In 2017, BSP received 0 seats in Uttarakhand. It is counting on a change of fortune this year.

Thursday's address by Mayawati, chief of BSP, was her first rally for Uttarakhand elections scheduled for February 14. The party is contesting all of the 70 seats in the state.

In 2017, BSP received 0 seats in Uttarakhand. It is counting on a change of fortune this year.

Dehradun The 2022 Uttarakhand assembly elections will be contested between the incumbent BJP, and the rival Congress. These are the main parties in the state. Bahujan Samaj Party, (BSP), thinks otherwise.

Mayawati, the party's supremo, hopes to revive the state's fortunes and give the opposition a fight, even if they don’t win the elections. She addressed her first rally in support of the state elections, which will be held on Thursday 14 February.

The BSP has been focusing its attention on constituencies in Haridwar-Roorkee, Kumaon’s Terai -- strongholds that have a large chunk of its main Dalit voter base -- and has also fielded an old guard.

Leaders from the state unit expressed optimism about a strong showing and the possibility of the party emerging as the kingmaker.

Political analysts warn that the BJP's strategy of Hindu-Muslim polarization is being used this election season. While the BSP may fight hard, it is not certain that the Dalit/Muslim vote-swing will translate into a great performance.

According to poll statistics the support base for the BSP has been declining in every election, despite the fact that 19% of the state's population is made up of Dalits. This number increases to over 22 percent in strongholds, and 14% are Muslims who support the party. In the Haridwar region, 55% of the voteshare belongs to Dalit-Muslims.

Slipping voteshare

After the formation of Uttar Pradesh in 2000, Mayawati had an 11 percent vote share in the 2002 Uttarakhand assembly elections.

The BSP's voteshare within the state was almost unchanged over the period 2002-2012, but plummeted to 7.4% in 2017.

Its kitty also lost its seats, dropping from 7 in 2002 to zero in 2017. The BSP's voteshare rose to 12.19% in 2012, but it was unable to win three seats. It won 8 seats in 2007.

Mayawati's party lost the 2017 state election. The BJP won 57 seats in the Assembly of 70 members. The BSP had contested then from 69 seats.

Old hands in fray

The BSP brought back its former members to revive the party's fortunes in this election. This includes 23 seats in Haridwar-Roorkee, and Udhamsingh Nagar which are both part of the Terai area.

According to BSP leaders, the Uttarakhand unit is optimistic about regaining lost ground. They also said that tickets were denied to the old guard in 2017 due "anti-party activity".

Naresh Gautam, the State BSP In-Charge, stated that "We have fielded almost all of our senior leaders in every seat where we are strong and had been winning in previous elections." Because of their unwillingness to follow the party line, they were not granted tickets earlier.

Former MLAs Mohammad Shahzad, and Sarwat Karim ansari were elected from Laksar (and Manglaur respectively). These seats were won by both of them in 2012, but they were lost to the other candidates in 2017.

Subodh Rakesh is the brother of Surendra Rakesh (former MLA for BSP) who was killed in 2014. He has been also nominated. Subodh will be competing against Mamta Rakesh (his sister-in-law), who joined Congress following the death of her husband. Mamta, a sitting MLA from Bhagwanpur is Mamta. Subodh had also switched to the BJP, but returned to the BSP for 2021.

Mayawati also gave tickets to Aditya Brjwal, son and former MLA Haridas from Jhabreda, as well as veteran leader Om Pal Singh, Ranipur. Haridas was denied a ticket for 2017 due to alleged anti-party activities.

Narayan Pal, a two-time MLA and a veteran of the BSP, is back from Sitarganj constituency. The contest is triangular as the BJP is retaking its sitting MLA Saurabh Bhuguna while the Congress is fielding Navtej Pal Pal Singh.

"This election will see the BSP's resurgence with a triangular fight unlike the claims of the main political parties. ThePrint was informed by Karim Ansari, a BSP candidate. He said that the BJP and Congress will be fighting in 11 Haridwar-Roorkee regions seats and at least 12 in Udhamsingh Nagar or Nainital districts assembly seats.

Banking at Mayawati

BSP leaders said that they believed Mayawati's rally would boost the fortunes of Haridwar candidates and help others to upset the calculations of Congress and BJP in 23-25 constituencies.

Leaders of the BSP claim that their candidates have the potential to regain almost a dozen assembly seats and fight for 17 seats in Haridwar or Terai. This year, the BSP has filed candidates for all 70 seats.

"Mayawati will speak at her first rally for Uttarakhand elections today. This will change the poll equations, especially in the plains areas of Terai and Haridwar-Roorkee. Gautam stated that Behenji's address would improve the prospects of BSP in many ways."

Gautam stated that the BSP holds a maximum stake of six assembly segments, including Jhabreda and Manglaur, Bhagwanpur and Piran Kaliyar. Each of these constituencies are currently held by either the Congress or the BJP.

"BSP can make this a triangular competition'

Haridwar's political analysts agree that the BSP could surprise voters in this election. They believe that the BSP's choice of candidates has increased its chances of winning, as all the former MLAs nominated for the party have strongholds within Muslim-Dalit areas.

"The Haridwar Roorkee region is home to nearly 35% Muslim voters and 22% Dalit votes. The BSP won seven seats in 2002, and eight in 2007. Most of these seats were won by Haridwar-based parties, with a few exceptions from the Terai Belt. These leaders won the party three seats in 2012, which was a result of their influence over the Dalit/Muslim combination," Bhagirath Sharma, a Haridwar-based political analyst, said. He also stated that the BSP is well-positioned to fight for several seats.

Sunil Pandey is another political commentator who doesn't agree with the BSP leaders on their poll math. While it is true that the candidates are strong this time, the main question is whether they can swing Dalit-Muslim voters their way. Mayawati's rally can't guarantee this. He said that the BJP was going all out to Hindu-Muslim polarisation.