Much to the worry of a cautious Congress, Mayawati on Wednesday made it amply clear that she will fight the upcoming elections on her own or in alliance with smaller regional parties. The BSP supremo came down heavily on the Congress accusing it of being a communal, corrupt, and arrogant party. Saying that some in Congress don’t want the alliance to take place, Mayawati accused Digvijaya Singh of acting as a Bharatiya Janata Party agent. She argued that Congress has the misconception that it can defeat the BJP on its own and that the memories of corruption under its rule was still fresh in the people’s minds.
On the other hand, Congress leaders were seen in a damage control mode arguing that Mayawati too had shown the intent to forge an alliance earlier. They were still cautious in their tone and said that talks were still on.
So, why does Mayawati matter so much for the Congress despite having only 4 seats in the Assembly in Madhya Pradesh and 3 in Rajasthan?
The answer to the question lies in BSP’s poll performance over the past few elections and dimensions it sets for the electorate. In Madhya Pradesh, the party had contested all 227 seats in the state and won 6.27% votes in 2013. The performance was even better in 2008 when it won seven seats with a vote share of 8.97 per cent. More than the vote percentage, it’s BSP’s influence in certain pockets, for example in the northern part of the state which adjoins Uttar Pradesh, the party has won up to 20% of the total votes polled. All the 7 seats in 2008 had come from this region.
The poll arithmetic suggests that a BSP-Congress alliance would have been a game changer. The combined vote share of BSP and Congress was much higher in the 40 Assembly seats where the BJP had won in 2013.
With the kind of developments on the national stage, it appears that the SC/ST voters, which form 15 per cent of the total population in the state, will vote overwhelmingly against the BJP and explore their options between BSP and Congress. A non-alliance will naturally divide the votes and help the BJP, especially in the constituencies which will see a closer contest.
In Rajasthan, the BSP has a sizeable vote-bank among Dalits in the Alwar-Bharatpur and Shekhawati regions. The party performed well in the regions in the 2008 and 2013 election winning around 6 and 3 seats in 200 members strong Assembly. In the two regions, the party won 10 per cent votes in 2008, while the per centage was reduced to 5 per cent in 2003.
In Rajasthan, some senior leaders were believed to be opposed to an alliance with Mayawati, while in MP the leaders saw BSP’s demand of 50 seats as impractical. In both the states, the Congress is set to suffer significant losses on account of the absence of an alliance with the BSP.