The Lost Ground: Former UP CMs Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav Try To Regain Foothold In The State They Once Ruled

With the assembly elections due next year, the SP and the BSP are struggling to be counted. Between the two, the latter has more reasons to be worried.


Any discussion about the likely political landscape of Uttar Pradesh in 2022 can’t be complete without the mention of the two regional strong players, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The two parties used to dominate state politics over the past decades but lost their hold when the BJP won a brute majority in the 2017 assembly polls with 312 out of total of 403 seats.

The SP, which ruled from 2012-2017, joined hands with the Congress but the alliance was defeated. The SP came down to 47 seats and Congress 7 seats, while BSP got 19 seats.

Ahead of the 2019 national elections, SP and BSP, the long-time foes turned friends and jointly formed a “mahagathbandhan” (grand alliance) to take on the saffron party juggernaut.

Out of the total 80 parliamentary seats in UP, the SP and the BSP contested 38 seats each, leaving out the remaining four for Congress and others.

But the grand alliance could win just 15 seats (BSP 10 and SP 5) prompting the two leaders to part ways.

As the Covid-19 outbreak last year forced lakhs of migrant workers to hit the road to reach their native places due to lockdown, Congress in-charge of UP Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who had tried to help the migrants by providing them food and transport, had taken a dig at both the parties for not being visible.

With the assembly elections due next year, the SP and the BSP are struggling to be counted. Between the two, the latter has more reasons to be worried.

BSP’s woes

Though BSP chief Mayawati still retains her ability to surprise the pollsters, the party’s electoral fortunes have been dwindling over the past years marked by reduced strength in the state assembly and in the Lok Sabha.

Further, the departure of many senior leaders and dissatisfaction among those who were left behind is another cause of concern for the former four-term chief minister.

From winning 206/403 assembly seats in 2007, the BSP tally was reduced to 19 in 2017. Since then, 11 MLAs have been either suspended or expelled for alleged anti-party activities.

Senior leaders including then BSP legislature party leader Swami Prasad Maurya and senior Brahmin leader and former MP Brajesh Pathak moved to the BJP before the 2017 assembly polls. Both Maurya and Pathak are cabinet ministers in the Yogi Adityanath government.

Nasimuddin Siddiqui, a prominent Muslim leader in BSP resigned after the 2017 election and joined the Congress, which later made him chairman of its state media cell.

Though Mayawati has been confident of getting the support of her core constituency, the Jatav voters, she named party leader Bhim Rajbhar as state unit head in November 2020 to woo the crucial OBC community ahead of her the 2022 assembly polls.

Recently, she expelled former state unit chief Ram Achal Rajbhar and legislative party leader Lalji Verma for alleged anti-party activities in the April Panchayat polls.

Image makeover

Having realised that her social engineering was not working anymore, Mayawati is trying to present the BSP as a party of all sections of society ahead of the 2022 assembly polls.

She recently reminded workers that BSP was a “Sarv Samaj” party and was committed to serving the interests of all and ensuring the welfare of all.

The BSP chief cautioned workers against leaders who give more importance to their personal interests than of the party and urged them to trust cadres more than the leaders. The party is also trying to bring in new faces to manage the campaign and connect with the young voters.

The former CM has asked workers to continue the party’s voter outreach through small cadre meetings and remind people that development works done during BSP governments were later stopped by her rivals due to their casteist and communal mindset, a hint at the SP and the BJP.

SP’s struggles

The SP’s 47 lawmakers in the UP assembly have tried but have not been able to make much impact against the state government.

Outside the House, the party founded by Mulayam Singh Yadav still has a fairly strong organisation across the state and stages an occasional protest in capital Lucknow and other cities to keep the workers going.

Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who reportedly spent most of the lockdown period abroad last year, has of late been targeting the state government via tweets and statements over the pace of vaccination against Coronavirus and the alleged land scam involving some Ram Temple trustees.

Also Read: Eye On 2022 Polls, Congress Firefights To Curb Rebellion In Punjab

The former chief minister claimed that people were unhappy with the BJP and were looking for a change in 2022 when the SP would be back. But that is easier said than done given the SP’s constant reference to its Muslim support base which may be used by the BJP to polarise the voters.

In an interesting development, nine rebel BSP MLAs, who had been earlier expelled by Mayawati earlier, met Akhilesh Yadav fuelling speculation that they may shift to the SP.

But some of these lawmakers have other options in mind and are reportedly trying to form a separate party with expelled leader Lalji Verma as their leader. This might work as the ex-BSP lawmakers were not disqualified as MLAs.

Akhilesh has hinted at tie-ups with the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Mahan Dal and Janwadi Party and said he would like to take along his uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav’s Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party ahead of the next year’s poll battle.

Having burnt his fingers in 2017 and later in 2019, the SP chief appears to be in no mood to join hands either with Congress or the BSP for 2022.

Punjab gamble

Desperate to stay relevant, the BSP has decided to contest the 2022 Punjab assembly polls as a junior partner of the Shiromani Akali Dal. As per the pact, SAD will contest 97 seats while BSP will get 20 of the total 117 assembly seats.

Earlier, the two parties had contested the 1996 Lok Sabha polls together in which SAD won eight seats and BSP got three of the total 13 in the state.

The BSP banks on the 32 per cent Dalit voters in Punjab but has not been able to make an impact so far. In 2017, the party contested 111 seats but lost deposits on 110 and had a vote share of 1.59 per cent. In 2012, the party contested on all 117 seats but did not win a single seat and had a 4.3 per cent vote share.

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