Not only Assembly election, BSP rules out alliance with Cong in 2019

Not only Assembly election, BSP rules out alliance with Cong in 2019

Courtesy : Bureau25/10/2018 12:44

New Delhi: In yet another setback for the Congress, BSP supremo Mayawati has ruled out forming an alliance with the grand old party in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, days after announcing that she would ally with Ajit Jogi’s outfit in Chhattisgarh Assembly polls.

She also hinted at tying up with regional parties in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, just as her ,party had done in Karnataka.

"In the interest of the BSP movement, it has been decided that the party will not ally with the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan at any cost,” the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president said.

“In Karnataka, we tied up with a regional party (Janata Dal-Secular). In Chhattisgarh, we tied up with Ajit Jogi's Janta Congress Chhattisgarh. In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, we may go with reg­ional parties there, but certainly not with the Congress."

This decision of the BSP supremo has caused a setback for the Congress’ dream of ending the 15-year-rule of the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.

Congress leaders say they would have given the BSP a maximum of 15 seats while the party wanted 50 in the 230-member Madhya Pradesh Assembly.

The BSP's vote share had dipped dramatically in each of the three Hindi heartland states in the 2013 assembly polls after peaking in 2008.

In Madhya Pradesh, her party's vote share declined from 8.8 per cent in 2008 to 6.3 per cent in 2013. In Chhattisgarh, the party's vote share dipped from 6.1 per cent in 2008 to 4.3 per cent in 2013.

Even in Rajasthan, its vote share and seats halved from 7.6 per cent (6 seats) in 2008 to 3.4 per cent (3 seats) in 2013.

It is this dramatic slide in vote share and seats that seems to have made Mayawati desperate and sees the battle in the Hindi heartland states as a chance to increase her vote and seat share.

The rising Dalit consciousness in the face of alleged atrocities against them in BJP-ruled states, dilution of the provisions of the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the issue of quota in jobs and promotions have raised her hopes of performing well in these elections.

 There were at least another dozen seats in which the BSP vote was substantial enough to alter the outcome of the polls should it ally with the Congress.

Even Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has admitted that a Congress-BSP alliance could pose a serious threat for the BJP in at least 15 seats in Bundelkhand, particularly in the Gwalior-Chambal and Vindhya regions.

How strong is the BSP in Madhya Pradesh?

The party relies mainly on a committed vote bank comprising Scheduled Castes.

Three of the four seats it won in Madhya Pradesh in 2013 are reserved for SCs. Of these, two are located in the Gwalior-Chambal region that has a comparatively high population of SCs and the remaining in the Vindhya region, the stronghold of the BSP in the state.

The party notches up victories in its strongholds where the contest is three-way or where the Congress has become very weak and does not have substantial votes to win.

The BSP usually wins when it gets the SC vote en masse along with some OBC votes. The party could win in the Vindhya region in the 1990s when OBCs like the locally dominant Kurmis began supporting it. In recent years, however, the Kurmis have largely abandoned the BSP and been appropriated by the Congress and BJP.

In the one general seat that the BSP won in 2013, Dimani, it had fielded an upper caste candidate. Balvir Singh Dhadotiya, a Brahmin, secured the combined SC and Brahmin votes to post a victory.

Both in Madhya Pradesh and in Chhattisgarh, the crux of a possible BSP-Congress tie up would have rest on vote transferability.  The Congress cannot yield seats to the BSP beyond a certain point since it feels that in such case the upper caste vote will go to the BJP instead.

The BSP feels its vote will transfer to the Congress but not vice versa. In such a scenario, the BSP thinks that it is at a disadvantage in forming an alliance with the Congress.

In fact, at the ground level, the Congress and BSP have often competed for the same vote. However, the prospect of a BSP rise at the expense of the Congress is remote.

Congress leaders are also wary of the ongoing upper caste and OBC backlash against the SC/ST Act and reservations in promotions and jobs. An alliance with the BSP, it feels, could hurt its chances as non-Dalit voters might shy away from the Congress and go with the BJP.

The assembly elections in November are critical for both the BSP and the Congress.

The BSP's ascendancy in Uttar Pradesh as well as in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh had been a body blow to the Congress.

However, with an ambitious Mayawati taking the Bahujan vote for granted and courting the upper-caste vote, the BSP's expansion not only slowed down post-2012 but actually began declining. Now, both the parties are vying for the same vote bank.

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