Bahujan Samaj Party

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Bahujan Party: Some breakaways; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, July 2, 2016

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.




Pankaj Shah, Feb 27, 2017: The Times of India 

 The sprawling Gulab Bari (Garden of roses) housing the mausoleum of Nawab of Oudh Shuja-ud-Daula, has been one of the main tourist attractions in Faizabad. Centred in the middle of the city, the 18th century structure, however, has another history -it once happened to be one of the many crucibles in the discreet caste laboratory of Dalit leader Kanshi Ram, long before he went on to form the political behemoth called Bahujan Samaj Party .

“It was sometimes in mid1970s. Saheb (Kanshi Ram), who was still in his formative years as a Dalit leader used to call us to Gulab Bari to discuss issues concerning people of the lower caste and how they can be grouped socio-politically to overthrow the might of the existing political dispensation,“ recalled Ram Karan, former banker and associate of Kanshi Ram.

The Dalit amalgamation experiment of Kanshi Ram began on December 6, 1978 and he went on to form a semi-political entity, Backward and Minority Community Employee Federation (BAMCEF). The members of the group, comprising essentially the educated from the lower caste community were turned into a cadre before being sent into Dalit dominated hamlets. “We would meet people of lower castes and tell them about their constitutional rights,“ Ram Karan said.

Exactly three years later, on December 6, 1981, BAMCEF transformed into another organisation called Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sanghasrh Samiti (DS-4). The role of its members remained more or less the same until April 14, 1984 when Kanshi Ram eventually founded the BSP .

The party, however, made its presence felt first time in 1989 assembly elections when it won 13 seats.Though party floundered marginally in 1991, it rose significantly in 1993 when it won 67 seats while contesting in alliance with the Samajwadi Party . It was this year Kanshi Ram's caste lab bore fruit and his party won five out of 10 assembly seats in Faizabad. The five seats were actually in present day Ambedkarnagar which was carved out of Faizabad by then CM Mayawati on September 29, 1995.


Strike rate: seats won vs. vote share: 1980s-2019

Chandrima Banerjee, February 2, 2022: The Times of India

In 2014, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) emerged with the third highest vote share in the Lok Sabha election. It was not surprising. It had been getting the fourth highest share for the previous two parliamentary elections. But unlike the two other times, it did not win a single seat of the 503 it was contesting. That was 2.3 crore votes that led to nothing.

But the country was riding a Modi wave. Surely, the party’s home turf would offer a better contest. And Uttar Pradesh did give BSP the third highest vote share in 2017. The party had contested all of the 403 Assembly seats. But it ended up winning only 19. So, 1.9 crore of roughly 8.6 crore votes that were cast — over 22% — for fewer than 5% of the state’s seats.

In 2019, BSP drew back a little. It contested 383 Lok Sabha seats, 120 fewer than in 2014. It got almost as many votes as it did then, 2.2 crore, and the fourth highest vote share. It won 10 seats.

What’s happening with the BSP?

In terms of strike rate, or how many seats it wins of those it contests, not much has changed since the party’s inception. Mayawati’s biographer Ajoy Bose writes in his book that Kanshi Ram's pre-BSP platform, the Dalit Soshan Sangharsh Committee or DS4, had focused its efforts in the 1980s in wooing the Dalit populations in Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana, apart from Uttar Pradesh.

It made sense. Though Uttar Pradesh, with its large population, houses the largest group of Dalits (according to the 2011 Census, 21% of the country's Scheduled Caste population), Punjab had the largest share within its own population (29%).

Electorally, BSP branched out beyond UP early on — to Madhya Pradesh (1990; Kanshi Ram contested from Janjgir in Madhya Pradesh in 1984, now in Chhattisgarh), Bihar (1990), Himachal Pradesh (1990), Maharashtra (1990), Rajasthan (1990), Punjab (1992), Delhi (1992), Jammu and Kashmir (1996) and Haryana (2000).

But for all of its organisational work, its strike rate never crossed 14% in assembly elections outside UP. Overall, its victory share was an average 6% both in the assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

When Mayawati took over in 2001, the two new states – Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand – also got BSP units. BSP’s Lok Sabha strike rate has sunk – it was just over 2.5% in 2019 – and that for state elections remains about the same, just around 6%. Of the 81 assembly elections it has contested across 12 states since 1990, it did not win a single seat in 38. That’s zero of 3,960 seats.

Of the five states going to the polls in February, BSP is present in three — UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab. And even though UP is its base, it has been contesting nearly all seats in the two other states as well since 2002. How does its performance compare with other parties? The others fare better by quite a large margin. Barring Congress, the major parties in all three states have been able to win at least one-third of the seats they have contested — Shiromani Akali Dal has won 46% of the seats it has contested since 1992, BJP has won 38%, and SP 36%. Only Congress (20%) has a strike rate nearly as low as BSP’s (19%) in these three states combined.

But BSP is not losing seats because it’s not getting votes. In fact, its vote share has gone up. This is consistent with the fact that the BSP’s base has itself grown faster than the national average — in the decade to 2011, the country’s SC population grew 21% over the national average of 18%. But while its 11% vote share got it 67 seats in the UP assembly in 1993 (its first alliance with SP), its 22% vote share translated into just 19 seats in 2017.

When votes don’t mean seats

It is a major quandary of the first-past-the-post system. Vote splitting. As more and more candidates with similar poll pitches come up, the range of options dilutes the voter base.

Say, A and B offer local reservations for jobs. C remains opposed to it. There are 100 voters and 60 of them want job quotas for locals. But they have two options. If these 60 votes are evenly divided, both A and B get 30 votes each. C, with 40 votes, ends up winning even without the actual majority’s support.

If instead of three options, voters have 302 (as UP did in 2017, the highest number of “participating” parties in its electoral history), it’s bound to fragment votes to some extent.

In 1985, for instance, UP’s Mubarakpur seat had 22 contenders. Even the winner, Independent candidate Hafeez Bharti, got fewer than one-sixth of the votes and, technically, would have qualified for forfeiture of deposit. 

But a lot depends on the contest itself. In 1993, for instance, there were 48 candidates for the Farrukhabad seat. Yet, BJP won with 37% of the vote share, riding the Hindutva and mosque demolition wave, because of its R S S candidate Brahm Dutt Dwivedi.

In 2017 UP assembly elections, the fragmentation of vote is unlikely to have happened because of the number of candidates. The total number actually went down from 6,827 to 4,843. In seats with SC or Muslim majority bases, which had the most dramatic shifts towards BJP, the number of candidates went from 2,132 to 1,451 and only in six of these 138 seats did the number of contenders go up. There was no change in four and it went down in all remaining 128.

The motion graphic below shows the dominance of seats with fewer candidates in 2017 compared to 2012.

Who gains an advantage then? 

The “social transformation and economic emancipation” of the SC, ST, OBC and religious minority communities is what the BSP says drives its politics. But the party’s remarkable victory in 2007, when it won 206 of UP’s 403 seats, was widely attributed to its decision to foreground its dominant caste inclusivity in what came to be called a sandwich coalition. “Not just a Dalit party” is a pitch the party has been trying to drive home, a move that Mayawati started in the 1990s with support from Kanshi Ram.

But in 2017, BJP’s sweep was possible because it managed to wrest the non-Jatav Dalit base from BSP and the non-Jatav OBC base from SP. The Muslim vote, meanwhile, got divided between BSP and SP. And BJP got more than a foothold in constituencies with Muslim and SC community voter bases. 

First, we look at the 57 Muslim-majority seats of UP, a community that Mayawati had cultivated since the 1980s with the slogan of ‘Bhaichara banao (foster brotherhood)'.

BJP won 37 in 2017, thrice the number it had in 2012. But only six of these seats were ones it already held. The remaining 31, it got from SP (which lost 18 seats it held to BJP), BSP (6), Congress (3) and other parties (4).

The motion graphic below shows BSP’s disappearance from Muslim-majority seats in 2017.

Yet, it was not plain fragmentation that handed BJP the victory. Of the 37 Muslim-majority seats BJP won in 2017, it got more than 40% of the vote share in 26. Of these, barring one seat (Loni), its winning vote shares were higher than the ones in 2012.

BSP, which had won 10 seats in 2012, was completely wiped out in 2017 — six of its seats went to BJP, two to Congress and two to SP. SP’s tally, meanwhile, went from 27 to 17 and that of Congress from four to three.

But if BSP’s vote shares were added to those of the runners-up in each of these seats, the results would have been different in 36 constituencies — BJP, for instance, would not have won in 23 seats had BSP’s votes been clubbed with those for SP and Congress.

Now, the 85 SC-reserved seats in UP. BJP won 69 in 2017. It had won three in 2012. At whose cost was this jump? SP, for the most part. It went from 58 to seven. Of the 51 seats SP lost in 2017, it did not emerge as a runner-up in 22 — BSP had taken over as the next top contender in 15 seats, Congress in six and BJP in one. BSP itself, meanwhile, went from 15 seats to two — both of which were with SP in 2012.

The motion graphic below shows BJP’s sweep in SC-reserved seats in 2017.

The outcome would have been different in 38 seats had BSP’s votes been added to those of the runner-up in each. BJP would have lost 30 of the 69 seats it won.




Paras Singh & Vibha Sharma, April 26, 2019: The Times of India

The performance of the BSP in elections in Delhi, 2003-15
From: Paras Singh & Vibha Sharma, April 26, 2019: The Times of India

In the blue walled rooms at a two-storey house in Karol Bagh, Bahujan Samaj Party candidates for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi await their turn to discuss campaign strategies with the state committee members. The seven are unlikely to win — no party candidate ever has — but BSP has doggedly contested the Delhi seats in every general election since 2004. What motivates them to take on the daunting odds? If Surendra Kumar, Delhi head of the party, is to be believed, it is simply to keep the Ambedkarite social justice movement alive.

“This year too we have filed nominations from all seven seats. Behenji (party supremo Maywati) will come to address party workers on May 10,” said Kumar with an enthusiasm that masks the disappointment of two of the nominations — in New Delhi and North West constituencies, both with substantial Dalit populations —being rejected on scrutiny.

Debuting with 2.5% of the Lok Sabha votes in 2004, the vote share rose to 5.3% in 2009 before crashing to 1.2% in the Modi wave of 2014. The failure to outdo BJP and Congress, and lately AAP, hasn’t dampened the spirits, especially when BSP has tasted some success in local body elections. It bagged 17 seats in the municipal elections of 2007 and 15 in 2012. “We also won two assembly seats and got a vote share of 14% in 2008,” Kumar added.

Political observers note that participation in Delhi can help BSP retain its tag of being a national party tag. BSP was first designated a national party in 2009 with a national vote share of 6.2% and 21 seats. In 2014 it garnered only 4.2% votes and failed to win a single seat in Parliament. This year, BSP must win 6% of the votes in four states and win at least four Lok Sabha seats to ensure it remains a recognised national party.

Lawyers, businessmen, a sanitation worker and a member of the de-notified Sansi tribe constitute this year’s interesting mix of candidates. Sanjay Gehlot, 49, an MCom and a sanitation workers’ leader, is fighting in East Delhi. “Sheila Dikshit trifurcated MCD in 2012 and adversely impacted the lives of lakhs of Dalits and areas in east Delhi such as Trilokpuri, Khichdipur, Naveen Shahdara and Dharampura. Sanitation and basic services will be our prime concerns,” he said.

In the North East Delhi constituency, Rajveer Singh, a 43-year-old Kshatriya-Thakur, is making his electoral debut. “We have a family relation with Mayawati and she asked me to contest this seat,” claimed the marble businessman with assets of Rs 9.2 crore. Singh noted that party founder Kanshi Ram had fought from this seat, underlining the strong presence of Dalits and Muslim in the area.

Three of the seven candidates are lawyers. Vivek Gautam, campaign manager for another candidate, explained, “Lawyers form a large chunk in the Ambedkarite movement because access to law is the basis of social justice.” Siddhant Gautam, 52, is a one such candidate in South Delhi. He is out to undo the “poor work of the current set of MPs”.

While other parties have dedicated IT cells to create an online presence, Delhi BSP has no such set-up. “We will prominently use recent visuals of our ‘Iron Lady’ for the campaign,” said an unabashed Kumar.



Key desertions hamper recovery

The Times of India, Jul 02 2016

Pankaj Shah  When Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party drew a blank in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, pollsters said a major factor responsible for her debacle was the desertion of her core Dalit vote bank. Two years later, Mayawati has come to face yet another challenge -rebellion from her key party leaders. That too at a time when her party is considered to be on a revival course with a good show in the local bodies and Rajya Sabha elections ahead of the UP assembly polls due in less than a year. While top BSP functionaries refuse to comment, insiders say that the recent rebellion by some of her top leaders -Jugal Kishore, Swami Prasad Maurya and now RK Chaudhary -is bound to send ripples of apprehensions within party cadres who have been silently working on the ground. After all, Maurya was leader of Opposition and still has his sway over pockets in UP . Political experts however insist it is premature to write off the BSP since Mayawati has a history of bouncing back from troubled political waters.

The BSP chief, experts point out, managed to send back a strong positive message to her cadres when her party-supported candidates did well in the 2015 panchayat polls. In June, BSP nominees garnered the highest number of votes in the UP Legislative Council and Rajya Sabha elections, further emboldening her comeback bid. “BSP is known as a factory for producing leaders,“ says Badri Narayan, political expert, professor of social sciences in JNU. “But they're leaders within the party .Once out, they become ordinary functionaries with nowhere to go.“

Observers maintain Maya's calculation of riding back to power rests on consolidating her Dalit vote bank, 21% of the state's population. Of this, roughly 56% are Jatavs, Mayawati's caste. It is this section, about 15% of UP's population, that gives BSP an edge over other parties. But that alone will not ensure a win. She also needs votes from other communities, including Muslims, Most Backward Castes (MBC), Brahmins and Thakurs.

In 2007, Mayawati successfully toyed with the social engineering formula by fielding Brahmin candidates alongside the Dalits.Sources say Mayawati is contemplating a new formula this time -a Dalit-Muslim combination with people from other castes and communities chipping in. In fact, Mayawati has repeatedly been playing the Muslim card -more so in the wake of a surging BJP .

Her calculations, however, got disturbed after the saffron ranks reportedly orchestrated desertion of Dalits from the BSP camp by bracketing them as `Hindu first' in 2014.As Mayawati attempts to consolidate her core vote, the recent rebellion could damage BSP's prospects. She has hit out at the deserters, saying the party's better off without them and hammers home her accusation that SP and BJP are hand in glove. Bluster or strategy? With Mayawati, it's not easy to tell. What is intriguing is that none of the three netas who quit has joined any party yet.


BSP expels leader who lodged case against Bajrangi

Piyush Rai, July 3, 2018: The Times of India

Days after mafia don Munna Bajrangi was gunned down in Baghpat jail, former BSP MLA Lokesh Dikshit, who had lodged an extortion case against Bajrangi, was expelled from the party. Bajrangi was supposed to appear in the case in Baghpat court on July 9.

Satyapal Peplaa, BSP’s zone coordinator for Meeurt-Saharanpur, claimed it was a “disciplinary action” after Dikshit was found to be involved in “anti-party activities”. He refrained from elaborating on the misconduct of Dikshit, claiming the decision was taken by party chief Mayawati.

Dikshit said: “There is only one reason of my expulsion. Extortion culture is still prevailing in the party. I decided not to contribute any further and hence I was shown the door...”


Jan: change in 2nd rung leadership

Neha Lalchandani, January 16, 2020: The Times of India

LUCKNOW: Making the fifth change in the leadership of her party in Lok Sabha in less than a year, BSP chief Mayawati has now appointed first time MP Ritesh Pandey (38), a foreign educated Brahmin from Ambedkarnagar, to head the party in the lower house.

Pandey has replaced Danish Ali, who joined BSP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and was being perceived as the party’s Muslim face.

While announcing Pandey’s appointment, Mayawati said that since a Muslim was already heading BSP’s state unit, she needed to give representation to other communities. Incidentally, with Pandey’s appointment, two Brahmins are now heading the party in Parliament — Ritesh Pandey in Lok Sabha and SC Mishra in Rajya Sabha.

Ali’s removal, his second since August, comes in an apparent bid to ensure “equal representation” of all communities within BSP, though sources in the party said Mayawati was unhappy with his frequent challenging of her hold over the party. “To bring about social equality in BSP, we have had to make some changes in the party since the Lok Sabha leader and UP state president are both from the same community. Ritesh Pandey is now the leader of the party in Lok Sabha while Malook Nagar is the deputy leader. BSP state president Munqad Ali will remain in his position,” Mayawati said. Ali, who was earlier the Janata Dal (Secular) general secretary in Karnataka, has experienced a rocky ride in BSP. Appointed leader of the party in Lok Sabha in June, he was first removed in August 2019 when he reportedly disagreed with the party’s support to the Centre on revocation of Article 370.

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