New Delhi: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati is all set to begin a campaign to try and wrest her social base in Uttar Pradesh before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The four-time chief minister will launch her campaign with a rally in Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh on Monday. Mayawati has chosen this part of Uttar Pradesh, considered a BSP stronghold, to mobilize the Dalit and Muslim population in the area. To be sure, the BSP chief had also launched her campaign for the assembly election in February-March this year from Agra in western Uttar Pradesh, with an eye on the same demographics.
The drifting of Mayawati’s Dalit voter base towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and her unsuccessful attempts to consolidate the Muslim votes led to BSP’s rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and in the state assembly election in March this year, when its strength was reduced to 19 in the 403-member assembly.
After Mayawati’s resignation from the Rajya Sabha on 18 July after she was not allowed to speak on violence against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, her party has stepped up preparations for the next big election.
The first major decision taken by Mayawati after her resignation was that starting September, BSP will hold review meetings in each division of the state on the 18th of every month to remind her supporters of her resignation. The rally in Meerut, therefore, will cover voters across three key divisions of Meerut, Saharanpur and Moradabad in western Uttar Pradesh.
Despite being a BSP bastion, the party could win only the Dholana seat in Ghaziabad from the entire region, which sends over 60 legislators to the state assembly. However, with a vote share of 22.2% in the 2017 state election, second only to the BJP which secured 39.7% votes, the BSP hopes to revive its political fortunes through a direct contest with the BJP in the 2019 election.
“Behenji (Mayawati) has decided to hold one rally for three to four mandals in the next eight to ten months. For instance, the Meerut rally will cover the Saharanpur and Moradabad mandals as well. She will raise the issues of deteriorating law and order in the state, the recent tragedy in Gorakhpur, violence in the name of cow protection and her resignation from Parliament for the Dalit cause in her upcoming rallies," said a BSP leader based in Lucknow, who did not wish to be identified.
While arrangements are being made for another rally in Purvanchal (eastern) Uttar Pradesh in the coming days, the extent of Mayawati’s preparations for the general elections can also be gauged from the fact that she is already screening candidates for the 80 Lok Sabha seats from the state. Despite starting the process of shortlisting candidates, Mayawati has made it clear that the BSP will be part of an anti-BJP alliance, but only after parties have reached a seat-sharing arrangement.
The BSP chief had sent out a strong message regarding her seriousness on seat-sharing when she refused to attend an opposition rally organized by Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad on 27 August in Patna.
Analysts say that Mayawati is leaving no stone unturned to reconnect with her voters.
“Mayawati has not become irrelevant—she has just become inactive and now we see her correcting that before the next big election. She is making all efforts to regain lost ground in Uttar Pradesh, especially Dalit voters who have been gradually shifting to the BJP over the years. Giving an early start to her campaign, Mayawati is preparing to take on the BJP in the 2019 general election," said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst and political science professor at Christ Church College.