The loss of the BSP candidate in the 10th seat in Rajya Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh is Amit Shah’s revenge for the losses in by-polls recently. Shah employed all tools of ‘saam-daam-dand-bhed’ to defeat the BSP candidate and get BJP’s 9th candidate scrape through in a nerve cracking elections decided on the basis of 2nd preference votes. While some strategists hail it as a masterstroke, it will actually turn out to be ‘shooting oneself in the foot’ moment for Amit Shah. It will strengthen the resolve of Mayawati to take revenge in the general elections and brighten the prospects of a Mahagathbandhan (MGB) in Uttar Pradesh. In a drama which enacted in a similar manner of Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls last year, both parties approached the Election Commission and vote counting had to be halted for a few hours.
How it played out?
- Elections were held for 10 seats. Each candidate required 37 votes to win in the Rajya Sabha elections.
- BSP candidate was expected to win on the back of its 19 votes, SP’s surplus 10 votes, INC’s 7 votes, RLD’s 1 vote and NISHAD party’s 1 vote.
- BJP won 9, SP 1 seat.
- BSP candidate BR Ambedkar got 32, while BJP candidate Anil Agrawal got 16 first preference votes.
- Votes of 1 MLA each of BSP as well as SP were declared invalid.
- Strikes of Shah
- 1st Strike – Shah roped in Naresh Agarwal and his son, a SP MLA, into BJP. This reduced 1 vote of BSP.
- 2nd Strike – NISHAD Party MLA declares support to BJP. The same party’s candidate defeated BJP in Gorakhpur by-poll recently.
- 3rd Strike – Court prevents one SP and BSP MLA each in jail from participating in the election process. (A disclaimer BJP had no role in this, it came as a bonus.)
- 4th Strike – BSP MLA Anil Singh cross votes for BJP.
- Strikes of Akhilesh
- 1st Strike – After Raja Bhaiyya (Independent MLA) who claims support of another MLA Vinod Kumar, refused to vote for Mayawati because she had put him in jail, Akhilesh convinced him to vote for SP candidate Jaya Bachchan instead to enable transfer of 2 surplus votes of SP to BSP.
Loss Gives Boost to hopes of Formation of Formal MGB
Despite the loss, everybody saw how Bhatija worked to get victory for Bua’s candidate even risking the seat for SP. Raja Bhaiyya and Vinod Kumar were the last to vote, had they not supported Jaya, SP candidate could have lost. This shows Akhilesh has matured as a leader. By winning the seat for BSP, Akhilesh wanted to thank Maya for her role in his party’s victory in by-polls, and return the favour. This win has increased the confidence and trust among Akhilesh and Maya.
The loss will only strengthen the resolve of SP and BSP to get back at BJP by forming a MGB for 2019 elections. This alliance has the potential to negate BJP’s social engineering by forming a broad coalition of Dalits, Muslims, Yadavs and Backward Classes. While people think BJP’s stupendous performance in UP was due to Modi factor and his decision of contesting from Varanasi, it’s actually the split of anti-BJP votes between SP, BSP and Congress which helped the BJP. If SP, BSP and Congress would have contested together, BJP tally would have been only 24, almost down by 50. The ability to transfer votes without a formal alliance has already been proved in by-polls.
BSP will portray loss as Insult of Dalits
Mayawati knew that BJP will ensure BSP candidate losses the elections that’s why she didn’t contest herself. BSP will play up the dirty tricks employed by BJP to make sure the Dalit community candidate lost the elections. She will accuse BJP of pushing a rich industrialist ahead of simple Dalit man. She will harp on the fact that BJP is anti-Dalit and try to get back a section of Dalits, especially non-Jatavs who have moved to BJP. Dalit support for BJP has increased significantly from a paltry 5% in 2012 to 18% in 2014 and 32% in 2017. Among the 85 reserved seats in the state, BJP outflanked all other parties by getting 40% of the votes with BSP a distant second at 24%. She will exploit the anger amongst Dalits on account of poor handling of Saharanpur riots by BJP and step motherly treatment in sharing of power. A section of Dalits seem to have abandoned BJP in the recently Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-polls as both these seats had 20% Dalit population.
Dalit Voting Pattern
Source: CSDS Reports, Today’s Chanakya Exit Poll 2017
To conclude, in its zeal to revenge by-polls loss and stop BSP candidate from entering Rajya Sabha, BJP risks facing a united opposition in Uttar Pradesh and losing the larger Dalit vote bank. The loss of Dalit votes could potentially shave off 3% from BJP’s vote share. A united opposition could thwart Modi’s chances of returning to power in 2019. A smaller loss for a potentially bigger gain for MGB in 2019.
This article was first published in BloombergQuint.