Lok Sabha Election 2019

SP-BSP success hinges on Yadavs’ readiness to back latter

Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati at a recent rally.

Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati at a recent rally.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Mayawati’s remarks acknowledging Mulayam Singh as the ‘real leader’ of OBCs may help her party win sizeable Yadav support

Uday Yadav, an LIC employee, recalled the cynicism he once felt towards the BSP government. The money spent on erecting memorials and parks could have been diverted to improve the health, education and road infrastructure, he contended.

Seated in his house in the semi-urban locality of Sarojini Nagar, Mr. Uday also made a passing reference to a view held by non-Dalits that preference was given to the Dalits during Mayawati’s tenure — a period during which his loyalty to the SP made him a natural opponent of the BSP.

But in 2019, he is going to vote for the BSP for the first time, and that without batting an eyelid.

Ab dono ek ho gaye hai (Both are together now),” he reasoned, smiling. “Both have worked for Dalits and OBCs, but separately... now they will do it together.”

Mayawati’s speech

The fact that Mayawati, in a speech in Mainpuri, hailed SP founder Mulayam Singh as the “real leader” of the OBCs had removed “all confusion” and even those Yadavs who had harboured sour memories of the SP-BSP relationship in the aftermath of the ‘Lucknow guest house incident’ had been won over, said Mr. Uday.

In June 1995, some SP MLAs and workers — angered by rumours that the BSP was about to pull the rug on the SP-BSP coalition government — had stormed the Lucknow State guest house and assaulted several BSP leaders who were holding a meeting there, forcing Mayawati to take shelter in a room. Soon after, the Centre, on the advice of the State’s Governor, dismissed the State’s coalition government headed by Mulayam Singh, following which Mayawati was sworn in as Chief Minister, with outside support from the BJP among others.

Raj Kishore Yadav is another resident of the constituency and a dairy farmer — the Yadav community’s traditional occupation.

Like Mr. Uday, nobody in Mr. Raj’s family has ever voted for any other party since the SP was founded. But this time, his family plans to ride the ‘elephant’ (the BSP’s electoral symbol). The explanation in this case is the perceived discrimination faced by Yadavs under BJP rule — the BJP ran a high-pitched campaign against alleged preferential treatment given to the Yadavs when the SP was in power — and what Mr. Raj called “mazboori”.

“Even if we vote BJP, we won’t be counted, they won’t believe us. Where else to go,” asked the dairy farmer.

He said he never expected the two parties would come together but was glad that to “move forward”, they had formed an alliance. “If they didn’t, the BJP would rule for a long time,” he opined.

Both Mr. Uday and Mr. Raj live in Mohanlalganj where the BJP, BSP and Congress are locked in a triangular contest. Since it is a reserved constituency, the Dalit vote — all parties have fielded Pasis — would be divided, meaning victory would hinge on the core support base of the parties. While the BSP has never won Mohanlalganj, the SP has won it four times — 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2009. The BSP’s fortunes would hinge to a significant extent on the transfer of the SP votes, mainly from the Yadavs.

This holds true across U.P.

Travelling across the State, anecdotal evidence and the opinion of some political observers suggest that the two parties are being fairly successful in transferring their votes to each other’s candidates. Not everyone, however, is convinced that the vote transfer will prove to be foolproof.

While the Jatav vote, despite the Dalit community’s differences with the dominant OBCs, is understood to be easily transferable due to Mayawati’s personal sway (she herself is a Jatav), observers wonder if the Yadavs would vote for the BSP with the same enthusiasm. The argument is that the social and political relationship of the Yadavs has not been amicable with the BSP, which is accused of having targeted the community with cases under the SC and ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act.

Also, the transfer of the Yadav vote is untested, as the three bypolls in Kairana, Phulpur and Gorakhpur were not fought on the BSP symbol. 

Trust deficit, Modi

While most Yadavs quoted political necessity to back the BSP, a section, however, cast doubt on Ms. Mayawati’s reliability as an ally. They fear that she might take their votes, secure wins and then strike a deal with the BJP. 

“How can we trust her,” asked Subash Yadav, a farmer in Gosaiganj. The BSP’s past trysts with the BJP and the guest house incident that marked the end of the first SP-BSP alliance is still fresh in Mr. Subash’s memory. 

And a section of the Yadavs are also enamoured of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Like Guru Prasad Yadav, a retired railway employee in Mohanlalganj, who said Mr. Modi took ‘strict action’ against Pakistan and denounced Ms. Mayawati for amassing wealth. 

However, his daughter Seema was quick to contradict him.“Modi has not done anything good for us,” she said, citing her son’s failure to get a job as reserved seats were not filled under BJP rule. “This party is always against Yadavs,” said Ms. Seema, vouching for the BSP. 

To ensure that the vote transfer does indeed occur, the SP-BSP are using subtle sogans like, “Ek bhi vote na ghatne paye, ek bhi vote na batne paye ” (not even one vote should fall short, nor get divided). 

At the local level, too, the cadre of the two parties are working in tandem to educate the voters on the change in the symbol and campaigning jointly.

“In rural areas we have to educate the voters that the symbol will be elephant and not cycle,” said a BSP worker. 

The BJP understands the potential of the vote transfer. In his speeches, Mr. Modi has made appeals to the Dalits to deter them from voting for the SP, by asserting that Ms. Mayawati had embraced the same party that ‘insulted’ Ambedkar, while other BJP leaders regularly remind voters about the ‘guest house’ incident. 

“While in power, both parties have used oppression and politics of vendetta against each other,” said BJP spokesperson Chandramohan. “There is no vote transfer,” he said, adding the ‘Modi factor’ was pulling in even traditional SP and BSP votes to the BJP.

Udaiveer Singh, SP MLC, however, contended that there was “total transfer” of votes and accused the BJP of spreading false propaganda of incompatibility.

“They first tried to fail the alliance and then tried to break it,” asserted Mr. Singh. “If there was no transfer they [BSP] would have raised questions. But not a single worker or leader has said votes are not being transferred.”

Apart from the the core Jatav and Yadav votes, the two parties also face the challenge to shift votes of other communities in their individual kitties. In Mohanlalganj, a section of Kurmis support the SP but would they shift to the BSP? 

While the question of Kurmi support is a little more complicated, the alliance expects the ‘stray cattle’ issue to push the non-BJP voters of the agrarian community to vote against the BJP. 

In Ain, the second-largest village in the block, Kurmis dominate the discourse. The Kurmis here, who back the SP, are largely shifting to the BSP as they don’t want to vote for the BJP. There is also anger against the BJP MP for not utilising funds and providing resources like hand pumps and power connections only to selected BJP workers. 

“Last time I voted Modi,” said farmer Vidyasagar Patel. “This time I will vote to defeat Modi. Doesn’t matter SP or BSP.” 

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2020 5:59:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/lok-sabha-2019/sp-bsp-success-hinges-on-yadavs-readiness-to-back-latter/article26994994.ece

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