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Eye on 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Mayawati to hold rallies across India

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-09-2017 Meenal Thakur

After launching the Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, party chief Mayawati is planning to expand it across the country in an attempt to regain her party’s social base—Dalits—ahead of the election.

From October to May 2018, the four-time Uttar Pradesh chief minister will be addressing five rallies in Uttar Pradesh—in Azamgarh, Kanpur, Aligarh, Ayodhya and Lucknow. Another series of eight of rallies have been planned for outside UP—Bhopal, Bengaluru, Jaipur, Patna, Delhi, Chandigarh, Kangra and Uttarakhand.

Mayawati kicked off her campaign in Meerut, western Uttar Pradesh, on 18 September, considered to be a BSP stronghold due to the predominant Dalit, OBC and Muslim population in the area. Over the years, a section of Dalit and OBC voters—especially the non-Jatav Dalits and non-Yadav OBCs—has drifted toward the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while Mayawati has not been able to consolidate the Muslim vote either.

The weakening of BSP’s social base was apparent in the 2014 Lok Sabha election when the party failed to win a single seat and again in the February-March assembly election in UP where it won only 19 of the 403 seats.

With no representation in the Lok Sabha, five members in the Rajya Sabha and just 19 legislators in the UP state assembly, these rallies will be crucial in attempts at rejuvenating the party. Thus, Mayawati has strategically chosen areas with a considerable Dalit population to try and revive her party’s fortunes in the upcoming election.

In what was a clear political sign of an appeal to her loyal voter base, Mayawati resigned from the Rajya Sabha on 18 July when she was not allowed to speak on the issue of anti-Dalit violence in Saharanpur, UP. She also brought up this issue in her Meerut rally when she hit out at BJP, accusing the party of being anti-Dalit.

Mayawati’s next rally is at Azamgarh in eastern Uttar Pradesh on 24 October. The rally is also aimed at mobilizing crowds from neighbouring divisions of Varanasi and Gorakhpur, where BJP has made significant inroads.

“Behenji (Mayawati) will make her resignation from the Parliament and the issue of increased violence against Dalits in the country a major election agenda. This is a fight against the BJP government which has been unable to protect Dalits in the country. She is also holding meetings with zonal coordinators to get updates about the progress of our party’s campaign,” said a BSP leader from Lucknow who did not wish to be named.

While Mayawati might be preparing to take on BJP to regain her social base, she will have to offer something substantial to the voters to draw them back to BSP, say analysts.

“With the debacle in the 2017 assembly election, BSP will be out of power in UP for a decade. On the other hand, the BJP is consistently increasing its footprint across the country. The BJP government, both at the Centre and in the state, has assimilated many Dalit and OBC faces in the power structure. In this scenario, these social groups need a strong reason to go back to BSP,” said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and political science professor at Christ Church College.

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