan in the previous elections in Uttar Pradesh - Chad gundon ki chaati par, button daba haathi par (climb on criminals’ chests, vote for the elephant) – to “Ab gunde chad gaye haathi par, goli marenge chaati par (Criminals have climbed on the elephant and will shoot us in the chest).”

The induction of Ansari could prove to be dangerous for Mayawati. In 2012, Akhilesh Yadav had refused to give tickets to dons like Ansari and Ateeq Ahmed and won the elections. This time too, Akhilesh is treading a similar path. However, Samajwadi Party’s patron Mulayam Singh Yadav’s mood swings can confuse voters, leaving the BSP with a possibility to woo voters.

Also, the SP’s alliance with Congress has given an impetus to possibility that the BSP can forge a post-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Will Mayawati’s strategy of using Muslim-Dalit combine to dethrone Akhilesh Yadav work? The wait will be over on March 11.