New Delhi: The first list of 100 candidates released by the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) for the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh shows a clear focus on Muslims and upper castes—the voter base of the incumbent Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), respectively.
In the list released on Thursday, Mayawati has fielded 36 Muslims, 27 upper caste candidates and 19 Dalits while the remaining candidates are from the other backward classes (OBC).
“There are certain voters who are not our stronghold but have supported us in the past. With the current political scenario unfolding in the state, we expect support from communities other than our traditional Dalit supporters. This is just the first list, wait for the remaining to come out and the picture will be clear," said a senior BSP leader who did not wish to be named.
Also Read: Election dates for 5 states announced, 11 March D-Day for demonetisation
Elections to the state assembly, which has 403 seats, are due to take place in seven phases spread between 11 February and 8 March.
With a loyal Dalit vote base already in place, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has mounted a determined campaign to reclaim Muslim support, which, along with the backing of Dalits and upper castes, had helped her party come to power in 2007.
Muslims have traditionally voted for the SP, but the recent power struggle in the party which has taken it to the verge of a split has triggered concerns that the Muslim vote might get divided.
Analysts feel that in a three-cornered fight in the state, a fragmented Muslim vote, which accounts for over 18% of the state’s electorate, will help the BJP gain an edge.
Also Read: BJP misusing state machinery to target BSP, says Mayawati
At a press conference in Lucknow on Tuesday, Mayawati urged Muslim voters in Uttar Pradesh to not vote for the SP or the Congress, saying this would only help the BJP come to power.
“Muslims should not waste their vote as there is infighting in Samajwadi Party, and Congress lacks a voter base in Uttar Pradesh," she said.
Mayawati added that her party will field 97 Muslims, 87 Dalits, 106 candidates from the OBCs and 113 from the upper castes (66 Brahmins, 36 Kshatriyas and 11 Kayasthas, Vaishyas, Punjabis) to make up the 403 candidates.
Her strategy is also clear from her choice of Agra and Saharanpur in western UP, which have a sizeable population of both Muslims and Dalits, as venues to both launch and end her ‘Sarvajan Hitay, Sarvajan Sukhay’ (‘everyone’s welfare, everyone’s happiness’) campaign. She is also forming Brahmin bhaichara (brotherhood) committees to mobilize upper castes at the grassroots level.
“Muslims and upper castes were responsible for Mayawati’s victory in 2007 and her subsequent defeat in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh election. With a weak Samajwadi Party, Muslims will look for alternatives and Mayawati wants to be at the right place at the right time. If she manages to direct the entire Muslim vote her way, she could pose a tough challenge to BJP and SP," said Lucknow-based political analyst S.K. Dwivedi.
PTI also contributed to the story.