New Delhi: The decision of Mayawati to go solo in the forthcoming assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Rajasthan is a political gamble by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief with Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) now vying for votes of Scheduled Castes (SCs) in the two states.

While the BJP leadership is making attempts to reach out to current and former members of the BSP to join it before the polls, a section of the Congress leadership believes upper castes are annoyed with SCs after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government decided to restore original provisions in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, or SC/ST Act. This was done after protests from NDA allies and SCs following a dilution of the Act by the Supreme Court.

“BSP has a fair share of voter base in MP and Rajasthan. The state leadership of BSP is, however, unhappy with the recent decisions of Mayawati, so we are in touch with present members of BSP and also with former members of BSP in both Rajasthan and MP," said a senior BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh.

“BSP leaders in MP and Rajasthan realise that they may not be able to win many seats in the absence of an alliance and the political future of these members is in a dilemma," the leader said.

The SC and ST communities are likely to play a crucial role in state politics in the two states because among MP’s population, 15.2% are SCs and 20.3% are tribals. Rajasthan has 17.2% SCs and 12.6% tribals.

BJP, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is trying to change the voter as well as the social base of the party and reach out to different sections of people. The political dilemma for Mayawati is to protect the BSP’s base from both BJP and Congress.

The apex court said in March this year that people accused of committing an offence under the SC/ST Act will be arrested only after the approval of a senior superintendent of police and a preliminary inquiry will be conducted to ascertain if there is a prima facie case against the accused. Facing protests from the SC/ST communities, the Union government quickly introduced a new legislation to overturn the court order.

Mayawati on Wednesday announced that she would contest Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan alone while the party is in alliance with Ajit Jogi’s Janata Congress in Chhattisgarh. “The Congress leadership in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan was divided on the issue of alliance with BSP. Rajasthan leaders did not want alliance with any other political party, MP leadership was holding talks with Mayawati," said a senior leader of Congress based in Bhopal.

Senior leaders of the Congress argue that the decision of the Union government has irked a section of upper caste voters in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and they are in a mood to punish any political party that wants to side with SCs. Congress leaders also said that the party is in a better position in Rajasthan as they have managed to win 20 of the 22 byelections in the state since the 2013 assembly polls.

“We believe there is a momentum in favour of the Congress in Rajasthan. We did not want to join hands with any political party because there was no need. Congress is strong enough in Rajasthan to win on its own," said a senior Congress leader based in Jaipur.

After the debacle of BSP in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections when the party only managed to get 19 seats out of 403, Mayawati is trying to revive the political influence of BSP before the 2019 general election. While trying to regain political relevance in Uttar Pradesh, she is also seeking to expand her social and electoral footprint in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

BSP had only managed to win four seats with a 6.2% voter share in Madhya Pradesh in 2013 and three seats with a vote share of 3.3% in Rajasthan in the 2013 state assembly elections.

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